[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Britain's 'earliest' prehistoric cave art
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Archaeologists have discovered the earliest known example of prehistoric cave art in Britain.

Ibex, Antiquity
Enhanced view: This image traces the outline of the ibex
It consists of 12,000-year-old engravings of birds and an ibex carved into the stone walls at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire.

The identification was made by Paul Bahn and Paul Pettitt, with Spanish colleague Sergio Ripoll.

They report their findings in the journal Antiquity.

There are fine examples of cave art in France and Spain but none has been found in the UK - until now.

The British art is less impressive than the paintings found in continental caves. It is also substantially younger.

Continental style

It is thought modern humans appeared in Europe around 45,000 years ago. Over a time span of about 15,000 years, they replaced the continent's then occupants, the Neanderthals.

The newcomers produced some remarkable works. The best of these are the stampeding horses and charging bulls painted at Lascaux and Chauvet in France, and at Altamira in Spain.

Ibex, Antiquity
...and a normal view: The art is partially obscured by 1940s graffiti
It is surprising that Palaeolithic cave art has not been identified in the UK before now because the British Isles was linked to the continent during this time and known to have been inhabited.

However, experts believe that most cave paintings would have been destroyed in Britain's damp climate.

The researchers examined the Creswell Crags because of previous Stone Age discoveries at that location. In the 19th Century a 12,000-year-old bone needle was found there.

Bahn, Pettitt and Ripoll say the engravings are of a style similar to the cave art of France and Spain.

Of the two birds carved on the wall of the cave, one might be a crane or swan, the other a bird of prey. The other engraving could be an ibex, an animal not thought to have existed in Britain.

Faces from the Ice Age
28 May 02  |  Science/Nature
Science shows cave art developed early
03 Oct 01  |  Science/Nature
Oldest lunar calendar identified
16 Oct 00  |  Science/Nature

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific