The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Historic Environment Record
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PAVILAND CAVE COMPLEX (GROUP PRN)Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 04802w
Trust : Glamorgan Gwent
Community : Rhossili
Unitary authority : Swansea
NGR : SS43728588
Site Type (preferred type first) : Palaeolithic Cave
Legal Protection : Scheduled Monument
General group number for the Paviland Cave complex. See interactive text.
There are three sites which form the Paviland Cave complex: -
Goat's Hole: PRNs 118w; 4668w; 4669w; 4670w; 4671w -
Hound's Hole: 117w; 4672w; 4673w; 4674w -
Foxhole: 4979w; 4798w; 4799w; 4800w; 4801w -
Paviland is a regional term in this part of Gower, hence Paviland Manor etc. The term Paviland Cave (in the singular) has been widely used as a synonym for Goat's Hole.
The Paviland cave system is made up of three main caves: Goat's Hole cave; Hound's Hole cave; and Foxhole cave. the two former caves are located on the cliffs overlooking the sea, while the latter is located in the dry valley of Foxhole Slade. All are located outside of National Trust boundaries.
Of the three caves, the most famous is Goat's Hole cave, located approximately 9m above sea level, with a 7m high roughly triangular entrance, leading to a 21m long passage, which in turn widens into a 3.6m high chamber, beyond which is a funnel shaped chimney.The cave has been the subject of extensive excavations over a period of nearly 200 years. It is regarded as internationally important, and is the richest early upper Palaeolithic site and burial in Britain, a burial which was the first recorded human remains known to science and had an important role in the 19th century debate on human evolution.
Goat's Hole was excavated first in 1822, initially by the Davies brothers, and subsequently by Mr L.W. Dillwyn and Miss Talbot, recovering animal bones and evidence of occupation during the Roman period. The following year more extensive excavations were carried out by W. Buckland, a professor of geology at Oxford University, and it was he who made the famous discovery of a human skeleton (missing skull, vertebrae and right extremities) partly stained with red ochre. located next to the ribs were more than 40 cylindrical rods and fragments of rings, while by the thigh were 'two handsfull' of broken sea shells. Initially, Professor Buckland interpreted the burial as that of a murdered excise man, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was actually a female, based on the large number of associated ornaments and the small stature of the skeleton, and that it dated to the Roman period. As a result fo this, the skeleton became known as the Red Lady of Paviland. Smaller excavations followed this one: in 1836, Francis and Jeffries found a small amount of Roman material, flint implements, bone spatulae or marrow scoops and a right clavicle and child's humerus; worked flint and chert was discovered by Col. Wood in the 1850s; in c.1870 by J.D. Davies; in 1898 by B.H. Cunnington; in 1909 by O.Vivian; and in 1911 by Chambers and Morgan. The last four excavations recovered both worked and unworked flint and chert, while 1911 excavation also found a bone awl and bored wolves teeth.
A second major excavation at the cave was undertaken by Sollas in 1912, recovering over 3600 pieces of flint and chert, 700-800 of which could be recognised as implements. These pieces of flint and chert all came from a deposit around 1.5m thick. The deposit was greatly disturbed and mixed, resulting in the sorting of the flints typologically, rather than stratigraphically, by Abbe Breuil. The principle 'industries' recognised were Mousterian, Middle and Upper Aurignacian and Proto Solutean, of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. The excavation also recovered fragments of worked bone and ivory, including a pendant made from a mammoth tusk which fitted perfectly into a deformed mammoth tusk discovered in 1823 by Buckland, indicating ivory working was being undertaken within the cave. In his study of the cave Sollas recognised that the Red Lady of Paviland was probably much older than assumed by Buckland, and was probably actually that of a Cro Magnon man of the Upper Palaeolithic. Sollas also excavated limestone boulders which he suggested had been placed at the head and feet of the burial.
Following this excavation there appears to have been little sediment left in the cave, but over the next 85 years, finds continued to be excavated and collected. in1922 approximately 160 pieces of flint and chert were recovered by H.E. David from an area apparently missed by Sollas. These included a variety of blades, scrapers and flakes. Lethbridge recovered more flints in 1934 ,and subsequently Allen and Rutter in 1943. The final excavation of the cave was undertaken in 1997 by Aldhouse-Green.
The age of the skeleton has long been debated. Initially dated to the Roman period, then the Palaeolithic period, a radiocarbon date put it at approximately 16000 years BP (Before Present). However ,this date was questiined as there was no known human activity in the area at this time - the nearest ice sheet was only a few kilometers north of the cave, and there was no known human settlement north of the Loire and west of Essonne in France. Based on this, despite the radiocarbon date, it was argued that the burial belonged to the Aurignacian period (34000-23000 years BP). More recent research has shown that the initial radiocarbon date was indeed incorrect, and it has since been re-dated to c.26000 years BP. The skeleton has also been able to give an insight in to ritual practices, while the scientific analysis of the bone has enabled a greater understanding of the diet and environment in which the man lived.
