Lifetime Achievement Award (virtually)
From the age of 6 John Blore followed his father’s footsteps; ultimately becoming an extremely knowledgeable botanist, naturalist and cave archaeologist. In 1962 he began excavating at Lynx Cave, near Llanferres and in 2012 produced his third account, a final report, on his work at the cave. His 50 years tenacious work at this one cave is likely to be a British, if not World archaeological record, and deserves to be recognised as such.
Before the local Archaeological Trusts were established in 1975, archaeological caves were under the charge of the Ministry for Public Works & Buildings. This organisation recognised John’s talents, employing him to excavate at Coygan Cave (S.Wales) to identify bones being unearthed at the site. Since then John has excavated at many Welsh caves, both north and south, and in so doing has added significantly to the archaeological record. Although ignored for the last 40 years by local Archaeological Trusts, Cadw and CCW, Johns work has been supported with assistance from professional archaeologists from universities and museums throughout the UK, including the Late Roger Jacobi, Chris Stringer, and Anthony Sutcliffe, all of the British Museum.
To quote the late Roger Jacobi: “There’s no such thing as professional or amateur archaeology…… only good or bad archaeology”.
This website recognises Johns achievement throughout this 50 year period, and the contribution he has made to cave archaeology.
Despite being a 'Lifetime achievement award' John continues to excavate........
John Blore (left) and Jerry Dobby examine early notes on Lynx Cave
For more information on Lynx Cave, see under Bryn Alyn Cave No1 on this website
About 45 or so caves in North Wales have been identified as being of archaeological importance. Many more have been noted by cavers as having archaeological potential. Others with entrances currently obscured, remain undiscovered.
The most important archaeological cave in north Wales is currently Pontnewydd Cave at Cefn, near St Asaph. Work at this site carried out by the National Museum of Wales from 1978, revealed hominin remains 230,000 years old.
Although archaeological excavations are now rarely carried out in North Wales caves, the subject is fascinating and there are many ways in which people can become involved in cave archaeology without carrying out excavation work. A few projects are suggested at the bottom of this page.
Topic headings on this page:
A small sample of bones from Colomendy Cave, Loggerheads
Please bear in mind that if you unearth any bones or artifacts, have them identified before further disturbance of the cave takes place. Then seriously consider if the site would benefit from calling in the professionals. If any artifacts subsequently turn out to be of importance, write a brief report for an organisation such as the Council for British Archaeology (Wales) for inclusion in their annual publication. This should at least ensure that your information won't be plagiarised by professionals!
Who to contact
If you find bones or other artifacts whilst caving or digging in caves, contact the Cave Archaeology Group: http://cag.bcra.org.uk/
In their own words: "Should you discover unusual bones or objects of interest in caves we can offer advice on what to do next and who to contact. We should be able to put you in touch with archaeologists or other specialists who would be only too happy to advise you how to proceed when you find that elusive Palaeolithic rock art!"
Nothing for a generation, then three final reports appear within a few months......
The important excavation work carried out at Pontnewydd Cave is now described in "Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves". Although 16 years in preparation, its 363 pages describe fully the work carried out at the cave by many specialists in sedimentology, geology, petrology, taphonomy, dating etc and there's even 112 pages on teeth alone.
It has been calculated that the two original entrances to the cave have receeded or been eroded away by some 7-10 metres. Their geologist makes the bold claim that the cave may have been a smaller passage connected to a master cave that once occupied where the Elwy Valley now lies........ although this can only be conjecture.
Seventeen hominin teeth were found, 1,282 stone artefacts (blade points, scrapers etc) and 4,822 animal bones which include those of lion, rhinoceros, reindeer, bear and leopard (leopard is rare with only one other known from Bleadon Cave in Somerset).
The hominin remains indicate that the MINIMUM number of individuals represented are an 8.5 year old (poss. male), a 9 year old (poss. female), an 11 to 11.5 year old (poss. male), a 14 to 16 year old (poss. male) and a mature adult. The MAXIMUM number represented is 16 (9 juveniles and 7 adults).
