Gough's Cave, 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 46714 53917

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 twenty-one sites in Somerset form the densest and one of the most important concentrations of monuments of this type in the country. The Gough's Cave example is regarded as important because it has provided the largest assemblage of Late Upper Palaeolithic flint artefacts from any cave in Britain as well as artefacts in other materials, cut animal bones and rare hominid bones showing marks associated with defleshing and deliberate disarticulation.


Gough's Cave consists of a main passage 5-9m wide and c.200m long, ending in two large chambers. From the entrance on the north side, are several side passages, the nearest of which, Sand Hole and Skeleton Pit (also known as Cheddar Man Fissure) are of demonstrable archaeological importance. The cave was dug open to its present extent by R.C.Gough and sons (1890-98) who turned it into a show cave. Flints and bones were found during the deepening of the entrance passage and the `Cheddar Man" skeleton appeared in 1903 when the approach to Skeleton Pit was being cleared. Subsequent excavation by R.F. Parry (1927-31) provided a rich collection of Late Upper Palaeolithic flint artefacts, worked bone and antler as well as a large collection of Pleistocene fauna from the cave earth and brecciated sediments within the cave. A recent survey and excavation by the Natural History Museum (1986- ) has demonstrated significant remnants of deposit within the cave. In particular, sediments against the north wall, consisting of a fine gravel and underlying red silt, have produced Creswellian finds, including rare human skeletal material and a decorated antler artefact. A continuation of artefact-bearing sediments occurs in Skeleton Pit (west wall) and is likely to occur beneath many of the existing concrete walkways. The eastern extent of deposits is unknown but the innermost finds recorded by Parry come from c.35m into the cave. Apart from Late Upper Palaeolithic artefacts, the cave has also yielded Mesolithic finds (eg. Cheddar Man), Bronze age and Romano-British material. The monument includes all deposits within the cave from the inner edge of the present entrance arch for 35m into the cave. The above ground walkways, steps, iron gates, turnstiles and other modern facilities are all excluded from 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.

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Books and journals
Cook, J, Marked Human Bones From Gough's Cave, Somerset, (1986)
Currant, A P, Jacobi, R M, Stringer, C B, Excavations at Gough's Cave, Somerset 1986-7, (1989)
Currant, A P, The Late Glacial Mammal Fauna of Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset, (1986)
Collcutt, S N, 'and their bearing on the Palaeolithic archaeology' in Analysis Of Sediments In Gough's Cave, Cheddar, Somerset, , Vol. 17, (1986)
Jacobi, R M, 'Cave, Cheddar, Somerset' in The History And LIterature Of Pleistocene Discoveries At Gough's, , Vol. 17, (1986)
Parkin, R A, Rowley-Conwy, P, Serjeantson, D, 'Cave, Cheddar, Somerset' in Late Palaeolithic Exploitation of Horse and Red Deer at Gough's, , Vol. 17, (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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