Sun Hole, Cheddar Gorge


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


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 46737 54080

Reasons for Designation

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.


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 Ipswichian). 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.

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
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)


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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