Friday, 13 August 2010

Inside the Cave

The excavation is hidden among dense woods
on the steep side of a Somerset gorge.

You walk down the narrowest of paths,
being careful not to trip on tree roots,
and find the cave sheltered with blue tarpaulin.

There are six people working in the cave
removing breccia from the walls and floor
which is coarsely filtered
and then stored for fine sieving in the laboratory.

In the first year they found very little
because they were working
at the surface in the modern deposits.

Four years later,
the excavations are revealing evidence of animals
that lived in this gorge after the last Ice Age.

Yesterday they found this reindeer bone
which has been gnawed by a wolf.
If you look carefully you can see
the puncture marks from the canine teeth.

It is really exciting to imagine
what might be in the lower layers of the cave:
woolly rhino, woolly mammoth
or even evidence of Neanderthal occupation.

It made me wish that I had studied Geography.


  1. Alice, I don't know how you do it, you manage to find the romance and poetry in the most surprising of situations.

  2. I know why I didn't study geography... I wouldn't imagine that was a reindeer bone at all let alone one gnawed by a wolf.

  3. I know exactly why I didn't study geography - somehow learning stuff like the coalfields of the Ruhr never conjured up the wondrous possibility of woolly mammoth bones beneath our feet!

  4. in my day Geography was like an intelligence briefing for a Bomber Command visit to the Ruhr Valley - major centres of production for steel, iron, ball bearings etc. Perhaps it was the effect of going to school in my formative years near the Dambusters base. Guess what the school film was once a year ?

    WV: menfuzz - one for MasterM I think

  5. Geography lessons -limestone pavements, ox-bow lakes, cross-sections of blast furnaces and the Norwegian fishing industry.

    MrsM as a new reader I am intrigued by your job. What is it that you do? I surmise an involvement with archaeology.

  6. Only dig I ever visited was in the middle of a very exposed, muddy field - but the finds were exciting though!

  7. Amazing! I never advanced beyond memorizing the 50 states and capitals in geography.

    K x

  8. Quaternary Entomology was one of my 'things'(that's deducing post glacial climate change from bugs found in midden, to you). A lot of seives, microscopes and creepy crawlies. Sadly, I never got to obtain the samples, just do a lot of grunt-work processing.

    Reindeer bones would have been easier to find, believe me! Glad your field trip has been fun.

  9. Fascinating what one can find while excavating. We know something about it around here as well.

  10. I went on a rescue dig once in the villages that were subsequently swallowed up by Milton Keynes. It was like a vastly more exciting version of digging in the garden for bits of blue and white china and clay pipe stems. Loved that. Hated geography which was the Yorks Derby and Notts coalfields.

  11. How amazing, I love how history slowly reveals itself :-)

  12. It makes me wish I had been with you when you took these photos.

  13. I hope at least someone commented on your bag.


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