Creswell Crags is one of the UK’s most important Ice Age sites and at only an hour or so away from Nottingham, a relatively local place I’ve been meaning to visit for some time.
Creswell Crags itself is a gorge that cuts through lower magnesian limestone, one of the UK’s rarest type of rock. All the caves here formed naturally and there are two guided tours on offer. On this occasion we went on the Rock Art Tour (we’re planning a return trip to take in the other tour) which was very informative and lead us into a small cave which contains the only rock art currently known to exist in Britain. It was only discovered in 2003 and dates from about 13,000 years ago.
Excavations first began in the 1870s – sometimes employing dynamite to the detriment of discoveries still to be made! This did, however, reveal remains of all sorts of animals such as lions, woolly mammoths and hyenas, like the specimen below which would have been roaming the land here over 10,000 years ago.
This cave is called Church Hole and cattle were kept there in the late 1800s – it was their disturbing of the cave floor that unearthed bones and lead to further explorations. The engraved figures show red deer, bison, a horse, a bird (possibly an ibis) and figures that could be birds or women. (These last figures are located further into the cave and too dangerous for a tour group to visit, but the guide showed us pictures). Hopefully in the picture below you can see the red deer carving – it’s easiest to focus on the sharp triangular shape at the top which is the start of its ears.
It’s a really impressive place to visit and the team there are doing a good job at preserving the finds for future generations, not just of the rock art but other items in the exhibition (which we only had time to look around briefly on this visit). It’s fascinating to think that people were using the caves between 13,000-11,000 years ago.
The Creswell art was engraved with a sharp object, most likely a flint tool of some sort and incorporated simple outlines with the use of natural edges for added detail. Most of the art is of animals, with barely any of people.
At £8.50 for an adult the tour is well worth doing, but if you just want to stand where Ice Age Man once stood, entry to the park itself is free.
You can find some more photos here.