Cheddar Man

Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, is the home of Cheddar Man; Britain's oldest complete skeleton buried there 9,000 years ago, following what is thought to be a violent death.

Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge

Richard C. Gough excavated the cave in 1892 to open it up as a tourist attraction, but after a while the show cave started to flood, so in 1903 a drainage ditch was dug near the entrance of the cave. While digging this ditch, workman came across a skeleton under a stalagmite - this was Cheddar Man. The remains were moved to the Natural History Museum in London (a replica is shown in the Cheddar Prehistoric Museum and in the cave, as shown above).

During the excavations in 1927–28, a number of human bones were found that showed some evidence of cannibalism. Skull fragments found from five individuals with fractures that appeared to have been made when the bone was still fresh. Other bones had been split in a similar way to how animal bones are opened to get at the marrow.

Further excavations in 1986–87 found about 120 human cranial and postcranial remains from a small area near the entrance of the cave (shown by the red/white ranging rod in the photo above). The remains represented at least five individuals, consisting of three adults and two children from about 14,700 years ago.

More recently analysis of these has suggested they were deliberately fashioned into ritual drinking skull cups or bowls.

In 2003, a Palaeolithic image of what is thought to be a mammoth was found carved in the limestone walls in an alcove in Gough's Cave. If correct, it is only the second piece of representational cave art found in Britain.

It has been long thought that Cheddar man's ancestors may still live in the area and recent DNA testing (his DNA was extracted from one of Cheddar man's teeth) may prove that correct.

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