Ancient Monuments

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Rhinoceros Hole, Wookey

A Scheduled Monument in St Cuthbert Out, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2286 / 51°13'43"N

Longitude: -2.6711 / 2°40'15"W

OS Eastings: 353237.671879

OS Northings: 147929.56772

OS Grid: ST532479

Mapcode National: GBR MM.2WMV

Mapcode Global: VH89R.NC8Z

Entry Name: Rhinoceros Hole, Wookey

Scheduled Date: 7 August 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010292

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13258

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: St Cuthbert Out

Built-Up Area: Wookey Hole

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


Rhinoceros Hole is situated on the east side of Wookey Hole Ravine, above the
River Axe and the canal serving Wookey Hole paper mill. Located c.16m above
the present valley floor and 15m below the plateau, it lies 25m south-south-
west of Badger Hole and 15m south of Hyena Den. The cave comprises a
collapsed rockshelter with two short passages leading back from the existing
rock face. Partial excavations carried out in the shelter by Balch in c.1900
and Tratman between 1970 and 1975 uncovered a thick sequence of cave earth
deposits overlying waterlain silts and sands. In situ finds from the silts
and sands included a Middle Palaeolithic handaxe and a number of thinning
flakes. The cave earth, which appears to consist of material slumped in from
above, contains a Mid-Last Glacial fauna believed to be contemporary with the
artefacts. On the basis of dates obtained on broken blocks of stalagmitic
flowstone in the cave earth, human activity at the site may be documented
to between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago. The scheduling includes the cave and
the deposits which extend from the cave walls to the area immediately outside
the entrance, 2m wide and 12m long.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of
human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The
sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the
north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer
rocks of south-east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located
near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms.
The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or
were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of
the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other
fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves
and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this
period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are
considered to be nationally important.

The 21 sites in Somerset form the densest and one of the most important
concentrations of this type in the country. Rhinoceros Hole is of particular
importance due to the presence of rare Middle Palaeolithic artefacts, further
examples of which are considered likely to survive in the unexcavated deposits
of the cave.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barrington, N, Stanton, W I, Mendip: The Complete Caves and a View of the Hills, (1977)
Rose, D A, The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Periods in Britain, (1981)
Collcutt, S N, The Analysis of Quaternary Cave Sediments, 1984, D Phil thesis

Source: Historic England

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