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Monument record MDR6578 - Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, Hodthorpe and Belph

Type and Period (3)

  • (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Upper Palaeolithic occupation has been suggested in 2 phases, Early and Late, the earlier characterised by points, burins, awls and scrapers, all of flint. The Late phase is also of flint, including backed blades and with 3 bone artefacts, 2 engraved. Human skeletal material is associated with this Late phase, with some indication of post-mortem fracturing of bones. Analysis of the archive from earlier excavations indicates evidence of 2 periods of Mousterian occupation, I and II. I comprises of flint and quartzite pieces, with all the tools of quartzite. II comprises both flint and quartzite artefacts. Mousterian I has been dated to 38,800 on reindeer antler. (1) North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust Index: 1949. Scheduled. (2, 5) In a 'section of damp red sand' a jaw of a very young elephant, or mammoth, was discovered during Mello's 1875 excavation. Mammoth bones were recorded by Mello in Pin Hole, Robin Hood's, Church Hole and Mother Grundy's Parlour, however Pin Hole is the only cave where a portion of the jaw containing milk molars are still in situ. (3) First recorded archaeological find made by Metcalfe in the 1860s. The lower mandible of a mammoth somewhere within the entrance area of the cave at a depth of 0.25m below the surface. The specimen was later described by Sir Richard Owen. (4) Study by Kitching involved the examination of 14,000 + specimens recovered by Armstrong. Some 11, 594 of the skeletal remains were analysed statistically, 3000 being small rodents, birds, frogs, toads and fish bones of little importance. Six human fragments and industrial evidence in stone and bone confirmed the presence of humans. Foetal remains and eroded and gnawed bones demonstrated the transport of whole bodies of carnivores, especially hyenas. The presence of the smallest animal bones demonstrated the preservative nature of the cave soil. The ten animals whose skeletal parts were mainly used for implemental purposes at Pin Hole were firstly reindeer and secondly hyena. The woolly rhinoceros and horse come next. Eroded bone fragments can lead to erroneous conclusions such as Armstrong's description of an eroded bison rib as a 'bull-roarer'. Eroded bone flakes, nevertheless, were used as tools equivalently with uneroded bone flakes in Pin Hole. (6) Cave sediment stratigraphy has been studied. (7) In 1974 Collcutt undertook excavation in the rear of the cave in what remained of the sediment section left by Armstrong. The excavation consisted of a 1m square cutting through 2.15m of the remaining section. Detailed analysis of the sediments is reported and vertebrate remains were reported by Chaplin. Vertebrate fragments from this excavation had not been examined fully as they were thrown away following the original determination. (9) What is presumed and interpreted as mammoth remains have been found, however other interpretations have been suggested. Further animal bones such as rodents have also been uncovered. (10, 11) Work had progressed by Armstrong to 66 feet beyond the cave entrance by the end of 1928. During 1927 the excavation, a 'complete bear skull and duck egg' were noted to have been found, along with the charred bones of bison, reindeer, woolly rhinoceros and mammoth, together with flint implements, cooking stones, 'stone pounders' and 'other evidences indicative of human occupation'. An engraved reindeer rib 8.5 inches long was recorded to have 'the drawing of a masked human figure in the act of dancing a ceremonial dance… the figure is anthropomorphic, half animal, half human… the head is covered with an animal mask giving an ape-like appearance to the figure. ' (12) Working from the cave entrance backwards, Mello and Heath found in 1875 disturbed topsoil and modern remains, however they recorded soil sediments descriptively, but largely confused the natural slope of the cave with a possible deposit. (13, 16) Signs of a further passage were detected in 1929, entirely filled with cave-earth. During 1931-32 the passage was excavated to its extremity, 25 feet from the main chamber, in a trefoil-shaped chamber. This deposit proved to be of Middle Mousterian age and yielded several flint implements and quartzite tools, in addition to flint flakes and bone tools. Two 'definite hearths' were also uncovered. Animal remains included hyena and baby mammoth. (14) Cave art in the form of carvings and engravings have been found within Pin Hole Cave. (17, 18) Excavations have taken place within the cave. (15, 19) At one end of a carved bone was a 'hole for suspension' which had been drilled with a pointed tool. A series of perforated phalanges, bone piercers and other worked bone were found in the same Moustarian level. (20) Some material from site has been radiocarbon dated. Excavations produced