The Devon Karst Research Society.

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

Section  2.0.
Providing details of the excavation, the fossil assemblage and an approximate stratigraphy
using R.N. Worth's original published accounts.
(The annotated numerical references contained within the text in the style (1).relate to references
made in various current Excavation Reports not yet Web-published.)

Text revised on 05 January 2008.

..........Cattedown Bone Caves Section 2.0. Webpage Contents :
..........Paragraph 2.1....Introduction to the R.N. Worth & Robert Burnard Excavations :
..........Paragraph 2.2....Pre-Excavation Details of the Site :
..........Paragraph 2.3....First Discovery of the Cattedown Bone Cave :
..........Paragraph.2.4....Excavation Details of the Cattedown Bone Cave & Contemporary Images of the Excavation :
..........Paragraph 2.5....Worth's Detailed Account of the Fossil Assemblage and their Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
..........Paragraph 2.6....Worth's Argument in Support of the Scientific Integrity of the Discovery and his Interpretation of the Age of the Fossil Bones :
..........Paragraph 2.7....On the Surviving Parts of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave and its Environs :
..........Paragraph 2.8....On the Surviving Parts of the Fossil Bone Collection from Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave :
..........Paragraph 2.9....The Society's Conclusions about Worth's Account :
This hitherto long Webpage has been reconstructed both to shorten its length and to allow browsers to access its contents more quickly via the individual sub-Section Links given on the left-side. The text as originally web-published, has not been edited but merely presented in a different framework. 

Click on the underlined Links in the left-side column to move down to the sub-Sections more quickly.

The contemporary details of both the prevailing site conditions, the events leading to the first discovery of fossil bones and then the full-scale excavation details at what is known as Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave, as provided by R.N. Worth himself, are numerous and varied. For the scientific age in which the work was carried out, it was surely an advanced approach on anything similar that had gone before in the way of cave exploration and excavation. It must be emphasised that without both the foresight and pro-active involvement of certain key learned individuals, the important finds at Cattedown may never have come to the notice of science.

However, in absolute terms, Worth's Report presents us with many problems, notably in connection with the details he does not provide, firstly about the bone collection and secondly, about the precise location of his bone cave.
Other than qualitatively and quantitatively detailing a very small proportion of the Hominid fossil bones, incredibly, he does not detail in the slightest degree the vast bulk of the remainder of the bone discoveries, other than listing the faunal species represented and the preponderance or otherwise of each of the other species in the total collection. This problem is meliorated to some extent by the later commissioning of the Beddoe anatomical evaluation of the Hominin collection, (Beddoe, 1903) as requested by the Plymouth Institution, whose Museum in the centre of Plymouth took possession of the majority of the Cattedown Bone Collection and who subsequently curated and displayed them.
In connection with the Bone Cave, Worth does take great trouble in detailing the morphology of his Bone Cave, the nature and disposition of the cave deposits within the cave and the disposition of the fossil remains within the cave deposits but he does not provide any site-specific location for the actual cave.
It seems rather strange that though the quality of the mass of detailed and essential information he has provided is unquestionably good, it makes us wonder if indeed he did compile a full record of all the fossil bones and may even have made handwritten, contextual sketches of the exact location of the Bone Cave and that this information has subsequently become lost. This information was certainly never published by him in either the Transactions of the Plymouth Institution or those of the Devonshire Association and, considering the meticulous detail that he has provided in regards to other aspects of the discoveries, it seems rather unlike him not to have recorded a full catalogue of the all the fossil bones.
The problems in the gaps of our knowledge about this Bone Collection have also been contributed to by the lack of full realization or recognition of the importance of the Hominin element of the Cattedown Bones by the curators of the Plymouth Institution Museum, who failed to take adequate precautions in respect of the security of the relics during the Second World War and in particular during the German bombing of the City of Plymouth on 22 April 1941. This great loss has denied us, to a large extent, the opportunity of personal inspection and the application of modern methods of scientific inquiry.
Indeed, had it not been for one of their brave Members entering the bombed and smouldering ruins of the Athenaeum, we would not now have as much surviving material and furthermore, had it not been for the Beddoe Report, we dread to think of the frustration caused to later researchers enquiring as to the detailed nature of the Hominin elements of the Cattedown Bone Collection.

