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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
'Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age'
A 13,000-year-old carving from Church Hole, at Creswell Crags

An English cave has been described as the "Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age" after the discovery of 80 engraved figures in its limestone ceiling.

The discovery at Creswell Crags was announced on Tuesday.

It comes a year after the initial discovery of 12 engraved figures, which were trumpeted as the earliest examples of prehistoric cave art in Britain.

The new discoveries were made possible by the good natural light in April and June, rock art experts said.

Creswell Crags - a Site of Special Scientific Interest - lies on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It comprises a gorge and many caves.

The latest artwork, dated to be about 13,000 years old, was found in an opening in the rock known as Church Hole, in Nottinghamshire.

Sunny mornings provided an opportunity to see the cave illuminated by a brilliant light
Dr Paul Bahn
Scientist Dr Sergio Ripoll, from Spain's Open University, said: "'The good natural light both in April and June of this year, and the realisation that the Ice Age artists who were visiting Church Hole were actually modifying the natural shapes in the limestone, has enabled us to see many new animal figures."

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.

British rock art expert Dr Paul Bahn said: "The sunny mornings especially provided an opportunity to see the cave illuminated by a brilliant reflected light, presumably how our Ice Age ancestors meant for the art to be experienced."

Dr Nigel Mills, manager of the Creswell Heritage Trust, said 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.

Nigel Mills, Cresswell Crags Heritage Trust
"It really is an incredible sight"

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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