a small but characteristic assemblage of Creswellian flint of 14 pieces. These were found at depths between 45cm and 75cm below the surface, stratified within a yellow-brown, stony 'cave-earth' deposit. A number of fragmentary animal bones were found and radiocarbon analysed producing results of 9850+/- 115 years BP (circa 7900 BC) and 9940+/- 115 years BP (circa 7990 BC). (21) The British Museum holds a number of artefacts from Creswell Crags. A full index is available. (22) Excavation by Armstrong in 1933 reportedly yielded a quantity of Medieval pins. In the 19th century, pins were dropped into a small flowstone pool, for good luck, hence the name of the cave. The Medieval pins perhaps indicate a lengthy tradition. The pins are in Manchester Museum. The Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) holds the largest collection of Creswell Crags material including a selection of important Palaeolithic and Mesolithic finds. William Boyd Dawkins was initially curator at the museum and consequently, much of the material excavated during the 19th century from the site is stored at the Manchester Museum. Jackson was also a curator of the museum during the early 1920s. The collection comprises of a wide range of objects and in total around 15,000 items. Fauna makes up the majority of the collection. The collection also includes chert and ironstone artefacts, organic artefacts, breccia, charcoal samples, marine cowry shell, travertine, stones, pottery, metalwork and glass from the range of sites. (23) Derby has a large Creswell collection mainly originating from curator Thomas Heath's involvement at Creswell in the 19th century and consisting of largely fauna as well as flint and quartzite artefacts. There is also a small amount of Armstrong material and some from a private collector. (24) Middlesbrough Museum currently holds some Creswell Crags artefacts: A stone pebble, possibly a tool or naturally chipped roughly oval in shape with a large chunk removed from one part of the pebble- there are also some smaller nicks around the removed chunk, one of the rounded ends shows signs of wear, possibly from pounding, brown in colour. Two sections of antler from young reindeer found in Creswell, Derbyshire. Sections of antler from young reindeer found in Creswell, Derbyshire. (25) Fragments of two beakers, (Clarke's S4 type), recovered by Armstrong from his excavations. The two pots appear to be stratigraphically separated, the upper with a radiocarbon date of 1960 +/-?BC, the lower one, 2170 +/-140 BC. Fragments of two collared urns recovered by Armstrong. Armstrong's excavation in 1933 reportedly yielded a single sherd of iron age pottery and a Saxon Cruciform Brooch, but its whereabouts are unknown. (26) A large fissure-like cave with a small chamber to the rear. The cave was first excavated by Mello and Busk in 1875 and proved to be relatively unproductive causing them to move on to the larger caves. The site was again excavated in 1924 by Armstrong, who found that the cave continued for some way further and contained a small chamber. The deposits include Mousterian, Early Upper Palaeolithic, Later Upper Palaeolithic, Bronze Age and Roman material. (27) The first known find from Pin Hole is a palate and milk teeth of a young woolly mammoth found by Metcalfe sometime before 1875. Leslie Armstrong working between 1924 and 1936 continued the excavation through to the central chamber removing most of the cave deposit. Armstrong worked methodically, recording the location of large bones and stone and bone artefacts by writing in pencil on the object the distance into the cave and the depth from the former cave floor. Further research continued under Rogan Jenkinson between 1984 and 1989 where two excavation areas were developed. The excavation in the 1980s were never completed. The deposits suggest a sequence stretching back 50,000 years into the last Ice Age. Further work by Roger Jacobi has shown that during the Ice Age there has been a slight mixing of deposits where stone tools of very different age are not clearly separated within distinct layers. Large quantities of bone deposits from Pin Hole showing an abundance of mammoth, spotted hyena, wild horse, woolly rhinoceros show evidence of gnawing and chewing. The presence of hyena bones from young animals suggests the cave was at one stage hyena den. Cut marks on arctic hare bones provides evidence in Pin Hole for animal butchery. (28) Armstrong started to explore Pin Hole in early 1925. The general stratigraphy is the same as in the other caves; a lower cave-earth containing a rough industry in quartzite and an upper cave-earth with Late Palaeolithic flint implements. The Upper Palaeolithic industries of Creswell clearly belong to several different periods, the oldest appearing to be an Upper Aurignacian of Font-Robert type, though this has only been found in Robin Hood's Cave (SMR 34304), though there are indications that it may prove to be present in Pin Hole. (29) Additional sources. (7, 8)