In recent years, we have learned, to our great surprise and pleasure, that not all of Worth & Burnard's Collection was housed in the Museum of the Plymouth Institution as previously thought, but that a large quantity of the Faunal Collection was already in the possession of the Plymouth City Museum by the end of 1899. This has survived the ravages of the Second World War bombings in remarkably good condition. More about these Collections are given in the various Catalogues detailed in other Sections of this Website.
But let us explore the details that we do have.

To conclude this Introduction to Section 2.0. we must warn you that it is necessarily lengthy in its text content and, for all but the most fervent of "bone cave fanatics", may prove to be laborious. We urge you to have patience with what is essentially R N Worth's story of a most incredible speleo-palaeontological discovery as told in sub-Sections 2.2. through to 2.4., the latter sub-Section being the longest. To help those of you who are generally unfamiliar with caves or cave excavation, in understanding the progress of the Excavation work as it moves from one part of the cave to another, we have included R N Worth's simple drawings of the Cave Plan and Sections, although we have improved the text on his original survey to make it more readable. We have then subsequently used this drawing in a modified form thereafter, to indicate the position of the excavation in the cave every time it changes in the accompanying dialogue. We have also included his line-drawing sketch of the partly excavated cave. However, for a better quality image of the original Cave Survey, please refer to Section 16.7. and click on the Link to Parts 2., 3. and 4. of a Word Document.

Additionally, in sub-Sections 2.4. and 2.5. of the account below, we have reproduced verbatim much of Worth's original text (always as italicised text within quotation marks) but we have numerically annotated each paragraph for back-referencing in other sub-Sections and we have re-arranged the order of some paragraphs of his original text, which often tended to ramble in some parts of his discourse, whilst jumping around in its direction in other parts. We have also tried to make it more immediately comprehensible by introducing topic-headings, to indicate the main thrust of his account. We have not attempted to split the flow of his account by unecessarily separating it into different Webpages, with the exception of his qualitative / comparative analysis of Animal Species vs. South Devon Cave Location Table, which out of practical necessity, is accessible via a Link.
Worth was a prolific and inimitable writer and we shall draw upon the text of his two main Papers about Cattedown.

Where necessary, we have indicated the Metric equivalents of the Imperial Units used by Worth.

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There is evidence that as long ago as the 17th Century, limestone quarrying was taking place on the southern shoreline of the Cattewater on the isthmus of Mount Batten. However, the rough open scrubland that formed the "Cat Down" on the northern shore of the Cattewater was not really touched by the fingers of industry until the following Century. Worth states that there is evidence that Cattedown has supplied limestone for lime production and building stone on a very small scale for centuries.
Originally, Cattedown Quarry had been cut to a depth of about 60 feet from the top of the hill and then a relative period of quiescence set in, during which time a talus of waste stone, spoil and earth had accumulated at the base of the quarry faces. At around the time of the early 18th Century, quarrying cut into the limestone sea cliffs below Cattedown at just above the level of the high-tides. By 1790, a period of exceptional activity had set in, such that by the mid 1860's, a large area had been levelled for hundreds of feet inland from the original coastline with the adjacent Cattewater.
As the intensity of this period of quarrying slowed down, so other industries were quick to make use of the obviously desirable land adjacent to such an important waterway. Wharves were built and commerce was established. Shipbuilders and chemical manufacturers were all well established by the year 1886.
During 1886, one such local enterprise, Messrs. Hill & Son, Shipbuilders, who had a faltering business and slipways on the shoreline of the Cattewater sold up their enterprise and associated land to an adjacent company Burnard, Lack and Alger, situated inland just across the road from the slipways in Cattedown Quarry. Burnard, Lack and Alger acquired the land on the shoreline for the purpose of extending their chemical fertilizer works through the construction of new wharves. Some of this newly acquired land, as bought, was unsuitable for development until it had been raised to the level of their existing works in the adjacent quarry. The stone needed to achieve this was derived from working the back of their existing land in the quarry down to a slightly lower level which would then be common across the whole site, including that of their new wharfside frontage. This also resulted in extra area of useable land being available inland, behind their existing chemical works, from where the stone for raising the wharfside area would be excavated.
It should now be reiterated that according to Worth,
"... the original quarry had been worked to a depth of about 60 feet (18.3 metres) below the original surface of the hill and the old quarry floor was partly overlaid next the cliff by a spoil-bank of earth and small stones, which formed a talus."
Worth also states that,
" ... Messrs. Burnard, Lack and Alger have constructed extensive wharves on their waterside frontage in Cattewater; and in connection with this have partially re-worked the old quarry at the back of the ship-yard, at a lower level, the foot of the new face being 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 metres) beneath the level of the old floor, part of which was long used as a garden."
These descriptive statements are important for our considering the position of "Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave" in the modern context of the present site locality in paragraph 2.7. below.
All the above information is drawn from Worth's own contemporary published records and gives the first important insight as to the exact location of "Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave", which was not adequately detailed by Worth himself.

