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Historic England Research Records

Hyaena Den Cave

Hob Uid: 197056
Location :
Somerset
Mendip
St. Cuthbert Out
Grid Ref : ST5322047940
Summary : A wide low arch on the east side of the Wookey Hole ravine. The cave was originally discovered circa 1852 by workmen cutting a water channel for nearby mills. At the time, a coin hoard; consisting of silver coins of Allectus (AD 293-6) and Commodus (AD 180-92) were distributed among the workmen and 'third brass' coins, of Constantius II, (AD 337-61) Valentinian I (AD 364-75) and Valens (AD 364-78); probably deposited in the late 4th century AD and comprising several hundred Roman coins, mainly silver, in a broken pot was found, as was a "bone bed" featuring remains of woolly rhinocerous, hyaena and other Pleistocene mammals. Some human skeletal material was also claimed to have been found, but this has never been confirmed. William Boyd Dawkins undertook excavations from 1859 until at least 1874, uncovering further animal remains as well as Paleaolithic flint and chert implements, this representing an early demonstration of the contemporaneity of extinct fauna and human activity. Further digging occurred intermittently throughout the later 19th century and beyond. The University of Bristol Speleological Society excavated at the cave between 1966 and 1970, encountering mainly disturbed deposits, but no artefacts. Trenching by the British Museum in 1992 located some undisturbed deposits, with finds including the debris from Middle Palaeolithic tool manufacture, further animal remains, and a substantial deposit of Pleistocene fish remains.
More information : (ST 532479). Hyaena Den (NR). (1)

Hyena Den Cave was originally discovered about 1852 by workmen cutting a water channel from Wookey Hole Cave to the nearby paper-mills. In this work a 12" layer of Pleistocene faunal remains, some skeletons, and a hoard of about 300 Roman coins in a pot were discovered. The pot was broken and some silver coins of Allectus and Commodus were distributed among the workmen, but five 'third brass' coins, of Constantius II, Valentinian I and Valens, were obtained from the workmen and presented to Taunton Museum by W S Clark in 1914 (4). Later exploration of the cave by Boyd Dawkins and others between 1859 and 1862 revealed many more Pleistocene animal remains, while about 40 Palaeolithic implements, flakes, scrapers and axes of flint and chert and two bone arrowheads, were found on the floor of the chamber, mostly near the entrance, in association with charcoal and burnt bones. The implements are in Bristol Museum, and some of the first found faunal remains went to the British and Taunton Museums. (2-6)

Hyena Den is at ST 53224794. The coins presented to Taunton Museum in 1914 are said to be still in the museum but uncatalogued. (7)

Review of the history of the cave and its remains and artifacts: The fauna and pollen and soil analyses indicate a time span from the end of the last interglacial, through the last glaciation into recent times. The artifacts fall into two
main groups - Late Middle Palaeolithic Mousterian and Early Upper Palaeolithic. (8)

Additional Reference. (9)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1960
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 197-219
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 11, 1861
Source Number : 10
Source : Archaeological notes: work at the Hyaena Den, Wookey Hole
Source details :
Page(s) : 369-71
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 19(3)
Source Number : 3
Source : Victoria County History of Somerset
Source details :
Page(s) : 173-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 1906
Source Number : 4
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 105
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 60, 1914
Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Dobson, D P. 1930. Archaeolgy of Somerset
Page(s) : 19
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 92
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 107, 1950
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JP 19-JUL-66
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Taunton Museum Card Index
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : The Hyaena Den (Wookey Hole), Mendip Hills, Somerset
Source details :
Page(s) : 245-79
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12(3)
Source Number : 9
Source : The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain: a study of man and nature in the Late Ice Age
Source details :
Page(s) : 99
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : I

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Middle Palaeolithic
Display Date : Middle Palaeolithic
Monument End Date : -40000
Monument Start Date : -150000
Monument Type : Cave, Lithic Working Site
Evidence : Enhanced Natural Feature, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 399
Monument Start Date : 364
Monument Type : Cave
Evidence : Enhanced Natural Feature, Find
Monument Period Name : Uncertain
Display Date :
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Cave, Human Remains
Evidence : Find, Enhanced Natural Feature

Components and Objects:
Period : Middle Palaeolithic
Component Monument Type : Cave, Lithic Working Site
Object Type : ANIMAL REMAINS, LITHIC IMPLEMENT, HUMAN REMAINS
Object Material : Flint, Chert
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Cave
Object Type : COIN HOARD, VESSEL
Object Material : Silver, Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 2/44/11
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 54 NW 18
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, HYENA DEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1859-01-01
End Date : 1863-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, HYENA DEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1887-01-01
End Date : 1895-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, HYENA DEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1966-01-01
End Date : 1970-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 54 NW 18
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1966-07-19
End Date : 1966-07-19
Associated Activities : Primary, HYENA DEN CAVE, WOOKEY HOLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31