Most of the deposits are the result of (up to four) glacial debris flows, where material from nearer the original entrance has been forced under pressure deeper into the cave. Some older deposits have even been found above more recent material.
Hardly light reading, but there are occasionally lighter moments such as an interesting latin quote of "perigrinationes in tenebra amoris causa" (speleolgogy for the fun of it) and the rather painful statement that "Hyaenas will walk 20 metres or more from their den before voiding their coprolites" (coprolite = fossilised excrement).
The book provides an insight into many of the methods used and will be an important addition to the book-shelves of anyone having an interest in cave archaeology.
Reduced from £45 to £22.50 at OxbowBooks.com (in 2013)
Lynx Cave, Denbighshire: 50 years of Excavation 1962 - 2012
At the same time as the Pontnewydd book became available, John Blore issued his latest report on Lynx Cave to celebrate his 50th years work at the site. John can supply the report as several Word files supplied on CD or as a PDF. The 76 pages are effectively the final report on his work and are a testament to his life-long tenacity.
Lynx Cave itself is of rather small dimensions and the deposits were in damp ground, thus rendering it a cave that no professional archaeologist would ever consider excavating. It’s size also dictates that the favoured method of leaving untouched deposits for future work, was not possible.
John Blore has done an enormous service to archaeology by excavating a site that would have been ignored by professionals. In so doing, he has added significantly to the archaeological record. One wonders if any additional information could have been unearthed at the site had CPAT, CADW or CCW been willing to offer their support over the 50 years.
John's work provides evidence that the cave was used by animals and humans for 12,000 years. It served as an occasional shelter for hunting parties, who butchered and cooked sufficient for their needs in the cave, before returning home with the bulk of their spoils. In the late Bronze Age (around 3,000 years ago) several bodies were buried in the cave, after which the entrance was sealed with a large capstone. A total of eight individuals including an infant, are represented amongst the bones. Other finds include 26 sharp stone cutting tools, three hammer-stones, a bone spear-point 11,700 years old, a shale bracelet and a bronze brooch inlaid with silver and enamel of Romano-British origin.
This report is also a must-have for those interested in cave archaeology and is available direct from John Blore. Visit his website at: http://lynxcave.webs.com/
A seven page supplement to the report is now available, published in 2013. This describes Johns latest work at the cave.
NB Lynx Cave is described on this website under Bryn Alyn Cave No 1 (see Caves A - B)
Archaeological Excavation at North Face Cave Little Ormes Head 1962-1976 (Updated 2012)
The original discoverer and excavator of North Face Cave (or as it was later called, Ogof Rhiwledyn) was John Blore. He has updated his 1977 privately published report and the new 49 page account is now available (from December 2012).
It describes all the remains found in the cave, the oldest being Neolithic 4,500 years old. Most interestingly, the 19 human vertebrae recovered from the cave show varying degrees of abnormal compression to the centrum with considerable wear of anterior faces. John Blore suggests this may be due to pressure from continual lifting or the carrying of heavy loads and raises the possibility that this individual could have been labouring in the nearby Bronze Age copper mine.
After 50 years of cave excavation in North Wales, John Blore is still working at several sites. He also gives fascinating and well presented slide shows on his work at Lynx Cave.
