Ancient Monuments

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Sun Hole, Cheddar Gorge

A Scheduled Monument in Cheddar, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2834 / 51°17'0"N

Longitude: -2.7651 / 2°45'54"W

OS Eastings: 346736.512498

OS Northings: 154080.264933

OS Grid: ST467540

Mapcode National: GBR JH.ZH5L

Mapcode Global: VH89J.102H

Entry Name: Sun Hole, Cheddar Gorge

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011915

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13205

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Cheddar

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


Sun Hole is a small fissure cave 45m above the road on the north side of
the gorge. The entrance measures c.4m across and very extensive
deposits remain intact behind a standing section located about 4m in
from the cave mouth.
Excavations were carried out in 1926-8 by Tratman and Henderson, by
Tratman again in 1951-4, by Campbell in 1968 and by Collcutt in 1977-9.
In the early excavations, forty- four Late Upper Palaeolithic flint
artefacts were recovered along with human remains radiocarbon dated to
c.12,000 years ago and faunal material of a similar age. Despite these
early explorations, there are still extensive areas of in situ deposits
inside the cave and in the talus outside. The latter was only partially
explored during the 1977-9 excavations. Analysis of the sequence of
deposits has revealed the presence of three distinct archaeological
units, dating from the late Devensian, from a full glacial period
(probably Devensian), and from an interglacial period (probably
The monument includes all deposits inside the cave extending 20m into
the interior, and outside the cave includes an area of 4m radius from
the cave mouth.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Palaeolithic caves and rockshelters 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. As such
caves and rockshelters are 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 twenty-one sites in Somerset form the densest and one of the most
important concentrations of monuments of this type in the country. Sun
Hole is one of the very few sites nationally to have provided human
skeletal evidence directly dated to the Late Glacial. The cave is
regarded as important palaeontologically and sedimentologically, because
of the well-stratified sequence of deposits dating back to the last
Interglacial period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Collcutt, S N, Currant, A P, Hawkes, C J, A Further Report On The Excavations At Sun Hole, Cheddar, (1981)
Ollier, C D, Sun Hole Cave, Cheddar, Pleistocene Deposits, (1958)
Barker, H, Burleigh, R, Meeks, N, 'Radiocarbon' in British Museum Natural Radiocarbon Measurements, , Vol. 13, (1971)
Gowlett, J, Hedges, R, Law, I, Perry, C, 'Archaeometry' in Radiocarbon Dates From The Oxford AMS System: Archaeometry List 4, , Vol. 28, (1986), 116-25
Tratman, E K, 'The Pleistocene levels' in Second Report On The Excavations At Sun Hole, Cheddar, , Vol. 7, (1955)
Tratmant, E K and Henderson, G T D, First Report On The Excavations At Sun Hole, Cheddar, 1928, Pagination 84-97(plus plan & section)

Source: Historic England

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