Saturday, 19 January 2008

Ebbor gorge reveals a new cave

From the Wells Journal

The chance discovery of a new cave in Ebbor Gorge, near Wookey Hole, is helping scientists uncover the secrets of prehistoric man.

In 2005 workers in the reserve clearing a fallen ash found that behind the tree, what had previously been described as a small gully was in fact a deep and previously unexplored cave.

There are 30 caves in Ebbor Gorge ranging in size from crevices in the rock little more than a few feet in length to much larger caves that were once inhabited by prehistoric man.

Scientists have been exploring the Ebbor caves for more than 100 years but the first excavations were often clumsy affairs.

Smaller items, such as the tiny teeth from long extinct mammals which are now considered important to science, were often overlooked.

Scientists are excited by the new cave, which is one of the few in this area never previously explored.

In 2001 the Leverhulme Trust, an educational charity funded by Unilever, awarded a grant of £1.2 million to a multi-disciplinary team of experts from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and three British universities to undertake a nine-year study into the evidence for early man in Britain in a project known as the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain.

Dr Danielle Schreve, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University, in London, is leader of a team studying the new cave at Ebbor as part of the project.

She said: "It is early days yet, but so far we have found bones from wild horses, Arctic hare and other cold weather mammals (in the cave), as well as thousands of jaws of small rodents, including some species that became extinct in Britain after the last Ice Age - about 12,000 years ago.

"Later this year the team will move deeper into the cave and hopefully uncover evidence of early man."

Nicky Venning

Community correspondent

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