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As a consequence of the planned expansion of the fertilizer works, they arranged for this work to be started and it was during this operation in the Autumn of 1886 that the first evidence of fossil human remains came to light within the natural cave fissures in that area.
Soon after excavation commenced, the workmen broke through the east wall of a fissure containing earth and small stones and before long found a few bones of which they took no heed. Subsequently more were discovered at which time the attention of Mr Robert Burnard was called to them. These bones were Bovine and of little note; but a Mr J.C. Inglis, C.E., under whom the works were being executed, having told Worth of the circumstances and of the possibility that their may be more, led Worth to call on Mr Burnard. He at once promised that all care should be exercized in the further excavation and that whatever turned up would be put aside for his examination. Worth then records that Mr Burnard more than lived up to his promise. Burnard, Lack and Alger Ltd. spared neither trouble nor outlay and Robert Burnard even gave the excavation his personal attention and supervision "... for which we cannot be too grateful, and for which scientific enquiry is under great obligations ...", - which, with an historical hindsight, is a definite understatement!!

In 1887, the main breakthrough in the discovery was made.

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It was not long before a fresh discovery was made and this time Bovine and Caprine bones were accompanied by Human Remains -- consisting of fragments of a skull, a lower jaw and a number of phalanges -- but there was no distinct evidence of their position. The material had now been cleared sufficiently to reveal a considerable fissure running north and south and open to the floor of the old quarry, the cave roof having been broken in by the former quarrymen, filling whatever vacant space had existed with portions of the spoil-heap mentioned in paragraph 2.2. above.

 [Ed. Note :..It now becomes clear that the fissure must obviously have been encountered long before the renewed and very localised quarrying operations of the Autumn of 1886. The top of the fissure had been at least partly "de-roofed" during the final stages of the earlier operation of the main quarry in the mid 19th century - when indeed it was a fully operating quarry.]

Worth then writes that an examination of the cavern showed it to be an irregular tunnel with a chamber at each end and that there was no difficulty in distinguishing between the recent filling from the spoil bank above, which entered the cave during quarrying, and the older or original cave deposits.  CONTEMPORY IMAGES :
It is with great pleasure that we can announce that the 9 original glass photographic plates taken by Mr David Roy for R N Worth at the time of his excavation, have been located by the Torquay Museum, who hold the R. Hansford Worth Bequest containing all of Worth's original photographic archive collection.
Further details about the Torquay Museum can be found in their Website address :-


Please select the Link below to access Worth's locational image of the cave and other archive contemporary views of the area in greater context.