List of north Wales archaeological caves
Where ancient human or animal remains or artifacts are recorded as being found
See alphabetical list at top left of this page, to navigate to information on each cave
B.S. Pot (see under Brasgyll Cave No 3)
Barnewell Cave (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)
Big Covert Cave, Maeshafn
Bryn Euryn Quarry cave (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)
Bryngwyn Bone Cave, north of Maeshafn
Cae Gronw Cave, Cefn
Cae Gwyn Cave, Tremeirchion
Cefn Cave, Cefn
Cefn Old Cave, Cefn
Corkscrew Cave, Llandudno
Dead Rabbit Cave, Llandudno
Ffynnon Bueno Cave, Tremeirchion
Galltfaenan Cave, Cefn
Gop Cave, Trelawnyd
Gop Farm Cave, Trelawnyd (See: Gwaenysgor Cave)
Grange Farm Cave, Holywell ? (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)
Gwaenysgor Cave, Gwaenysgor
Kendrick's Cave, Lower, Llandudno
Kendrick's Cave, Upper, Llandudno
Llanarmon Cave, Llanarmon-yn-ial
Lynx Cave, Llanferres (see Bryn Alyn Cave No 1)
Maeshafn Cave (see: Big Covert Cave)
Minera Cave, Gwynfryn (see page 20. Lost or non-caves)
Murphys Pot, Alyn Gorge, Pantymwyn
Nant-y-Fuach Rock Shelter, Dyserth
Nant-y-Graig Caves, Brasgyll (see under Brasgyll Caves)
North Face Cave, Llandudno
Ogof Arth, Llandudno
Ogof Colomendy, Loggerheads
Ogof 'Corkscrew', Llandudno (see under Corkscrew Cave)
Ogof Pant-y-Wennol, Llandudno
Ogof Rhiwledyn, Llandudno (see under North Face Cave)
Ogof Tan y Bryn, Llandudno
Ogof Tudno, Llandudno
Orchid Cave, Maeshafn
Perthi Chwareu Caves (two caves) Llandegla
Plas Heaton Cave, Henllan
Pont Newydd Cave (or Bontnewydd Cave), St. Asaph
Printing Press Cave, Llandudno
Rhos Isaf Caves (three caves), Llandegla
Skeleton Cave, Llandudno
Skull Pot, Pantymwyn
Snail Cave, Llandudno
Ty Newydd Caves (two), Tremeirchion
C14 dating of bones
In 2010, only seven (less than 20%) of known North Wales archaeological caves have had radiocarbon testing carried out on bones. These caves are:
Cae Gronw Cave; Ffynnon Bueno Cave; Gop Cave; Kendrick’s Cave; Lynx Cave; Orchid Cave; Pontnewydd Cave.
(Source: Burrow, S. and Williams, S. (2008) 'The Wales and Borders radiocarbon database'. Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales). It is available at: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/cy/1151/
The National Museum of Wales has not updated the database since 2010 (Pers. Comm Steve Burrow NMW 2013).
Bones from at least one of the Llandegla Caves have been subjected to more recent testing.
Sample of finds from Skull Pot, Alyn Gorge, Pantymwyn
Please let this website know of any dead links
Mel Davies: "Notes on his contribution to cave archaeology in Wales" can be downloaded as a PDF from the very bottom of this page.
Ancient Arts: A Deganwy company run by David Chapman that carries out experimental archaeology: http://www.ancient-arts.org/
A 2010 overview of recent archaeological work in Welsh caves: http://www.archaeoleg.org.uk/pdf/reviewdocs/paleoreview.pdf
A website dedicated to Lynx Cave describes John Blore's 50 years of excavation: http://lynxcave.webs.com/
A website for cavers interested in cave archaeology, the Cave Archaeology Group: http://cag.bcra.org.uk/
A forum for the Cave Archaeology Group: http://british-caving.org.uk/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=460
Details of archaeological caves of Wales on the CAPRA website: http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/2/wales.html#B
A good bibliography for archaeological cave sites is also available on the CAPRA website: http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/2/walesbib.html
"Cavers, Digging and Archaeological Finds in the Yorkshire Dales" (PDF file): The advantages of cave digging in furthering our knowledge of archaeological caves: http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/6/cavedigging.pdf
Consider joining the Council for British Archaeology (Wales): http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbawales/
Although covering south Wales, some interesting photographs of finds from caves: http://www.swanseaheritage.net/themes/archaeology/cave.asp
The Megalithic Portal covers all the UK, but briefly describes arch. caves of north Wales with some good photos: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/index.php
Read a detailed description of Britain's first cave art identified in 2003 (a PDF file): http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/5/pettitt.pdf
Isotope analysis of bone collagen from three individuals found at Kendrick's Cave, Llandudno (PDF file): http://www.eva.mpg.de/evolution/staff/richards/pdf/Richards-et-al-KendricksJHE.pdf
