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A North-Western Habitat: the Paleoethology and Colonisation of a European Peninsula (a comprehensive analysis of excavations in Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags)Open Data

Rogan D.S. Jenkinson

Cite this as: Jenkinson, R.D.S. 2023 A North-Western Habitat: the Paleoethology and Colonisation of a European Peninsula (a comprehensive analysis of excavations in Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags), Internet Archaeology 61.


Entrance to Pin Hole Cave on a sunny day, with modern wooden steps winding through green vegetation to the cave entrance higher up the hill
Entrance to Pin Hole Cave. Image credit: Enchufla Con Clave, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pin Hole Cave is located within the Creswell Crags limestone gorge in the East Midlands of the United Kingdom. The locality became well known when Quaternary fossil and archaeological remains were discovered within the interior during the 1870s. The cave under went a small excavation in 1875 and then a much larger exploration from 1924 onwards. Despite many publications dealing with the Creswell Caves, Pin Hole Cave has not previously been comprehensively published.

A study undertaken by James Kitching published evidence of an 'Osteodontokeratic' assemblage (Kitching 1963). This idea encountered much opposition from UK-based academics at the time and this set the scene for a general climate of suspicion about the evidence from the cave and also about Leslie Armstrong, one of the principal excavators. This has been compounded by attempts to study the archaeology known from the cave, which has suffered from a basic lack of understanding of the cave excavation methods, records and stratigraphy. The first study of Pin Hole Cave was undertaken between 1976-81 and was published in 1984 (Jenkinson 1984). The study was actually far from comprehensive but it was responsible for the discovery and clarification of the methods of excavation and recording by Armstrong. This was crucial for a reconstruction of the temporal and spatial distribution of the archaeological and palaeontological remains known from the cave and which had not been previously fully reported (in reality, some remains were not unpacked until they were examined in 1977). This research clarified the significance of the cave structure and form as a context for the accumulation of infilling Quaternary evidence. The relevance of the stalagmitic and flowstone formations within the cave were also known to be crucial for a detailed understanding of the infill. The results of this reconstruction have been routinely used in many subsequent studies.

The re-examination and identification of all excavated traceable archaeological and palaeontological remains demonstrated that this cave offered evidence that was exceptionally rich and offered diverse information (particularly so within a UK context). Since 1984, many other studies have been undertaken, particularly with the aim of extending the application of radiometric dating, and although positive, many of these have cited the controversy concerning the cave excavation, its potential for the mixture of information and the difficulties of relating information to that available elsewhere. More recent studies have also pursued isolated aspects of the evidence, particularly those of archaeology or studies of specific species, which have lacked the multidimensional aspects offered by the evidence. This has not been helped by the observation that the cave is part of an isolated group with Quaternary evidence. The evidence from the cave is still today treated with suspicion.

The current publication is lengthy, comprehensive and includes individual descriptions and associated records for over 70,000 finds from the site, reported in the related digital archive as part of CAPI (Creswell Archaeological and Palaeontological Inventory). The cave geomorphic aspects and the details of its excavation and the associated records are described in detail in an attempt to clarify and remove confusion. Access to both sets of data allow a realistic attempt to consider the integrity of the evidence based upon the specific finds and stratigraphic associations.

This publication also describes in detail many of the archaeological and palaeontological finds in their known stratigraphic context. This is used as the basis to consider this unusual and very diverse evidence within a local, regional and European context. The evidence is assessed within the framework of known concepts of modern ecological behaviour to provide a context that might explain such intense activity within this particular Quaternary ecotone.