Sources/Archives (29)

  • <1> Monograph: Jenkinson, R. 1984. Creswell Crags: Late Pleistocene Sites in the East Midlands, British Archaeological Reports 122.
  • <2> Index: North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust (NDAT). North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust Index: 1949. 1949.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Metcalfe, A. 1885. 'On the Mammoth at Creswell', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal.
  • <4> Article in serial: Owen, R. 1885. Notes on Remains of Elephas Primigenius. 1885.
  • <5> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1988. Scheduling Notification: Palaeolithic and Later Prehistoric Sites at Creswell Gorge…... 275. Cat. No. 275.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Kitching, J. 1963. Bone, tooth and horn tools of Palaeolithic Man, an account of the osteodontokeratic discoveries in the Pin Hole Cave, Derbyshire.
  • <7> Article in serial: Jackson, J. 1966. The Creswell Caves, Journal of the British Speleological Association.
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Campbell, J. 1977. The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Collcutt, S (University of Edinburgh). The Stratigraphy of Creswell Crags.
  • <10> Article in serial: Jackson, J. 1934. Rodent Remains from the Pin Hole Cave, British Association for the Advancement of Science. p265-7.
  • <11> Article in serial: Jackson, J. 1934. 'The Rodent Remains From the Pin Hole Cave', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 55. p90-2.
  • <12> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1928. 'Excavations in the Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags 1926-28', Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society.
  • <13> Article in serial: Busk, G. 1875. List of Mammalian Remains Collected by the Rev. J M Mello, 1875. Volume 31. p683-91.
  • <14> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1928. Excavations at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, 1928-32, the Pin Hole Cave.
  • <15> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1929. Excavations at Creswell Crags, The Pin Hole Cave, Volume 3, 1929. Volume 3. p116-22, 332-4.
  • <16> Article in serial: Mello, J. 1876. 'On the Bone Caves of Creswell', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, Volume 32, 1876. Volume 32.
  • <17> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1929. Discovery of an Engraved Drawing of a Masked Human Figure, 1929. Volume 6.
  • <18> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1936. A Bull Roarer of Le Moustier Age from Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, 1936. Volume 16.
  • <19> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1937. Excavations at Creswell Crags, The Pin Hole Cave 1928-32. Volume 4.
  • <20> Article in serial: Armstrong, A. 1925. 'The Engravings from Mother Grundy's Parlour', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • <21> Article in serial: Mellars, P. 1969. Radiocarbon Dates for New Creswellian Site, 1969.
  • <22> Index: British Museum. British Museum artefact index from Creswell Crags.
  • <23> Artifact: Manchester Museum. Manchester Museum artefact from Creswell Crags.
  • <24> Artifact: Derby Museum. Derby Museum artefact from Creswell Crags.
  • <25> Index: Middlesborough Museum. Artefacts from Creswell Crags held at Middlesborough Museum.
  • <26> Article in serial: Gilks, J (Tolson Memorial Museum). 1974. 'Early Bronze Age beakers from Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 94, pp 8-15.
  • <27> Bibliographic reference: Jenkinson, R. 1978. The archaeological caves and rock shelters in the Creswell Crags area, Creswell Crags Visitor Centre research report No. 1.
  • <28> Bibliographic reference: Creswell Heritage Trust. Creswell Crags, a guide to the caves and Ice Age remains.
  • <29> Bibliographic reference: Garrod, D. 1926. The Upper Palaeolithic Age in Britain.



Grid reference Centred SK 533 741 (16m by 16m) (Centre)

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Record last edited

Jun 12 2017 4:43PM

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