Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

By Paul Pettitt; Paul Bahn et al. | Go to book overview

3
Verification of the Age of the Palaeolithic
Cave Art at Creswell Crags
Alistair W. G. Pike, Mabs Gilmour, and Paul B. Pettitt
INTRODUCTION
Upon discovery of the Creswell cave art in April 2003, and a systematic survey and study of known images in June of the same year, it was believed on several grounds that the art was clearly of Pleistocene antiquity (Pettitt 2003). The reasoning was as follows:
The sharp line and bright colour of engraved graffiti dating to the 1940s stand in clear contrast to the eroded and dulled nature of the genuine art. Clearly, on the grounds of weathering the art is not a modern forgery.
In several places, thin flowstone crusts clearly overlay engravings, demonstrating a degree of antiquity for the art.
The location of almost all of the art at heights considerably above the reach of an adult's arm span, given the current level of the floor in Church Hole Cave, indicates that if the engravings were made after 1876 (when the sediments were excavated down to their current levels) a ladder would have been necessary. While this cannot be ruled out, it would imply considerable effort in forging the art, certainly to avoid drawing attention to the perpetrator.
Several images bear clear resemblances to known Upper Palaeolithic art, particularly that of the Magdalenian, both in terms of style and subject matter. By contrast, none of the art can be said to have Holocene parallels, that is, if it were Mesolithic or later, it would be unique. On the grounds of

A variant of this paper first appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Science. We are grateful
to Creswell Heritage Trust for their kind assistance in providing access into the caves at Creswell
Crags, to Jon Humble and Alex Bayliss of English Heritage for facilitating the scientific study of
the Creswell art, and to the staff at the NERC U-series Facility at the Open University.

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