Rhinoceros Hole, Wookey


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Rhinoceros Hole, Wookey
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
St. Cuthbert Out
National Grid Reference:
ST 53238 47930

Reasons for Designation

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.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


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


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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