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  • Keywords: archaeology, Creswell, Derbyshire, Quaternary, taphonomy, cave, Armstrong,
  • Accepted: May 2018. Published: February 2023
  • Funding: Marc Fitch Fund supported this open access publication and the related digital archive
  • Related digital archive: Jenkinson, R. 2023 Creswell Heritage Area Digital Archive, 1874-2018 [data-set], York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor].
  • No PDF download available

Editor's note
This article and associated archive were in preparation when Rogan Jenkinson sadly died. He had been responding to queries up until a few weeks before his death. While some planned changes stopped being possible, getting this work into the public domain was important to Rogan who had dedicated so much of his life to Creswell. We have endeavoured to complete it to the best of our ability. We hope that it can still be a fitting tribute to the man and his passion for the archaeology of Creswell and play a positive impact on future studies.
Rogan D.S. Jenkinson (1952 - 2022)

Full text

Figure 1: Table illustrating the frequency of lithic and vertebrate remains, shown as an average per cubic metre for a sample of UK Quaternary sites

Figure 2: The graph shows the frequency of vertebrate bone survival for the average cubic metre (Av. cm) within Pin Hole Cave (listed twice as excavated by both Mello then Armstrong) with other sites shown for comparison

Figure 3: Creswell Crags Limestone Gorge - a ground plan showing the location of known caves (based on Jenkinson 1984, fig. 2)

Figure 4: Ground plan of Pin Hole Cave, surveyed during 1977. The void today is a lengthy but narrow fissure formed along north-south solution within the Magnesian Limestone and where a small chamber, in the cave rear, has developed below a major rupture in the cave roof (termed 'inner chamber' by Leslie Armstrong). The undisturbed sediments in the cave rear are shown and the arrows in the 'inner chamber' mark the position of two calcrete blocks removed for excavation.

Figure 5: Longitudinal cross-section of Pin Hole Cave mapped in 1977. The section shows the extent of the cave, the location of previous excavations and the surviving remnant of stalagmite floor adhering to the western wall and which was used by Armstrong as a datum.

Figure 6: A stylised reconstruction drawn by Leslie Armstrong, which has been adapted to correlate the depth from datum and stratigraphic levels used within this study (based on Armstrong unpublished and Jenkinson 1984)

Figure 7: A reconstructed distribution of archaeological remains excavated from Pin Hole Cave (Jenkinson 1984)

Figure 8: Stratigraphic distribution of artefacts

Figure 9a-b: Quartzite (Ironstone) biface, 75 × 40mm, a Quartzite biface 'Chopping tool', 96 × 76mm, and a Quartzite biface, 94 × 74mm

Figure 10: Side scrapers, Actual size 54 × 40mm (left) and 59 × 47mm (right) and a retouched blade or end scraper, actual size 89 × 25mm.

Figure 11a-b: A drawing and original photograph of an invasively retouched (laurel leaf) scraper which is 100 × 54mm

Figure 12a-b: Middle Palaeolithic (previously described as Early Upper Palaeolithic) invasively retouched scraper or 'point', 109 × 39mm, and a large stemmed point, 137 × 37mm

Figure 13a-c: Nosed point or awl, actual size 68 × 24mm; small end scraper, actual size 57 × 35mm and broken 'laurel leaf', actual size 34 × 47mm

Figure 14a-c: LUP backed and retouched points. Angle-backed blade (left), actual size 70 × 27mm; backed blade, actual size 68 × 17mm; point or awl, actual size 70 × 19mm

Figure 15a-d: Later Upper Palaeolithic artefacts. Point (left), actual size 47 × 19mm; end scraper, actual size 43 × 26mm; end scrapers, actual size 47 × 20mm; penknife point, actual size 34 × 15mm

Figure 16: Ivory pendant from stratigraphic level 3. Actual size 35mm length

Figure 17: An incised bone rod from stratigraphic level 3, actual size 41mm

Figure 18: An 'engraving' on an ungulate rib, of a 'Masked Man', which shows a complexity of lines surrounding the outlined figure

Figure 19: Cross-hatched bone rod

Figure 20a-b: Engraved bone rod and bevelled point, 54mm in length and 8mm in diameter, from the Upper Palaeolithic levels. (Image courtesy of the Manchester Museum)

Figure 21: Carnivore scavenged body parts of fossilised vertebrates from the Steetley and Fulbeck Quaternary localities

Figure 22: Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 23: Well-preserved crania of Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) from stratigraphic level 7. Reproduced courtesy of Manchester Museum

Figure 24: A complete juvenile skeleton of Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) discovered during the excavations by Jenkinson

Figure 25: Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) foetal mandibles from the cave rear