An article on the 12,000 year old engraved horse jawbone from Kendrick's Cave: http://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/wales-the-kendrick%E2%80%99s-cave-horse-jawbone/
An interesting introduction to Wales' ancient past: http://www.cambria.org.uk/lostlandscapes/index.html
An interesting site describes Bone Caves of Devon: http://www.devonkarst.org.uk/Bone%20Caves%20of%20Plymouth%20&%20District/CAThp.htm
What cavers should keep an eye open for whilst caving: http://cag.bcra.org.uk/styled-2/index.html
A page on archaeology at the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust: http://www.pengellytrust.org/museum/archaeology.htm
One of the best books on human remains is "Digging up Bones" by Brothwell. Copies can be bought on-line at:
The BCRA publication "Cave & Karst Science" has a special edition (December 2011) dedicated to cave archaeology. It is Volume 38, number 3 and can be ordered for £8 +£1 p & p or £6 as a PDF download at: http://bcra.org.uk/pub/candks/
The Guardian provides news (2010) from caves at Cheddar and an interesting over-view of man in Britain after the last ice age when it was rapidly re-populated within just three years: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jun/20/ice-age-cannibals-britain-earliest-settlers
"The Big Dig" at Gough's Cave, Cheddar is the subject of this interesting article: http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba118/feat1.shtml
Research into Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) is described here: http://www.ahobproject.org/About.php
A large volume is available on Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context: http://www.scribd.com/Filipe17/d/65996327-Pettitt-Et-Al-Eds-Paleolithic-Cave-Art-at-Creswell-Crags-in-European-Context
The rare find of a hammerhead from 1000BC and fashioned from antler, has been found by cavers in 2011 at a cave on the Burren, County Galway: http://itsligo.ie/2012/03/26/discovery-by-it-sligo-lecturer-gives-rare-insight-into-bronze-age/
"Archaeological Potential of Cave and Fissure Deposits in Limestone" (Covering the Peak District and south Yorkshire).This important assessment was produced by archaeologists with input from the caving community and can be obtained as a free PDF here: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/caves_eh_2011/downloads.cfm
"Cave Breccias and Archaeological Sites", a detailed description http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/1/breccia.html
In Scotland a group of 19 sea caves are being examined in the Rosmarkie Caves Project: http://www.spanglefish.com/RosemarkieCavesProject/index.asp?pageid=200209
Ever wanted to know the relevance of prehistoric penis art? Try this: http://io9.com/5852161/paleolithic-penises-can-tell-us-about-the-origins-of-genital-piercing-and-also-about-ourselves
For a brief understanding of cave sedimentology: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/34954/1/1004_ftp.pdf
Natural England Cave Monitoring Scheme: http://www.northerncavemonitoring.org.uk/
Download a PDF entitled "Cave deposits of North Wales: Some comments on their archaeological importance and an inventory of sites of potential interest" by Dinnis & Ebbs (2013) here: http://www.academia.edu/5157200/Dinnis_R._and_Ebbs_C._2013._Cave_deposits_of_North_Wales_some_comments_on_their_archaeological_importance_and_an_inventory_of_sites_of_potential_interest._Cave_and_Karst_Science_40_1_28-34
Although you do need to register by entering your e-mail address and a password (or contact Cris at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a copy).
And finally, a totally irreverent site by diggers that describes archaeology as "one of the most incestuous careers on earth": http://www.diggingthedirt.com/about/
Professional on-line sources.....
1: CAPRA database A database describing caves where human remains have been recorded.
Although it does not mention Gwaenysgor Cave or several other known archaeological caves, it is a good source of early reference material.
It is to be found here: http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm
2: COFLEIN http://www.coflein.gov.uk/ Operated by RCAHMW. The database relating to caves is both incomplete and in many cases, inaccurate. Caves such as Orchid Cave, Gwaenysgor Cave, Galltfaenan Caves, Colomendy Cave, Cae Gronw Cave etc, are not mentioned at all and many other cave descriptions appear to be long out of date. RCAHMWs copyright restrictions however, appear less Draconian that those of Archwilio below....
