Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

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

5
Zoological Perspectives on the Late Glacial

D. W. Yalden


INTRODUCTION

Enough mammal specimens of Late Glacial date from the British Isles have been subjected to radiocarbon dating to provide a reliable outline of the likely large mammal fauna of the time, though the accompanying fauna of small mammals has mostly been assigned to this period on associative, rather than direct, dating. These give an adequate zoological background against which to examine the suggested identities of the large mammals depicted at Church Hole, Creswell Crags. This background information is reviewed in this chapter. While Bison priscus was certainly present earlier in the Devensian, there is no evidence that Bison returned to Britain in the Late Glacial, but aurochs (Bos primigenius) did so, and must be considered a more probable identification. The evidence that ibex (Capra ibex) ever occurred in Britain is very dubious, which cast serious doubt on the original identification of the Church Hole Panel III engraving as being of this species. In this case, discussion and reinterpretation of the engravings during the course of the conference suggested a better resolution than the zoological one suggested at the time.

The ice of the Devensian glacial maximum, at about 20–18 ka BP, is believed to have covered all of northern Great Britain and Ireland, leaving smaller areas of the south of each island free of ice but occupied by tundra, permafrost, conditions. It is most unlikely that any of the present mammal fauna could have survived here then, though the possibilities that mountain hare (Lepus timidus) and stoat (Mustela erminea) did so must be conceded—both range well into the

Beyond thanks for the invitation to participate in this symposium, for which I thank Andrew
Chamberlain, I am grateful to Roger Jacobi and Sergio Ripoll for discussion of the engravings at
the time, and for other details. Robert Sommers and Norbert Benecke kindly made available to
me their hard-accumulated data on the distribution of ibex and bison in Late Glacial and
Postglacial Europe.

-53-

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