A few weeks ago I posted some pictures from Abor Low, Gib Hill and the Nine Ladies stone circles in Derbyshire. A little while after a friend emailed me and mentioned another small local stone circle and also Creswell Crags. i looked them both up and once I read about Creswell I knew a visit would be in order. So using the excuse of another school inset day and a long weekend I took the two older boys on a road trip. Creswell is a little way outside of Worksop on the Derbyshire / Yorkshire border. Here is a natural Limestone gorge pock-marked with caves and hollows. Whilst the gorge was at some point damned in order to form a shallow lake the hill sides themselves are very much unchanged since their formation.
The area has been partially excavated by archaeologists both amateur and professional over the last hundred & twenty years or so but the recent more systematic methods have yielded the more interesting finds. The evidence indicates that the gorge has been inhabited by ancient forna visited by nomadic people as far back as 100,000 years. Finds in and around the caves indicate that area was inhabited by Neanderthals during the Palaeolithic period (60-40K years ago) at the beginning of the last Ice Age and there is also some evidence of early humans form finds of tools and weapons. Towards the end of the Ice age (a little over 12K years ago) there are signs that during the summer months early humans returned to the the area probably travelling north from southern France following herds of reindeer & bison. It is probably during this period that the cave engraving were made. These were only discovered on 2003 and archaeologists from various academic institutions continue to search the area and hypothesise on the meaning and derivation of the artefacts.
The area is stunningly beautiful and incredibly atmospheric. The Creswell Crags organisation have created an impressive visitors centre with a permanent display of artefacts and the local staff lead very informative and enthusiastic tours of the the Ice Age Cave and the Rock art cave. You can read much more about the site on their website here.
For my part I took a couple of hundred photographs, some of which you can see here.
I was particularly stunned by the cave art. This is apparently the only discovered cave art in the UK and bears similarity to images found in areas of France.These are wall engravings and are not pigmented. Despite more recent marks made by visitors prior to their discovery they remain in reasonable repair. The pictures I took use a Low Light app on my phone and have been edited in Snapseed to try to reveal the images. They use excessive sharpening and adjustments in tone and contrast to achieve this.
The centre is currently open at weekends only but I very much hope they can get enough interest to attract more visitors and further invest in the research carried out in the caves and surrounding areas.
The ticket we bought which was in itself pretty good value for the beauty of the site and organisation and quality of the tours allows for a subsequent free second visit which we will definitely take.
I love ancient history. When I outgrew Marvel comics and read about the mythologies of the Vikings, the Egyptians, the Greeks and and the Babylonians. What I realised is that mythologising is ubiquitous and generally consistent. Stories explain those difficult to understand realities and the there is almost no end to the capacity for invention. Pre history and the surrounding artefacts illustrates the birth consciousness and awareness of the world we inhabit. Some while ago I saw the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog‘s stunning documentary about the discovery of the Chauvet Cave in France. These artefacts pre date Creswell by about 10.000 years and are stunning in there representational skill. I recommend watching this if you haven’t seen it. It’s one of the most dizzying representations of the human spirit in its purest form you could experience. Before Creswell the most impressive thing I was fortunate to see was Akrotiri on Santorini and my next ambition is to take the boys to see this. One consistent theme between the two is that the Minoans (a late Bronze age culture) was probably matriarchal.
One suggestion that came out from the Creswell conversation and that relates to the Chauvet Cave is that, contrary to most illustrations you have ever seen of cave men, it’s not unreasonable to think that caves with art had significance in that they may have been used for birthing. If this was the case, that the ultimate great mystery and event in a life cycle was specific to a particular place, is’nt it equally likely that during the process the midwifes or expectant mothers killed time with creative endeavours, conjuring up the beasts that would feed their children.
On the down side….
We probably know more about our distant ancestors now than we ever have. The efficacy, honest, quizzical nature and wide eyed wonder of serious academics and scientists lead us to more reasoned understanding of the past and it’s people. Unfortunately these learned endeavours are undermined by the profit hungry, the imaginatively inhibited fundamentalist and down right disgusting efforts of the warmongers and land grabbers. Sites of international human importance are bombed out and occupied by troops (Ur in Iraq) and war and idiocy continues to destroy the seats of civilisation in Syria, Iran and North Africa. Indigenous people are displaced across the pacific and South America and the need to mine, drill and defecate on the landscape for vested interest is consistently supported by international government (including our own shower of miscreants) ahead of learning and reason. We are ruled almost exclusively by the worst amongst us and our great weapon is the opposite of generally present silence in the face of this worst of all worlds. Speak up for our ancestors and those that will have to live here after us. Failing that……