3: ARCHWILIO http://www.archwilio.org.uk/ Operated by the four Archaeological Trusts, this database confusingly contains some different information to that offered by COFLEIN, although both state that they give access to the HERs (Historic Environment Records). Not only is the Archwilio information also incomplete and in places grossly inaccurate, but before being granted access to the database, users must agree not to pass the information to any third party or use it in any publication. In fact many reports carried out by the Archaeological Trusts are kept secret from the public on grounds of Copyright. Gwynedd Archaeological Trust for example will not even provide the public with a list of their report titles. Oddly, even this 'Caves of North Wales' website and John Blores reports are wrongly claimed to be the copyright of CPAT (see Archwilio Primary Ref 120881 for Lynx Cave as one of many examples).
Some years ago, it was hoped that the two databases would be combined, but the idea could not be followed through (Pers Comm RCAHMW 2013).
Current professional work
In 2013 a cave project was initiated by Cadw working in partnership with CPAT, the aim being to identify potential archaeological caves and assess their deposits. Several experts in cave archaeology are involved in the study. The first phase was completed in 2015 during which an initial report was compiled. Further work is expected to be carried out in the 2015/16 financial year.
This website hopes that some time will be allocated within this project to address the poor quality of the Historic Environment Record for caves, the result of limited professional understanding of north Wales' cave stock as a whole.
Some 'modern' primary references
There are numerous references to early cave excavations i.e. the first article on Ffynnon Bueno Cave was published by Hicks in 1885. In the following three years he published at least another 12 papers referring to the cave and 10 more were published by other writers. References to caves excavated more recently however, particularly those by amateurs, tend to get overlooked by professionals. Here therefore are a selection of references relating to excavations carried out since 1962..........
(main source: Ed Ford, T. (1989) Cave Archaeology in North Wales, in 'Limestones and Caves of Wales')
AW ............ Archaeology in Wales
NWCC ...... North Wales Caving Club
WPCST .... William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust
SWCC ...... South Wales Caving Club
Ffynnon Bueno Cave, Tremeirchion
Davies, M., SWCC, 72, February 1973, Rhinoceros remains in a Flintshire cave
Lloches yr Afr, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 13, 1973; AW, 14, 1974; NWCC, 12, November 1973; NWCC, 13, December 1973; NWCC, 19, July, 1974; SWCC, 1978, December 1974; WPCST, 24, January 1975 (with photographs)
Lynx Cave, Llanferres
Blore, J.D., 1965 (unpublished) Lynx Cave, Denbighshire, Preliminary Report 1962-4
Blore, J.D., n.d. Lynx Cave Excavations Clwyd 1962-1981, Second report
Blore, J.D., 2002 The Enigmatic Lynx. ISBN 0 9541835 0 9
Blore, J.D., 2012 Lynx Cave, Denbighshire: 50 years of Excavation 1962 - 2012
North Face Cave, Llandudno (Also incorrectly referred to as Ogof Rhiwledyn)
Davies, M., AW, 13, 1973; NWCC, 15, Feb-March 1974.
Blore, J.D., 1977 "Excavations on the Little Orme's Head"(published privately describing work at North Face Cave).
Blore, J.D., 2012 "Archaeological Excavation at North Face Cave, Little Ormes Head, Gwynedd 1962-1976 (updated 2012)"
Ogof Colomendy, Cadole (see under Colomendy Cave)
Carr, E., NWCC, 32, August 1975
Davies, M., NWCC, 32, August 1975; AW, 16, 1976; NWCC, 41, May 1976; NWCC, 49, January 1977; WPCST, 28, January 1977; NWCC, 54, June 1977; WPCST, 29, July 1977; CCC, 4, 1977-8, 18-23, Ogof Colomendy - Further animal remains and a third human skeleton; AW, 17, 1977.
Ogof 'Corkscrew', Llandudno (see under Corkscrew Cave)
David, G.C.., AW, 19, 1979
Ogof Pant y Wennol, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 14, 1974; NWCC, 19, July 1974; NWCC, 21, September 1974; NWCC, 24, December 1974; SWCC, 77, September 1974; SWCC, 78, December 1974; AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 32, August 1975;NWCC, 35, November 1975; SWCC, 81, December 1975;WPCST, 25, September 1975 (with plan); AW, 16, 1976;
WPCST, 28, January 1977; WPCST, 29, July 1977; Stone, T.A. & Smith, B., AW, 19, 1979.
