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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Ice age carvings on public show
A 13,000-year-old carving from Church Hole, at Creswell Crags

An English cave described as the "Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age" is on show to the public for the first time.

The discovery of 80 engraved figures in the limestone ceiling at Creswell Crags was announced last month.

A year earlier engraved birds and an ibex, thought to be 12,000-years-old and the oldest in the UK, were found.

Two weeks of tours of Church Hole Cave on the Notts-Derbys border near Worksop begins on Saturday, but all tours are fully-booked organisers have warned.

They warned members of the public not to turn up unless they are booked on a tour of the cave.

Bison, deer and bears

Creswell Crags is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and comprises a gorge and many caves.

Ian Wall, of the Cresswell Heritage Trust, said one of the aims is to find out how the cave reacts to large numbers of people.

We are actually monitoring for temperature variations and the relative humidity of the cave
Ian Wall, Cresswell Heritage Trust
He said: "This is new for Britain because it is the only Ice Age cave art in the country and we just need to measure and assess the impact of taking visitors into Church Hole cave will have on the environment.

"Over the two week period we are running public tours, we are actually monitoring for temperature variations and the relative humidity of the cave."

Scientists said good natural light in April and June this year led to the latest discoveries.

Shaped by glaciers

The figures include representations of bison, deer, bears, plus two or three species of bird; including one unusual bird head with a long, curved bill.

Dr Nigel Mills, manager of the Creswell Heritage Trust, said in July the discoveries were "absolutely fantastic news".

"Church Hole cave is really the Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age," he said.

Although older cave art in France and Spain is regarded as more sophisticated, the Creswell images are deemed to be significant because of their northerly position.

They are the only examples of Palaeolithic cave art in the UK, and the artists who made them would have witnessed a British landscape still being shaped by glaciers.

'Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age'
13 Jul 04  |  Nottinghamshire
Link proposed to Ice Age art
14 Apr 04  |  Derbyshire
Cave centre secures funding
28 Jul 03  |  Derbyshire
Britain's 'earliest' prehistoric cave art
16 Jun 03  |  Science/Nature

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