Archive Locational Images of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave and of Cattedown Quarry
(10 x Images + Text)

  The Datum of 17.70 feet above Ordnance is indicated by the  -- --  line on each of the Sections.
The Datum is the elevation of the new lower 1886-87 level of the quarry floor.  Scale is in Feet. The very small dotted lines indicate passage-continuations
at different levels below, with reference to the Longitudinal Sections.
(drawn by R. Hansford Worth, 1887.)
(Detailing the Types of Cave-fill Matrix, the Physical Disposition of the Fossil Bones within the Cave and the Cave-fill Matrix, together with the Fossil Bone Assemblage Associations in the UPPER PART of the Chamber.)    He continues, " ... The exploration of the northern end -- the eastern wall having been removed for some 30 feet (1).-- was undertaken first. The section here showed the upper part of the fissure to be filled with portions of the spoil bank, which was a mixture of earth and small stones, the former predominating. Beneath this was the upper section of the bone-bearing deposit, which consisted almost wholly of large stones, with a little earth and clay; the stones being such as quarrymen would have utilized had they come in their way and the division between the two deposits being perfectly distinct."
"As excavation proceeded the bone-bearing deposit became more productive. Moreover, it increased in thickness by rising towards the end of the fissure and became infiltrated by stalagmite until it assumed the character of an open stalagmitic breccia of large eroded stones, between which there were frequent cavities containing quantities of bones. There was no reasonable doubt that the bulk of these stones had fallen from the roof."  "When the greater portion of this filling had been removed down to the modern quarry level, it was found that the fissure narrowed upwards at its termination into a mere flue; that the stalagmitic breccia remaining in the end was too compact to be dealt with by ordinary methods; and that upon it were the remains of a stalagmitic floor, partially broken apparently by the fall of heavy blocks. The breccia had increased in thickness by its gradual northward rise from the first appearance of a stalagmitic character, from two to four feet. ........" Worth continues ..... "Under the direction of Mr. Robert Burnard, a hole was bored in the rock at the back of this mass to blast it out, and was charged and fired in my presence on the 29th April, 1887. A great many bones were then exposed to view, coated with or imbedded in stalagmite, but mostly fragmentary. The stalagmitic floor was found to have varied in thickness from an inch to a foot and while the walls of the fissure were for the most part coated with stalactite (which at one point had cemented a mass of stones firmly to the side), the rock immediately beneath the inner edge of the floor was perfectly clear, The breccia therefore was, at least in part, of older date than the stalactite, as well as the stalagmite with which it was associated; while the copious flow of stalactitic matter on all accessible portions of the walls was another proof that after the bones had been deposited, the cavern had remained a cavity. The integrity of the breccia was clear.
Immediately after the blast, I myself took out from what had been the heart of the stalagmitic mass, portions of a Human skull, and a Human molar tooth with a fragment of jaw attached, associated with the remains of the Hyaena, Wolf, Red Deer and Roe Deer. Other fragments of the skull were subsequently found imbedded in the stalagmite."  "When this breccia had been removed to the quarry level -- which left, as was afterwards found, a small quantity beneath at the inner end of the fissure -- a trench was dug 2 feet deep at the entrance of the northern chamber and the material removed to this depth right away to the back. The outer part of this section was wholly distinct in character to the stalagmitic breccia, consisting of small, angular stones and chocolate-coloured clay -- a cave earth -- so tightly compacted as to resemble concrete. Hence it obtained the casual name of the "concrete floor". In the end this in part gave place to the more open breccia, infiltrated with stalagmite. A small portion on the same level next the eastern side consisted, however, of a close granular stalagmite, with angular fragments of stone; and this gradually thickened and broadened northward, and eventually occupied the extreme northern end of the fissure almost to the lowest point excavated."    "The concrete-floor yielded chiefly small fragments of bones and teeth. Northward there were more bones and fewer teeth and the open stalagmitic-breccia in the end, in character and productiveness was precisely similar to the breccia above. The close granular stalagmitic-breccia was less productive at the level and in depth became barren.""In the stalagmitic-breccia, remains of Deer were peculiarly abundant; and Human bones comprising the remains of complete skeletons, were chiefly associated with those of Red Deer, Roe Deer, Hyaena, Wolf and Fox."  "In the concrete-floor remains of Hog were so prominent as to be characteristic. Here, Human teeth were chiefly mingled with those of Hyaena, Wolf, Boar and Badger."  "At the very end of the fissure, seven feet below the stalagmitic floor and at the deepest point in the breccia at which bones were then found, there lay portions of a Human upper and lower jaw." "The concrete-floor was carefully examined in situ by the man who removed it, and every recognised fragment of bone put aside for my examination. The stuff was afterwards examined on a table under the direction of Mr. Robert Burnard. That gentleman also washed and picked over, with the aid of a magnifying-glass, some of its looser and finer components, finding a quantity of bones and teeth of the Shrew, Water Vole and Mole. The same results attended some of my own examinations of the clayey matter washed off from the bones; and in the breccia there were, in addition to the Water Vole and Mole, bones and teeth of the Bank- and Field Vole and Bat."