Ogof Tan y Bryn, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 30, June 1975; SWCC, 81, December 1975.
Ogof Tudno, Llandudno
Stone, T.A., AW, 15, 1975.
Davies, M., NWCC, 32, August 1975; NWCC, 35, November 1975.
Stone, T.A., AW, 16, 1976.
Upper Kendrick's Cave, Llandudno
Davies, M., AW, 15, 1975; NWCC, 60, December 1977.
Davies, M. & Stone, T.A., WPCST, 31, March 1978 (with figures).
Davies, M., AW, 18, 1978; AW, 19, 1979; WPCST, 32, February 1979, pp 7-9; Studies in Speleology, 1983, IV, 45-52, The Excavation of Upper Kendrick's cave, Llandudno, Studies in Speleology, 1988.
Stone, T.A. & Davies, M., AW, 17, 1977.
Gillespie, R., et al. (1985). Radiocarbon dates from the Oxform AMS system. Archaeometry Date list 2, 27 part 2, 237-46.
Please get in touch with details of any additional references.
Suggested projects to get involved in
Whilst the digging of cave deposits is not to be condoned by those without archaeological experience, there are many other projects for the keen amateur. Here are just a few:
1) Artifact deposit database
Bones and other artifacts found in our local caves now lie in a multitude of depositories, many in museums, others in private hands. Many have changed hands over the last century or two. Some have been lost or even thrown away. The last published attempt to locate these well-distributed artifacts was over 40 years ago (Valdemar 1970). In view of the advances in analytical techniques, the importance of these artifacts has grown significantly. There is therefore a need for an up-to-date database of the finds from each cave site to confirm where they are now held, and made freely available on-line.
2) On-line primary excavation reports
Due to the large number of secondary (and sometimes conflicting) documentary sources, all primary sources need to be drawn together for conversion to digital format and made available on-line. The original excavation reports would then serve as a good starting point for future researchers.
3) Searching for 'new' archaeological caves
Over the last 50 years or so, approximately 140 'new' caves have been discovered, bringing the north Wales total to over 200. Many of these may have archaeological potential. Boyd Dawkins discovered several caves in a few days at Llandegla, simply by excavating badger or fox holes where they could be found at the base of limestone outcrops. Two more undocumented caves have been found in recent years in this same area. Such caves typically have their entrances plugged with earth or more rarely, with glacial debris-flow material. There is nothing to prevent anyone from carrying out limited excavation, at least until interesting remains are found. Then, either call in the professionals or an experienced amateur, to assess the potential importance of the site. Most of our archaeological caves were originally discovered and reported by amateur cave archaeologists or responsible cavers.
4) Internal cave surveys
Modern-day professional archaeologists have not carried out internal surveying of archaeological caves except at Pontnewydd Cave, Ffynnon Bueno Cave and one or two others. There is therefore an opportunity to carry out a co-ordinated surveying programme to record all 45 or so archaeological caves. Surveys were rarely drawn up at the time of original excavations, hence a new survey project could provide a standardised and more complete record of these important sites.
5) Searching for cave art
The first cave art to be recognised in the UK was at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, in 2003.
In August 2011 a cave in Gower was also found to contain cave art:See a BBC video of the Gower cave at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-14721056
A systematic examination of north Wales' caves could be carried out by anyone equipped simply with camera, light-source and a good eye.
One north Wales cave has already been examined closely as a possible contender. The evidence is currently regarded as inconclusive......
This 2012 image is from an undisclosed north Wales cave (Click on image to enlarge).
Could this be an early carving of a bear or other animal (head and eye on the left), or is it merely a trick played by fissures in the rock?
Comments from cavers and archaeologists are welcomed: email@example.com
And finally, for those of us who struggle with the various archaeological or geological periods, here's a handy table.....
PDF download below:
After opening the PDF below, please use your BACK button to return to this page....