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HER Number:MDV9683
Name:Kents Cavern, Torbay

Summary

Kent's cavern. In 1846 william pengelly and friends commenced excavations in kent's cavern discovering flint implements and the remains of extinct animals. Further excavations were undertaken in 1865 under the auspices of the british association, and were continued until 1880. Numerous important finds were made. This cavern was the first to be properly excavated, and opened up the study of the neolithic period.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 934 641
Map Sheet:SX96SW
Admin AreaTorbay
Civil ParishTorbay
DistrictTorbay
Ecclesiastical ParishST.MARYCHURCH
Ecclesiastical ParishTORMOHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX96SW/4
  • Old SAM County Ref: 201
  • Old SAM Ref: 10717

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CAVE (Lower Palaeolithic to XXI - 698000 BC to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

QUINNELL, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV1356.

800 sherds of late bronze/early iron age, middle/late ironage pot, recovered during excavation. Also recovered neolithic/early bronze age, middle bronze age, roman and medieval pottery. Also non-ceramics, copper alloy object, quern, worked bone object and stone whorl. Now in torquay museum, british museum & birmingham museum (quinnell).

CHAMBERLAIN, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV158846.

Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates of 8070 + 5360 bp produced by oxa-1786 + oxa-1787 (chamberlain).

Keene, B., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV2098.

Part of a barbed and tanged arrowhead found probably from the black mould layer near the cave entrance + of bronze age date (keene).

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Untitled Source (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV24.

Vis=13/11/1952 (os) there have been no discoveries in recent years. The original entrance to the cave was pointed out by mr cook (a) at sx93446416. The caves are owned and commercialised as a tourist attraction by mr powe. Many of the finds are now in the torquay museum (os).

1971, Untitled Source (Report - Survey). SDV316402.

Vis=estimated -/-/1969(grinsell) finds include early upper palaeolithic 'laurel leaf' blades of 'british' solutrian type, as well as later upper palaeolithic (cresswellian) implements of flint, with a few of antler and bone. Abundant remains of pleistocene animals have also been found. There are two or three cases of finds in the entrance to the cave, but a much better series is in the museum of the torquay natural history society. Material from this site is also scattered among many other museums. A short appraisal of the contents and the importance of the cave, prepared in 1977 by s. N. Collcutt for the purpose of fostering further excavation is in the parish file. Pengelly is a major authority on kents cavern and has written numerous articles and critiques of opinions expressed by others on the site. See list of references below. The most up to date account of the site and a reconsideration of the stratigraphy is given by campbell and garth sampson (1971). Copy in parish file.

Ancient Monuments, Untitled Source (Report - Survey). SDV316405.

Vis=estimated -/-/1990 (ancient monuments) kent's cavern, located on the west side of lincombe hill, is a very large solution cave within a more extensive limestone rift system. The cave has two entrances which open onto a flat terrace platform halfway up lincombe hill, now containing the modern frontage of the show cave. The cave interior consists of a series of large galleries near the entrances, notably the 'vestibule' and the 'great chamber', where many of the archaeological discoveries have been made; artefacts also occur in deposits of the 'high level' near the back of the cave. In addition to the two existing entrances, further openings provided access to the cave in earlier periods. These include the choked passages of the 'sally ports', to the south of the present entrances, and, at one of the eastern extremities of the cave, a rising passage from the high level chamber, which is considered to connect with the surface.

AM, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316406.

Archaeological investigations, begun in the 1820s, have established that the cave contains a long sequence of deposits from the lower palaeolithic to the post-prehistoric period. Within the sequence are two major stalagmite floors providing dating evidence for the archaeological contexts. The upper floor seals material more than 10,000 years old, while the lower one seals deposits dating from 350,000 years ago. Above and within the upper floor are finds of post-palaeolithic age. Artefacts of at least three distinct palaeolithic horizons occur between the upper and lower stalagmite floors or in stratigraphically equivalent levels. They include bone, antler and lithic artefacts associated with human remains, themselves now directly radiocarbon dated to 31,000 years ago, making them the earliest anatomically modern humans in n europe. There are also significant concentrations of middle palaeolithic finds probably dating from between 90,000 and 35,000 years ago. Beneath the lower floor are lithic tools of lower palaeolithic type which are by definition some of the earliest artefactual evidence in britain. Faunal remains are prolific throughout the cave deposits, enabling reconstruction of climatic changes through a number of glacial/interglacial cycles from the middle pleistocene onwards. Although the cave was extensively explored in the 19th and 20th centuries by william pengelly and then by the torbay natural history society, considerable areas of undisturbed deposit still exist for future investigation. Within the cave they include stratified deposits near the entrances, in the great chamber and the vestibule and all remaining deposits within the present cave system. Outside, there are extensive deposits making up the present talus and entrance platform in front of the cave. For this reason the monument includes the whole of the interior deposits of the cave and the area outside the entrances including the platform and the talus deposits as far as the valley floor. The scheduling excludes all buildings above the cave and the soil levels overlying bedrock, although fissures within the bedrock are included. Also excluded are the buildings and made up footpaths outside the cave entrances, although the deposits beneath them are included (am).