(1)...Worth later claimed in his same Paper that the length of the NORTH CHAMBER was only 20 Feet., so we assume that he must be including part of the East Wall of the CONNECTING FISSURE in this distance of 30 feet. However, we also know that we still have a minimum length of 25 feet of the North Chamber's East Wall surviving today.

(Detailing the Types of Cave-fill Matrix, the Physical Disposition of the Fossil Bones within the Cave and the Cave-fill Matrix, together with the Fossil Bone Assemblage Associations.)

. "Mr. Burnard then determined to trace the fissure towards Cattewater. When he commenced excavation, the section southward appeared to indicate that the entrance of the cavern lay in that direction, not far from the sea level. The filling was much looser, and consisted largely of the material of the spoil bank. A few bones and teeth of Ox and Sheep or Goat were found near the level of the quarry floor, but nothing of consequence; and the chief fact ascertained was that the southern chamber terminated in a mere joint crevice. As the bottom, however, had not been reached, the whole of the material in the chamber was removed to a depth of 9 feet, where it closed in to a joint; but with little further result. This filling was more stoney and clayey, but not compact -- quite distinct from the spoil, and a genuine cave earth; and though the walls of the fissure were coated with stalactite, no stalagmite was seen. With the exception of a fragment of a Human humerus and some teeth, only bones of Ox and Hog were found in the lower excavation, and these in small quantity."
(Detailing the Types of Cave-fill Matrix, the Physical Disposition of the Fossil Bones within the Cave and the Cave-fill Matrix, and Fossil Bone Assemblage Associations).

. "The filling in the intermediate part of the fissure, connecting the two chambers, was next dug out to a depth of 2 feet, where it narrowed to a mere crack, and with somewhat better fortune -- 
remains of Ox, Deer, Wolf, Hyaena and Man being found, with a coprolite. Fragments of what had the appearance of being coprolitic matter had been noticed in the breccia, but nothing clearly identifiable."
(Detailing the Types of Cave-fill Matrix, the Physical Disposition of the Fossil Bones within the Cave and the Cave-fill Matrix, together with the Fossil Bone Assemblage Associations in the LOWER PART of the North Chamber.)



