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The Devon Karst Research Society.

The Society's Homepages for the
CATTEDOWN BONE CAVES,

Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon, England, U.K.

© 2004 The Devon Karst Research Society, Cattedown Bone Caves pages all original text and images.

Updated on 27 April 2004.
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Section 14a.
ILLUSTRATED CATALOGUE OF R.N. WORTH'S CATTEDOWN FOSSIL MATERIAL, 
HELD IN THE PLYMOUTH CITY MUSEUM.
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The Cattedown Bone Caves
Part 1.  The Hominin Collection.
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THE CATTEDOWN BONE CAVES.

R N Worth's
Cattedown Bone Cave

-  a Palaeolithic Cave Habitat;
-  an Interglacial to Glacial Hyaena Den;
-  an "Occupational Pitfall".


The Reindeer Rift Cave

-  an "Occupational Pitfall".


Robert Burnard's
Bone Cave

-  an "Occupational Pitfall".



 
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The Society is deeply grateful to the Keepers of the Human History and Natural History Departments of the Plymouth City Museum for their co-operation in permitting us to access the Cattedown Fossil Material and to digitally photograph it.


After renewed contact with the Plymouth City Museum in May 2003., the Society was given permission to view the R.N. Worth and R. Burnard Cattedown Fossil Collections, which were inadvertantly intermixed. Permission was then extended to include our photographing the Fossil Bones on 20 May 2003.
The digital stills images we recorded at the time, are reproduced below. The short video MPEG1 recordings are accessible via the appropriate Links

 As you will see from the images below, this scientifically valuable and important Collection has been stored in the most inappropriate way for decades. Since 1976, we have continually requested access to the Collection, which until 2003, had been denied us continually. The reasons given to us varied from "the Bones don't exist  .... "  through to  "we don't know where the Bones are stored  ...... "  and even "someone is evaluating the Collection  ....."   to the often frequent silence that greeted our requests on many other occasions. Considering the general state or condition of the Collection, it is hardly surprising that the Museum has perhaps been "embarrassed" to give access to what we regard as being their most important Collection.

It was thus with great delight that our request for access to the Cattedown Cave Fossil Collections in May 2003 was finally met with honesty and integrity by a comparatively new and very professional team at the City Museum. Our delight was initially tempered by the condition of the bones at first sight. However, this situation has been inherited by the present Museum Team and it was great news to hear that they were actively seeking funding to re-house the Collection in more suitable storage conditions. It has been even better news to hear in 2004 that further funding is being sought to acquire the very-urgently needed (and very expensive) conservation and preservation programme that this important Collection deserves.

For the record of presenting the evidence of exactly how the Collection has been stored since its original acquisition by the Plymouth City Museum over a century ago, we present the following images. In this "before and after" scenario, we are happy and confident to be able to predict that, due to the renewed interest in this Collection by the long-needed professional Keepers and others in the Museum Team, we shall soon be able to present a report of progress on the upgrading of the its condition and storage.
As an adjunct to this, the Cattedown Cave Hominin Collection as it currently exists in its poor, pre-restoration condition, has already proven to be of scientific value, insofar as it is clear that many of its individual components retain their original osteometric characteristics, which can be further investigated. Qualitatively, it is also of great value.

It is our intention to detail each bone and bone fragment. In the meantime, we present the following images.

14a1.1.  IMAGES BEFORE RESTORATION :


Image PCM-HC/200503-1.  Indicates the first box of fossil bone material as having been stored in this way in the Museum since their original 
acquisition by the Museum Collections. The Image indicates Human Mandibles, Upper Jaws and Crania, some of which are in boxes within the main box.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)


Image PCM-HC/200503-2.  Indicates another Box with a single specimen of a fire-damaged Human Cranium.
This Fossil Bone was from Worth's Cattedown Hominin Collection, originally displayed in the Museum of the Plymouth Institution,
(now the Plymouth Athenaeum), before the building was bombed in 1942. This fossil was rescued from the burning building.
The use of inappropriate glues to reconstruct the cranial fragments has caused immense additional damage to the Cranium.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)


