Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Synopsis

Cave art is a subject of perennial interest among archaeologists. Until recently it was assumed that it was largely restricted to southern France and northern Iberia, although in recent years new discoveries have demonstrated that it originally had a much wider distribution. The discovery in 2003 of the UK's first examples of cave art, in two caves at Creswell Crags on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border, was the most surprising illustration of this. The discoverers (the editors of the book) brought together in 2004 a number of Palaeolithic archaeologists and rock art specialists from across the world to study the Creswell art and debate its significance, and its similarities and contrasts with contemporary Late Pleistocene ("Ice Age") art on the Continent. This comprehensively illustrated book presents the Creswell art itself, the archaeology of the caves and the region, and the wider context of the Upper Palaeolithic era in Britain, as well as a number of up-to-date studies of Palaeolithic cave art in Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy which serve to contextualize the British examples.

Excerpt

Paul Pettitt

When I organized the first brief survey of selected British caves for possible art, I and the other members of the team had no idea that we would actually find any. While I agreed with Paul Bahn that it was certainly worth a try, if I were a gambling man I'd have wagered money on the fact that nothing would be found. Thankfully I am not, and I have never been so pleased to have been so wrong. Creswell was, in fact, the first port of call on an itinerary that would take us on to Cheddar Gorge, the Gower Peninsula, and Devon. My strategy involved concentrating on caves and gorges that seemed to attract relatively large amounts of activity in the Late Upper Palaeolithic. There is, of course, no compelling reason why art, if it was to be found, should be found at such places, but in the absence of any other guiding principles it seemed logical that if we stood a chance of finding any it would be maximized at places which Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers knew well and appeared to return to over long stretches of time. To be honest I also fancied spending some time on the Devon coast, on Gower, and at Cheddar, and of course returning to Creswell which I had not seen for several years. At Creswell I had suggested that we concentrate our efforts in Robin Hood Cave and Mother Grundy's Parlour. These caves seem to have attracted the majority of activity of all the Creswell caves during the late Upper Palaeolithic, and it seemed a sensible enough proposition that if any of the caves were to contain art from this period it would be they. It was Brian Chambers who suggested that we also look in Church Hole while we were there, and we therefore owe our discovery to him. His enthusiasm, knowledge, and friendship subsequent to the discovery are cherished by us all. It is therefore with great pleasure that we dedicate this volume to Brian, with our gratitude and best wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement.

After the initial publication of the discovery in Antiquity and in the popular press, it was clear to us that two critical things need be done. First, we needed, if we could, to demonstrate the antiquity of the art independently of our stylistic arguments that it was Palaeolithic. Secondly, we needed to show the art to British and international specialists in cave art and Palaeolithic archaeology and gain their critical insights into its authenticity, antiquity, and, particularly, wider context. Thus was conceived the 'Creswell Art in European Context' conference. Our colleagues Ian Wall from Creswell Heritage Trust and Andrew Chamberlain from the University of Sheffield joined us in the . . .

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