as viewed from the south looking northwards. The undercut East Wall is clearly seen on the right with the opposing overcut West Wall opposite it.
The actual contemporary photograph from which this sketch was derived, is shown in the opposite column.
(Drawn by R. Hansford Worth, 1887.)"A return was then made to the entrance of the northern chamber, and sinking resumed, this time with important issues, in material generally resembling that of the concrete-floor, which was indeed only its upper and more consolidated portion."  "The fissure was quickly found to open into what at first appeared a lower chamber. It did not narrow so rapidly or so much as elsewhere, and at a depth of 4 feet began to expand, eventually widening on the east, where the rock overhung, to a width of 8 feet. Instead of a lower chamber, it was in reality a continuation of the upper on the dip of the strata. This was then excavated to a depth of 15 feet below the quarry floor, without reaching the bottom. Southward, it was found to be closed, save for the jointing(1); but that an open crevice continued to the sea was evident from the fact that at spring tides the water found its way into the excavation(2). The total depth of material excavated from the top of the fissure to the bottom of this chamber was 27 feet, and of this 20 were more or less ossiferous."  "A noteworthy fact about this chamber was, that while the upper part of its southern portion was filled with closely-compacted cave earth, there was a considerable space unoccupied next its eastern or undercut side. The reason of this was perfectly plain. The material gradually falling from above had formed a talus, the upper part of the slope of which had closed the aperture before the space below was filled. The free face of this talus was covered with a thin coat of stalagmite, and at nearly the lowest depth reached in the southern end of this chamber there were slight remains of a partial stalagmitic floor."  "The material of the lower filling varied somewhat, but still presented the character of a regular series. At the bottom of the chamber, there were small stones and chocolate-coloured clay. Immediately above, the stones were larger and with less earthy matter; and there were portions where the stones were larger still and practically free from earth. The longer axes of the stones followed the slope of the talus."   "Northward this deposit passed into the mass of granular stalagmitic-breccia, which filled the end of the fissure to an ascertained depth of 15 feet, underlying the bone breccia which had proved so rich, but, save in its upper portions, being itself all but barren. Nor was the quantity of bones found in the lower part of the northern chamber large. Moreover, they were, as a rule, thinly scattered, except in one spot, which yielded the remains of Hares, Rabbits, smaller rodents and birds. This fact suggested that when the main opening to the lower part of the chamber had been closed, there still remained an aperture through which relics of small animals might have found their way, after access was barred to the larger. The most important fact elicited by the examination of this part of the cave was the association of bones and teeth of Man, not only with Hyaena, Wolf, Fox, Deer, Ox and Hog, but with the Lion and the Rhinoceros. The ancient character of the cavern fauna was emphasized."

IMAGE WCBC2.4.5.4-2...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1099. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
(Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)
as viewed from the south looking northwards. The undercut East Wall is clearly seen on the right with
the opposing overcut West Wall opposite it.

2.4.6.  WORTH'S DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY OF THE CAVE DIMENSIONS AND HYPOTHESIS OF THE CAVERN'S FORMER DISPOSITION :   "When completely explored, it was seen that the cavern consisted of a gallery, running north and south on the natural jointing of the rock, with a chamber at each end, the total length being 54 ft.  THE NORTH CHAMBER :
"At the point first opened, on the east, it had a breadth of 4 - 5 feet (3), and its walls were approximately perpendicular. At its northern end it expanded, near the level of the quarry floor, into a chamber, overhanging on the east; while its western wall still remained practically perpendicular. 
This chamber again narrowed to its termination, which was formed by a narrow face of rock sloping southward, and it contracted so rapidly above as to give the impression that originally the gallery did not rise much above the dozen feet of rock which remained unworked on its western side, at the modern quarry level.
But the total height, taking the results of the excavation into account, must have been much more than double this. The length of this chamber was 20 feet, and its greatest width 8 feet."   THE SOUTH CHAMBER AND CONNECTING FISSURE :
"The southern chamber was 20 feet in length, more regular in shape, and did not exceed 5 feet in width. Its depth below the quarry floor was not more than 9 feet. From the fact that the connecting fissure, or gallery proper, narrowed rapidly downwards, the lower parts of the two chambers were separated from each other by nearly 20 feet of rock."   WORTH'S HYPOTHESIS OF THE FORMER DISPOSITION OF THE BONE CAVE WITHIN
"The natural entrance to this gallery and its chambers was evidently from above, and apparently near the northern end. There is no reason to doubt that the cave formed the descending branch of a large cavern or series of caverns, of which several traces remained in the hill above. There was direct evidence that the fissure had not extended to the surface. The character of the stalactites and stalagmites made it clear that it had originally a roof; and it was equally evident, from the position occupied by the spoil heap, that it must have been to a large extent empty when first broken into. 
The very considerable stalagmitic infiltration at the northern end of the cavern points also to the existence of a considerable superincumbent mass of rock.
The details of the cavern are exactly set forth in the accompanying plan and sections, drawn to scale from careful measurements by my son Mr R H Worth. The datum is 17.70 [feet] above Ordnance."
[ie. the new lower level of the quarry floor, equivalent to 5.395m. AOD.]