Click on this Link below to view an MPEG 1. file :-
short video sequence PCM-HC/200503-Mpeg 1. of the DI Cranium
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Image PCM-HC/200503-3.  Indicates a Box containing containing another Cranium, Mandible (lower jaw) and an Upper Jaw.
The label reads : "1 skull, 1 lower mandible Removed for display in Merchants House 18.5.78."
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)


Click on this Link below to view an MPEG 1. file :-
short video sequence PCM-HC/200503-Mpeg 2. of the Human Skull in the Image above
(Video :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)
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Image PCM-HC/200503-4.  Indicates a Box containing a miscellanea of Human Skull fragments.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)


Image PCM-HC/200503-5.  Indicates the contents of the box in the ImagePCM-HC/200503-4. above, laid out for a clearer assessment of the Human Skull fragments.
The label reads : "HUMAN SKULL FRAGMENTS From the Cattedown Fissure 1886. Recovered from the Blitzed ruins of the Plymouth Athenaeum."
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)


Click on this Link below to view an MPEG 1. file :-
short video sequence PCM-HC/200503-Mpeg 3. of further Human Skull Fragments in Box 10 (II) of the Collection
(Video :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)
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Click on this Link below to view an MPEG 1. file :-
short video sequence PCM-HC/200503-Mpeg 4. of the general Cattedown Hominid Collection
(Video :  B. Lewarne, 20 May 2003.)
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Image PCM-HC/191104-1.  Indicates a piece of ossiferous stalagmitic breccia, within which are embedded human bones. (The Scale is in centimetres).
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 19 Nov. 2004.)


Click on this Link below to view an MPEG 1. file :-
short video sequence PCM-HC/191104-Mpeg 5. of ossiferous stalagmitic breccia containing Human fossil material
(Video :  B. Lewarne, 19 Nov. 2004.)
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During 2004, the Museum had acquired sufficient funds to enable the purchase of a more suitable storage system for the Cattedown fossil material. The Keepers decided that this was an appropriate time for a total re-cataloguing of the Cattedown Fossil Collections. Consequently, a series of students attending the appropriate courses at Exeter University became involved with the sorting, identification and re-cataloguing process.

Image PCM-HC/191104-2.  Indicates the new storage boxes and integral racking system for the 
Cattedown Bone Cave fossils, now housed in air-conditioned rooms.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 19 Nov. 2004.)
In November 2004, a short programme of research work was begun on the Cattedown Hominin fossils, in a collaboration between The Devon Karst Research Society, The Plymouth City Museum and Oxford Brookes University. More about this can be seen in Section 13. of the Cattedown Bone Caves Webpages. It was during the first day's work on this programme of work that a monochrome image of some of the Cattedown fossil material came to light, which had never before been seen by The Devon Karst Research Society or by the present Staff in the Museum. Critically, the image is in a newspaper photograph dating from 1981 and reveals certain components of the Cattedown Bone Cave Fossil Material, one of which we are now anxious to locate - the large worked piece of flint recovered from Worth's Excavation - which we thought had not survived the bombing of the Plymouth Athenaeum Museum. 
The newspaper photograph relates to a display then in place in the Elizabethan Merchant's House Museum in Plymouth. The display was titled "Hunters at Cattedown" and also shows one of the Cattedown Bone Cave Hominin fossil skulls as seen in Image PCM-HC/200503-3. above, but apparently with the item in a more complete condition than is now the case in 2005. The more complete skull as recorded in the photograph reveals some stunning new detail. An image of this can now be seen in Section 2. of these Webpages. The aforementioned piece of worked flint seems to have become lost in the interim. Museum staff are now searching for this item.
[More to follow]
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You can visit the Plymouth City Museum's Website by clicking on the Link below.
http://www.plymouthmuseum.gov.uk
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The Cattedown Bone Caves

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