LISTER, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316407.

Prehistoric deer remains discussed by lister (lister).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316411.

Grinsell, l. /discovering regional archaeology; south west england/(1970)29.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316412.

Julian, h. F. /tda/45(1913)423-444/william pengelly f. R. S. , f. G. S. , father of the devonshire association, part 2.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316413.

Julian, h. F. /tda/50(1918)258-267/the palaeontological and archaeological finds in kent's cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316414.

Collcutt, s. N. /a review of the situation concerning the quarternary deposits of kents cavern, torquay, devon/(1977)/in parish file.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316415.

Campbell, j. B. + garth sampson, c. /a new analysis of kents cavern, devonshire, england/university of oregon archaeological papers no.3(1971)/ in parish file.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316416.

Jacobi, r. M. /pdas/37(1979)48 fig.1/early flandrian hunters in the south west.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316417.

Peacock, d. P. S. /antiq. J. /49(1969)58 fig.1/a contribution to the study of glastonbury ware from south western britain.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316418.

Mantell, g. A. /arch. J. /7(1850)340-341.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316419.

Burnard, r. /vch. Devon/1(1906)341-343/section/early man.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316420.

Pengelly, w. /tda/2 part 2(1868)407-414/notes on bones found in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316421.

Pengelly, w. /tda/2 part 2(1868)468-522/literature on kents cavern prior to 1859.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316422.

Pengelly, w. /tda/3(1869)191-482/literature on kents cavern, part 2.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316423.

Ormerod, g. W. /tda/3(1869)79-80/molars of hippopotamus major in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316424.

Pengelly, w. /tda/3(1869)483-494/alleged occurrence of hippopotamus major and machairhodus latidens in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316425.

Pengelly, w. /tda/4 part 2(1871)467-490/literature on kents cavern, part 3.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316426.

Pengelly, w. /tda/5(1872)165-179/notes on machairodus latidens in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316427.

Pengelly, w. /tda/7(1875)282-324/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316428.

Pengelly, w. /tda/7(1875)246-260/tooth of machairodus latidens in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316429.

Pengelly, w. /tda/8(1876)167-244/tooth of machairodus latidens in kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316430.

Pengelly, w. /tda/9(1877)446-448/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316431.

Pengelly, w. /tda/10(1878)141-181/literature on kents cavern.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316432.

Pengelly, w. /tda/10(1878)619-629/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316433.

Pengelly, w. /tda/11(1879)538-548/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316434.

Pengelly, w. /tda/12(1880)592-661/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316435.

Pengelly, w. /tda/13(1881)369-401/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316436.

Pengelly, w. /tda/14(1882)664-669,683-685,687-694/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316437.

Pengelly, w. /tda/15(1883)478-486/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316438.

Pengelly, w. /tda/16(1884)481-488/kents cavern and glacial or pre-glacial man.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316439.

Pengelly, w. /tda/16(1884)775-824/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology, part ii.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316440.

Pengelly, w. /tda/17(1885)425-449/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316441.

Pengelly, w. /tda/18(1886)506/notes on notices of geology and palaeontology.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316442.

Bonsall, c. /gazetteer of upper palaeolithic sites(cba res rep 20)/(1977)425.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316443.

Garrod, d. A. E. /the upper palaeolithic age in britain/(1926).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316444.

Mus=bm.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316445.

Mus=bm(nh).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316446.

Mus=torquay.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316447.

Mus=bolton.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316448.

Mus=oxford(university museum).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316449.

Osa=sx96sw12.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316450.

Anon/pdas/1(1929-32)143.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316451.

Pearce, s. M. /bronze age metalwork of sw britain/(1983)456-457(bar 120).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316452.

Evans, j. /ancient bronze implements,weapons and ornaments of great britain and ireland(1881).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316453.