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"A review of the whole facts enables us to distinguish between at least two distinct series of cave-deposits :

  • the open stalagmitic-breccia above;
  • the concrete floor with its ordinary cave earth continuation below."
    "The conditions of the [fossil] remains in each [type of cave deposit] were widely different. Those of the concrete floor and underlying cave earth were generally casual in occurrence; had all the appearance of gradual accumulation; and, save in the case of smaller mammals and birds, yielded nothing approaching to a complete skeleton, though there was evidence that portions of bodies at least, had been deposited intact. In the stalagmitic-breccia, on the contrary, the remains were chiefly of what had been complete skeletons. Again, while Deer predominated in the breccia and Hog was specially plentiful in the concrete floor, the breccia abounded in remains of young animals and those of the cave earth were chiefly of mature."

    "But the most marked differentiation was the fact that the remains of the breccia were those of animals which must have found their way thither for the most part intact. Many of the bones were too fragmentary to allow of the recovery of complete skeletons; but there was very good proof in the majority of cases that such skeletons had been present. Bones of individuals were found in such intimate association as wholly to forbid the supposition that they had been moved since the flesh and integuments had decayed. From one cavity, around which the stones had been gradually cemented, I took out bones and fragments representing practically the entire frame of a Deer. A mass of small bones, huddled together in a nodule of clay, proved to be the phalanges of a wolf and with them were the teeth of the same animal. In several instances, both Human and infra-Human upper and lower jaws were found effectively intact. There was the clearest testimony that the members of this part of the ancient charnel had been contemporaneous in life as well as associated in death and had met one common fate."   WORTH'S HYPOTHESIS FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE OSSIFEROUS CAVE-DEPOSITS

    "When we speculate upon the manner in which the remains of the breccia found their way into the cavern, one hypothesis may at once be discarded. The cavity was not an open fissure, into which the animals might have fallen from the surface. Again, the bulk of the remains were those of animals which have nothing naturally to do with caves and whose bodies must have been brought there by some agency external to themselves.
    There are three ways in which their presence may be accounted for :-

    .....-..They may have been carried or dragged into the cavern by Man;
    .....-..or by some of the associated carnivora;
    .....-..or they may have been washed thither by water.

    ....."Now Man would never have taken the trouble to drag beasts of chase into a subterranean larder and throw them in a heap with carcases of beasts of prey and the bodies of his own kith and kin. Nor would he have conducted interments under such conditions.
    ....."The Hyaenas were the only associated carnivora capable of dragging the bodies in;  but had they done so, they must have voluntarily abandoned their intended feast or have been prevented from reaping the reward of their industry. They never willingly left fairly complete skeletons behind them. Moreover, if we admit that they dragged in the Oxen and Deer, we must hold that they treated the Human bodies in the same manner.
    ....."By elimination we are brought to my third suggestion, that water was the agent of deposit. No fact was ascertained that militated against this view. The confused manner in which the bodies had been thrown together and piled up at the end of the fissure at once suggested a sudden rush of water."

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    "The concrete floor and cave earth, on the contrary, were probably due to the action, over a lengthened period, of waters occasionally finding their way from the upper reaches of the cavern to the lower. The manner in which the remains were distributed and their generally fragmentary character, all pointed to gradual and casual occurrence. At the same time the evident association of some of the bones here also rendered it clear that, in their case at any rate, there had been no re-deposition."

    "Further, the active causes of the formation of both deposits were immediately local. No continuous stream had flowed into or through the cavern from a distance. The most careful search revealed no single fragment of stone (with one example, noted hereafter) foreign to the immediate neighbourhood. 
    A few fragments of slate apart, all were limestone.
    All that was required to produce the concrete floor and cave earth was the occasional falling and washing by the internal drainage of the cavern in rainy weather, of earth and stones and fragmentary animal remains from the higher part of the cavern.
    The remains of the stalagmitic-breccia are as readily accounted for by a sudden rush of waters, bearing with it the bodies of drowned animals, pouring into the cave and carrying before it whatever occupants the place may have had -- certainly the Hyaena among the number.
    Nor does it require any great stretch of imagination to believe the bulk of its Human remains to be those of occupants also, since they indicate just such differences of age and sex as would be likely 
    to exist in an ancient troglodytal family.
    The last point, however, is purely a speculation, which neither adds to nor takes from the value of the discovery."

