Kents Cavern is Britain’s best known and most important Middle-Upper Palaeolithic site, and one that our project continues to work on. Particularly important is the Vestibule area of the cave, where Late Middle Palaeolithic and Early Upper Palaeolithic artefacts were excavated during the 1920s and 30s. Among the finds was the maxilla fragment “KC4” – the oldest modern human fossil in Britain, and among the oldest in Europe.
PalaeoChron collaborators Rob Dinnis and Chris Proctor have recently been re-examining the sedimentology and archaeology of the Vestibule. This work has led them to view the cave’s Northeast Gallery as particularly significant for understanding the origin of the Vestibule’s Late Pleistocene deposits, even though no major entrance has previously been documented there.
During a 2014 visit to the site their attention was drawn to a concrete-block wall, sealing what looked to be a substantial cave entrance. A subsequent survey confirmed that the wall lined up with the Northeast Gallery.
(Left) Removal of the wall sealing the Northeast Gallery entrance (photo: A. Pate).
Rob and Chris returned in June to carry out excavation in the area around this blocked entrance. This fieldwork – supported by PalaeoChron, the Natural History Museum’s Human Origins Research Fund and the Calleva Foundation-funded Pathways to Ancient Britain project – sought to find out the extent of the entrance and establish whether intact Pleistocene deposits remained within it.
The work was a great success, revealing a large cave entrance that retains a substantial volume of intact sediments. There is much still to do, but Rob and Chris hope that further work at the Northeast Gallery entrance will significantly enhance our understanding of the cave and its archaeology. If you want to find out more, a short report of their fieldwork will soon be published in Cave and Karst Science, vol. 42(2).
(Left) The Northeast Gallery entrance at the close of the 2015 field season (photo: R. Dinnis).