Figure 26: Adult Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) mandibles from Pin Hole Cave

Figure 27: Survival of Hyaena body parts

Figure 28: The general character of Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) bone attrition indicated by a fossilised Woolly Rhinoceros humerus

Figure 29: Humerus of Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquatatis). A typical example of a Hyaena-damaged limb bone. The proximal has clear remnants of bite marks along the edge and the distal medial and lateral surfaces have clear marks showing that the bite penetrated the entire thickness of the bone. The shaft retains a highly polished surface (under the varnish), most likely the result of surface licking probably by juvenile Hyaena. (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 30: Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta). Attrition, bone damage

Figure 31: A vertebrate bone flake showing evidence of partial digestion, including scalloped surface and holes and which has probably been regurgitated by Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), Pin Hole Cave (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 32: European Wolf (Canis lupus). Temporal distribution and survival

Figure 33: European Wolf (Canis lupus) attrition, body part selection

Figure 34: European Wolf (Canis lupus), attrition, bone damage

Figure 35a-b: European Wolf skull and mandible with evidence of fracturing and gnawing. Originally recovered by Armstrong but not reported by him. They are described for the first time in this study.

Figure 36: European Lion (Panthera leo) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 37: European Lion (Panthera Leo) body part selection

Figure 38: European Lion (Panthera Leo) attrition, bone damage

Figure 39: Right mandible of European Lion (Panthera Leo) from stratigraphic level 10 in the rear of the cave (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum).

Figure 40: European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 41: European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), body part selection

Figure 42: European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), attrition bone damage

Figure 43: European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) skull from stratigraphic level 10 or 11 (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 44: Temporal distributions of large carnivore species

Figure 45: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 46: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), body part selection

Figure 47: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) attrition, bone damage

Figure 48: European Badger (Meles meles) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 49: European Badger (Meles meles), body part selection

Figure 50: European Badger (Meles meles), attrition - bone damage

Figure 51: Distribution of smaller carnivores (Mustelids)

Figure 52: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis)- temporal distribution and survival

Figure 53: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis), body part selection

Figure 54: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis) - a distal humeral fragment showing Hyaena fragmentation, gnawing and salival surface polish, Pin Hole Cave (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 55: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis), attrition, bone damage

Figure 56: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis) mandible from stratigraphic level 9 (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 57: Woolly Rhinoceros (Coleondonta antiquitatis) mandible fragment with surface marks. (Drawing by Andy Palmer)

Figure 58: Cut-marked bone from stratigraphic level 12, general view (Jenkinson 1978b; See digital archive 5, fig. V149. Figure courtesy Manchester Museum)

Figure 59: Detail of cut marks on the mid lateral border (Jenkinson 1978b; Image courtesy of Manchester Museum; See digital archive 5, fig. V154)

Figure 60: Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) distribution and survival

Figure 61: Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), body part selection

Figure 62: Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), attrition, bone damage

Figure 63: Juvenile Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) mandible which was discovered within stratigraphic level 9 within the passage area of Pin Hole Cave (Jenkinson 1978b; Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 64: Drawing of Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) tibia showing surface incisions on the central shaft (Drawing by Andy Palmer)

Figure 65: General view of the cut-marks on a Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) tibia from stratigraphic level 11 (Jenkinson 1978b. Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 66: Detail of cut-marks on the mid-anterior surface (Jenkinson 1978b, Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 67: Wild Horse (Equus sp) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 68: Horse (Equus sp) body part attrition

Figure 69: Wild Horse (Equus sp), bone damage

Figure 70: European Bison (Bison sp) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 71: European Bison (Bison sp), body part selection

Figure 72: European Bison (Bison sp) attrition, bone damage

Figure 73: Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 74: Pin Hole Cave, typical, well-preserved, cast fragment of Reindeer antler from the passage of the cave (Jenkinson 1978b, Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 75: Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) body part selection

Figure 76: Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), attrition, bone damage

Figure 77: Drawing of Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler fragment showing surface cut-marks and 'snapped' distal end (Drawing by Andy Palmer)

Figure 78: Giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 79: Giant Deer (Megaloceros giganteus), body part selection