Analysis fo the finds suggests a series of episodic occupation of the cave throughout the Palaeolithic and into the Mesolithic periods, with the majority of the finds dating to the Aurignacian period, perhaps between 33000 to 30000 years BP, although comparative analysis indicates that the large number of finds only represents short short stays by small groups of nomadic humans within the cave. Some of the worked flints suggest that occupation may have begun as far back as 38000 BP, while re-examination of the lithic artefacts has indicated additional industries to those first identified by Abbe Breuil, including 'Mousterian', 'leaf point', late 'Aurignacian', 'Gravettian', 'Creswellian', final Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. In addition to flint, the worked stones comprised chert, mudstone and rhyolite, suggesting knapping was occurring to create tools that could be used for a variety of functions, from hunting to processing animal carcasses. Much of the worked ivory and bone has been interpreted as decorative or ritualistic, while some have been ascribed more practical uses, such as awls or marrow scoops. The finds have indicated that ivory working was being undertaken within the cave. Animal remains were also recovered from the cave, all characteristic of the cold later Palaeolithic climate, and landscape of tundra and steppe. These animals included horse, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer, Irish elk, Wolf, mammoth and cave hyena. Radiocarbon samples were also taken from around 40 animal bones, assisting in the interpretation of late quaternary archaeology and biostratigraphy in Gower.
The Palaeolithic was not the only period represented by artefacts within the cave. Other finds included Mesolithic flints, a Neolithic handaxe of Graig Llwyd Stone, sherds of Roman Samian pottery and two coins dating to c.300AD. This combination of artefacts suggest that the cave was used over a long period of time. The results of the most recent excavation, in 1997, combined with those recorded by Sollas in 1912, have enabled Aldhouse-Green to reconstruct a simplified stratigraphy of deposits within the cave. The lower level was bedrock, above that was a lower scree, created by colluvial process with very little fauna and no artefacts. Above that was pebbles/sand, interpreted as a possible Ipswichian beach deposit, or maybe an intrusive modern beach deposit, the next layer was a greyish band representing a weathering horizon, marking the base of the archaeological deposits. Above that was a layer named Upper Scree 2, which was similar in nature to the previous scree layer. next was a layer of Ochreous Clay, the interpretation of which remains unclear. Overlying this was Upper Scree 1, a result of colluvial processes and rich in artefacts and fauna. Finally there was a post glacial stalagmite layer. Uranium series and thermoluminescence techniques were used to date this sequence.
Hounds Hole cave, sometimes referred to as Paviland West cave, lies approximately 45m to the west of Goat's Hole cave. This cave was also excavated by Buckland in 1823, who found mainly faunal remains, including cave bear, deer, cattle and domestic horse. In 1912 it was excavated by Vivian who found more faunal remains, mostly in small bits, including wolf and cattle, but no archaeological remains. the cave was also excavated in 1944 by Allena nd Rutter and investigated in the 1980's by M.Davies and finally i n1997 by Aldhouse-Green. The latest excavation revealed a complex quaternary stratigraphic sequence and recovered more cold climate fauna and also a possible upper Palaeolithic flint blade. The only other archaeology to be recovered were two early 4th century coins, found in the spoil from Buckland's excavations. Davies, writing in 1885 claimed this cave was used as a smuggler's store.
Foxhole Cave is situated in the west side of the upper part of the slade. it was excavated in 1994 by Aldhouse-Green and traced inwards for 20m. The excavation recorded three layers - the modern topsoil overlying a layer of humic scree and a layer of soliflucted scree at the bottom. The site was much disturbed by a badger set, but Mesolithic finds were recovered from the upper two layers. these finds consisted of worked flint, burnt bone, micro fauna and mollusca and a human tooth radio-carbon dated to 6875+-50 years BP. At the base of the second layer was a possible hearth. This layer was interpreted as evidence of early Mesolithic occupation, only the third such site found on Gower. From the lower layer came animal fauna including reindeer, horse and collared lemming, identifying the layer as a Pleistocene deposit, more precisely of the 11th millennium BP. A possible Upper Palaeolithic flint blade was also recovered (Poucher 2003-4).
Davies, M. , 1993 , The Caves of the South Gower Coast: An Archaeological Assessment
Poucher, P. , 2003-4 , Archaeological Survey: The South Gower Coastal Properties: Mewslade - Port Eynon, Pilton Green, Pitton Cross and Oxwich
01. P Poucher (2003-04) The National Trust Archaeological Survey: The South Gower Coastal Properties, Mewslade - Port Eynon, Pilton Green, Pilton Cross and Oxwich
E003821 : The Caves of the South Gower Coast: An Archaeological Assessment (year : 1993)
E004913 : The National Trust Archaeological Survey: South Gower Coastal Properties (year : 2003-4)
Related PRNs : 117-8w, 4668-4674w, 4979-4801w
Compiled date : 28-05-2004
May 24, 2017, 6:17 am
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