Aveline's Hole, Burrington Combe


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


Ordnance survey map of Aveline's Hole, Burrington Combe
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 47626 58676

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 historic Somerset form the densest and one of the most important concentrations of monuments of this type in the country. Aveline's Hole is a particularly important example due, not only to the wide range of Upper Palaeolithic artefacts recovered, but also to its richness in hominid material which shows it to be one of the earliest caves containing multiple burials in the country.


Aveline's Hole is situated on the east side of Burrington Combe, 88m below the plateau and c.2m below the present level of the road. It consists of a passage, c.43m long and averaging 3m wide, divided into two chambers by a constriction c.27m into the cave. The cave slopes steeply downwards for the first 20m then rises and levels off before descending into a choked passage at the back of the cave. The cave entrance was first opened in 1797 when a number of extended human skeletons were discovered, some encased in tufa, lying on the cave floor. Later excavations undertaken between 1919-27 uncovered a rich Late Upper Palaeolithic deposit in a 3 foot thick cave earth under a thin stalagmite floor. The finds included lithic artefacts and a rare example of a biserial antler harpoon. Unfortunately, many of these items, formerly in the Bristol Museum, were destroyed by wartime action. Some of the skeletal material has been radiocarbon dated and found to be of Mesolithic age. Cut-marked animal bone, radiocarbon dated to about 12,000 years ago, provides an age for the Later Upper Palaeolithic occupation evidence. Although the cave has been extensively excavated, original deposits are considered to survive beneath archaeological tip up to 18m into the cave and also outside to a distance of 10m either side of the entrance and in the 6m wide area between the road and the cave mouth. All of these deposits and the cave are included in the scheduling.

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
Oakley, K P, Campbell, B G, Molleson, T I, Catalogue of Fossil Hominids II, (1971)
Apsimon, A M, 'The Spelaeological Society's contribution to archaeology' in 1919-1969:Fifty years of archaeological research, , Vol. 12, no 1, (1969)
Davies, J A, 'Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Aveline's Hole, Burrington Combe. An Upper Palaeolithic station, , Vol. 1 no.2, (1921)
Davies, J A, 'Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Second Report on Aveline's Hole, , Vol. 1 no.3, (1923)
Gowlett, J, Hedges, R, Law, I, Perry, C, 'Archaeometry' in Radiocarbon Dates From The Oxford AMS System: Archaeometry List 4, , Vol. 28 no.2, (1986)


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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