Berridge, p. /ttnhs/20.1(1986-87)6-7/ramblings from on archaeologist.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316454.

Lister, a. /ttnhs/19.4(1985-86)189-198/giant deer and giant red deer from kents cavern,and the status of strongyloceros spelaeus owen/copy in parish file.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316455.

Doe/smc letter/(21/3/1989) in smr.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316456.

Doe/smc letter/(16/1/1990) in smr.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316457.

Chamberlain, a. /antiquity/70.270(1996)951-1/more dating evidence for human remains in british caves.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316458.

Des=keene, b. /arrowheads from prehistoric devon/()[19+53]/ms in smr.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316459.

Silvester, r. J. /pdas/44(1986)9-38/the later prehistoric + roman material from kents cavern, torquay.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV316460.

Des=quinnell, h. /later prehistoric pottery survey/(1998)dbid:1766/in smr.

Department of Environment, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV326678.

Kent's cavern. In 1846 william pengelly and friends commenced excavations in kent's cavern discovering flint implements and the remains of extinct animals. Further excavations were undertaken in 1865 under the auspices of the british association, and were continued until 1880. Numerous important finds were made. This cavern was the first to be properly excavated, and opened up the study of the neolithic period. Smc granted for topographic and sediment survey (doe).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV533.

Pearce lists all the finds with descriptions and measurements in bronze age metalwork of sw britain (pearce).

Dinnis, R., 2012, The archaeology of Britain's first modern humans, 627-641 (Article in Serial). SDV361504.

Newberry, J., 2013, Lateglacial Devon, Including Recent Evidence from Broad Down, 2, 4-5, 6, 18-19 (Article in Serial). SDV358048.

Kent's Cavern has provided evidence for activity in the Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods. Finds have included 'crude' Lower Palaeolithic handaxes and flat-butted handaxes of the Middle Palaeolithic period indicating the return of Neanderthals after an absence of more than 100,000 years. A human jaw dated to between 35,000 and 37,000BP has also been found together with bones of mammouth and bear.
The Creswellian (c13,000-11,8000BP) finds from this cave are nationally important as they include both chronologically diagnostic lithic artefacts and rare organic artefacts. The latter include single and double barbed points of reindeer antler, a rod of mammouth ivory and a bone needle. Lithic tools include points, scrapers, piercers and burins.
The reindeer finds gave a radiocarbon date of 14,395 +/- 60BP, which together with finds from Cattedown, Plymouth are the earliest dates for mammals recolonising Britain after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), 20,000-18,000BP.
The Final Palaeolithic lithic industry is also evidenced at Kent's Cavern by finds of curve-backed points.

Hicks, D. & Stevenson, A., 2013, World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, A Characterisation., 201 (Article in Monograph). SDV363549.

The Pitt Rivers Museum collection includes material collected by Father John MacEnery from the caves at Kents Cavern. MacEnery's work was proof of the contemporaneity of humans and extinct animals and, thus, an extended antiquity for humans.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV1356Migrated Record: QUINNELL.
SDV158846Migrated Record: CHAMBERLAIN.
SDV2098Migrated Record: Keene, B..
SDV24Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. OSA. Card Index.
SDV316402Report - Survey: 1971.
SDV316405Report - Survey: Ancient Monuments.
SDV316406Migrated Record: AM.
SDV316407Migrated Record: LISTER.
SDV316411Migrated Record:
SDV316412Migrated Record:
SDV316413Migrated Record:
SDV316414Migrated Record:
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SDV316459Migrated Record:
SDV316460Migrated Record:
SDV326678Migrated Record: Department of Environment.
SDV358048Article in Serial: Newberry, J.. 2013. Lateglacial Devon, Including Recent Evidence from Broad Down. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 71. Paperback Volume. 2, 4-5, 6, 18-19.
SDV361504Article in Serial: Dinnis, R.. 2012. The archaeology of Britain's first modern humans. Antiquity. 86, Issue 333. Paperback Volume. 627-641.
SDV363549Article in Monograph: Hicks, D. & Stevenson, A.. 2013. World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, A Characterisation.. Palaeolithic British Isles. Hardback Volume. 201.
SDV533Migrated Record:

Associated Monuments

MDV124153Related to: Kent's Cavern, Ilsham Road, Torquay (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7937 - Archaeological Evaluation on the New Visitor Centre Site - 2002
  • EDV7966 - Visitor Centre site, Kents Cavern, Torquay

Date Last Edited:Feb 7 2020 11:03AM