Palaeolithic cave floor

web Cave Floor (c) Museums WorcestershireThis section of a cave floor from Worcester City’s collection was excavated in the 1860s, most likely, in the town of Les Eyzies in the French Dordogne. It belongs to a cave which was occupied during the Upper Palaeolithic, between 17,000 to 12,000 years ago.

Henry Christy, an English banker and ethnologist and Édouard Lartet, a French palaeontologist began working in a cave called Grotte des Eyzies in 1863 at a time of enormous change in the study of early man.

Evidence had been mounting throughout the eighteenth century that the Earth was incredibly old, much older than the 6,000 years that Bishop Ussher had calculated from his bible studies. By the 1840s, scientists working in the Alps had come to realise that rock and gravel deposits had not been laid down by Noah’s great flood but instead by glaciers and icecaps which covered much of Europe and which we now call Ice Ages.

At the time the period was simply called the reindeer age, and the men and women who lived alongside them, the reindeer hunters. Reindeer bones, usually associated with cold climates, were being found on excavations across Southern Europe, including the one that our cave floor was removed from.

The tools that Christy and Lartet found in the Dordogne and specimens of cave floor were sent to museums all over the world, and this object is currently being worked on as part of a review into Worcester City Museum’s Pleistocene collection.

Lartet and Christy went on to make discoveries that were ground breaking; the bones and tusks of Ice Age mammals, decorated by man with images of the animals themselves, proving that early man and these Ice Age animals did indeed once live side by side and in March 1868, the discovery of five Cro-Magnon skeletons, now recognised as the earliest known race of modern humans.

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