Figure 80: Giant Deer (Megaloceros giganteus), attrition, bone damage

Figure 81: Fractured and gnawed mandible of Giant Deer (Jenkinson 1984b; image reproduced by courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 82: European Hare (Lepus timidus) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 83: European Hare (Lepus timidus), body part selection

Figure 84: European Hare (Lepus timidus), attrition, bone damage

Figure 85: Rodent species temporal distribution (excluding Lemmings)

Figure 86: Rodent species and genera, bone distribution, body parts and survival

Figure 87: Rodent species and genera, body part distribution

Figure 88: Rodent genera, attrition damage

Figure 89: Arctic Lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus) and Norway Lemming (Lemmus lemmus) temporal distribution and survival

Figure 90: Bat species (Chiroptera) temporal distribution

Figure 91: Temporal Distribution of Geese Species

Figure 92: Goose humerus and coracoid from Pin Hole Cave (Reproduced courtesy Manchester Museum)

Figure 93: Duck and Geese, attrition, bone damage

Figure 94: Goose, coracoid and humerus shaft showing two bite marks near the distal epiphysis and a bite mark that has fractured the proximal epiphysis (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 95: An example of a complete egg (one of several) found within the cave during Leslie Armstrong's excavation (Jenkinson 1978b; Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 96: Stratigraphic distribution of Anseriform egg fragments

Figure 97: Eagle and Falcon species (Falconiformes) distribution

Figure 98: Owl species (Strigiformes) distribution

Figure 99: : Grouse species and genera (Galliformes) temporal distribution

Figure 100: Grouse genera and species, body part selection

Figure 101: Grouse genera and species, attrition, bone damage

Figure 102: Wader species (Ciconiiformes and Charadriiformes) temporal distribution

Figure 103: Woodland bird species (Passeriformes), temporal distribution

Figure 104: Amphibian survival and body part

Figure 105: Fish species (Pisces) temporal distribution (Grayling 18.25; Pike 18.26)

Figure 106: Fish species, body part selection

Figure 107: Pike (Esox lucius), well-preserved mandible and maxillary fragments from stratigraphic level 12, Pin Hole Cave (Image courtesy of Manchester Museum)

Figure 108: Temporal occurrence of the Minimum Number of Individual animals

Figure 109: Population dispersal behaviours of species from Pin Hole

Figure 110: Stratigraphic distributions of small carnivores raptor birds and rodents, birds and fis

Figure 111: Stratigraphic distribution of human groups and the major large ungulate species

Figure 112: Inter-species relationship between Humans, Wolf and Reindeer

Figure 113: Summary of large ungulate temporal distribution

Figure 114: Temporal variation in vertebrate bone attrition

Figure 115: Large ungulate body part frequency

Figure 116: Reconstruction of body weights and edible food resources based upon the live weights of Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) and body parts of the major ungulates

Figure 117: Summary of the stratigraphic and contextual observations of significance for an understanding of the chronology and taphonomy of the Pin Hole sequence

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Further Reading

Baker, R., 1978 The Evolutionary Ecology of Animal Migration, Hodder and Stoughton.

Bahn, P. 1977 'Seasonal migration in southwest France during the late glacial period', Journal of Archaeological Science 4, 245-57.

Barrett-Hamilton and Hinton, M.A.C. 1910-21 Monograph of Fossil Voles, Unpublished, Manchester Museum.

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Bearder, S.K. 1975b 'Feeding habits of the spotted hyaena in a woodland habitat', East African Wildlife Journal 15.

Bliss, L.C. 1977 Truelove Lowland, Devon Island, Canada: a High Arctic ecosystem, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

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Cameron, T.W.M. 1956 Parasites and Parasitism, London: Methuen.

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Collcutt, S.N. 1977 The stratigraphy of Creswell Crags, Unpublished MA thesis, University of Edinburgh.

Conelya, F.C., Klütsch, C.F., Manseau, M., Trim, V., Polfus, J. and Wilson, P.J. 2016 'The eastern migratory caribou: the role of genetic introgression in ecotype evolution', Royal Society Open Science 3, 1-13.

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