New Light on Creswell Crags

ChrisHi my name is Chris, and I am a PhD student based in the Neuroscience and Aphasia Research Unit. I am here at the museum on a three month placement away from my research. I’m currently cataloguing and archiving specimens and documents from the excavations of Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags is a limestone gorge in Derbyshire peppered with caves that provided shelter for animals and humans during the Last Ice Age. The caves were first excavated by the Rev. Magens Mello and Sir William Boyd Dawkins from 1875 onwards, and Dawkins used the specimens found to show that people were contemporary with Woolly Mammoths. In the 1920s and 30s, the Pin Hole Cave and Mother Grundy’s Parlour were systematically excavated by A. Leslie Armstrong, and many exciting discoveries were found including a rare engraving of a human figure.

The most interesting aspect of my work so far has been the archiving of documents relating to A. Leslie Armstrong’s excavations. Through them, you get a real sense of his dedication, and the network of experts and enthusiasts who helped him to identify the specimens that were uncovered. For instance, Armstrong corresponded with Dorothea Bate in an attempt to identify some fragments of bird egg (most likely Shellduck according to Dorothea). This sharing of investigative work struck a chord with me, as I have found a similar process of collaboration amongst neuroscience researchers.

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More great Creswell cave art!

Here are the other two videos I took when I visited Creswell:

Amazing Creswell Crags Cave art!

Bryan (the Curator of Archaeology) and I went to Creswell Crags last week to meet staff from other museums who have fossils from this important site. It was a fantastic day which included lectures on the latest research and a tour of the caves to see the cave art.

The cave art is about 13,000 years old and is the only known cave art in the UK. Creswell is on the northern fringes of where early humans could survive in Europe, so is a key site in understanding the early occupation of Britain and climate change in the last Ice Age.

Here’s the first of the three clips, an amazing reindeer:

Climate Change 6th form talks

I’ve recently give a series of talks about Climate Change and the impact on life on Earth to sixth form groups. Stockport Grammar School have posted a nice blog about my talk there.

The talks were a great opportunity to discuss past climate change with students. I concentrated on the dramatic climate change in the Last Ice Age, showing evidence from Creswell Crags. I then went on to explore Snowball Earth, when ice probably reached the equator and Greenhouse Earth, when forests reached the poles.

To end the talk, I spoke about the implications of current climate change and our responsibility.

I’ve really enjoyed giving these talks, which were also given at Aquinas College, Stockport and St. Christopher’s C of E High School, Accrington.

Lost 1876 watercolour of Creswell Crags rediscovered

I had a really exciting day yesterday as I rediscovered a lost water colour painting of Creswell Crags from 1876.

I had only ever seen a black and white reproduction of this picture in a 1966 paper (Jackson, J.W. 1967. Sir William Boyd Dawkins (1837–1929): A biographical sketch. Cave Science, 5(39) for 1966:397–412). We had more or less come to the conclusion it had been lost.

This image is extremely important as it is one of the only visual records of the time when Creswell Crags was originally excavated. The water colour was painted by Reverend J. Magens Mello who, alongside William Boyd Dawkins of Manchester Museum, made many of the most important discoveries at Creswell.

Creswell Crags is one of the most important sites that records the early human occupation of Britain and transformed our understanding of how humans evolved in Britain in the last Ice Age.
We have recently loaned some of our spectacular fossils from this site to Creswell Crags Museum which is well worth a visit.

New excavation at Creswell Crags

Yesterday, I had a fantastic opportunity to go and look at the exciting new excavation at Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags is near Worksop and is one of the oldest sites of human occupation in Britain. Most of the caves were excavated by William Boyd Dawkins in the late 1800s, when he was  curator at The Manchester Museum. We still have many of the fossils on display and in the stores today.

Creswell Crags is a protected site and until a  year ago, had not been excavated for many decades. Find out about the University of Sheffield’s excavations below.

The new excavations are looking at an entrance (known as ‘The Crypt’) behind previously excavated scree. The 2009 excavation looked at material that came from the Victorian investigations, but this year’s excavation is looking at an undisturbed part of the cave.

As of yesterday, they had found various bones including a deer jaw (possibly a reindeer or a red deer) and two passages extending under Church Hole cave. These passages were probably not occupied, but could have been holes where the rubbish from the occupied cave above was dumped. If this is the case, the finds so far are the tip of the iceberg! Exciting stuff!

The story of Creswell Crags and climate change in the Last Ice Age will be a key story in our new Living Planet and Ancient Worlds galleries. I have put all my photographs on Flickr if you’d like to see more.

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