    "There is certainly evidence that the cavern was a haunt of carnivora at the time of the deposition of the breccia. Several days before remains of the Hyaena were found, the condition of some of the fragmentary bones, which appeared to bear the marks of gnawing, led me to suspect the proximity of that animal. And this, together with the presence of the lower jaw of a very young Hyaena cub, which had not completed the cutting of its first set of teeth and which cannot have gone far from the place of its birth, together with the existence of a small quantity of coprolite, may be held, I think, to show that a portion of the cavern at any rate was a Hyaena Den."

    "I assume the same date and cause of deposit for all the remains in the stalagmitic-breccia. There was absolutely no difference in occurrence or condition between the Human and the other bones.
    There was no trace of such intentional deposit of the former as must have accompanied the rudest act of burial.
    There was no matter of Human handiwork, with the doubtful exception of three splinters of Deer horn.
    There had been a common end for one and all. At the same time, there was unmistakable testimony that the presence of Man, like that of the Hyaena, was not wholly accidental. In the centre of the mass of the stalagmite of the breccia loosened by the blast, and afterwards broken, were a few fragments of charcoal. They were wholly enclosed in the stalagmite and had all the appearance of the embers of a burnt-out fire. Minute fragments of charcoal were also found in the concrete floor and still more in the cave earth, at a depth of 8 feet below. Hence it seems a reasonable conclusion that Man as well as the Hyaena must have been at least an occasional dweller in the cave."

    "Of Human handiwork, there is but one certain illustration; though it is quite possible, as already hinted, that some splinters of horn found in the breccia may be artificial. On them however, I lay no stress. The certain example is a nodule of flint, already referred to as being the only piece of foreign stone found in the course of the excavations. This nodule is white and porcellaneous in general aspect -- a natural flint pebble, about a third of the mass of which has been broken off longitudinally and a portion of one end slantwise. Flakes have been struck from it and it also suggests a probable use as a hammer-stone, at all events in a casual way. There is no ground for doubt that the flaking is artificial and I am glad to have the high authority of Mr. A. W. Franks F.R.S., F.S.A. of the British Museum and Christy Collection, in support of that view.

    The extreme length of the nodule is 45/8 inches.  [4.625 ins. / 11.77 cm.]
    Its extreme breadth is 23/4 inches. [2.75 ins. / 6.999 cm.]
    Its depth is 21/4 inches.  [2.25 ins. / 5.726 cm.]
    Originally, it must have approached 6 inches [15.27 cm.] in length and 4 inches [10.18 cm.] in depth and have been of a flattened ovoid or discoid shape. It is partly encrusted with stalagmite. Its present appearance is shown in the annexed sketch by the finder, my son, which gives both the broken faces and indicates the flaking on the larger."

    (From a photograph by Mr. D. Roy, 1887.)

    [In Paragraph below, Worth's original specimens / specimen numbers are used by Dr Beddoe in his evaluations of the Hominin Collection in 1903. (See Section 7. of these Webpages). In presenting the following information, we have again re-arranged Worth's original script to provide better continuity and to present more clearly the distinctive osteo-morphological features associated with some of the Jaws and Dentition. It is now planned to present images alongside the script of the specimens as described, where they still survive in the Collections of the Plymouth City Museum. Please also note that Worth has physically marked some of the Hominin specimens with his own identification, such as CA.; CB. etc
    In respect of the position of individual components within the stratigraphic sequence, Worth is clearly either unable to provide such specific information or is not aware of the importance of providing such details. He does provide a few approximate details of the positions of some of the bones relative to "ground level" and relative to each other. His cave survey also provides a datum from which, in due course, it will be possible to formulate a "best guess" reconstruction of the stratigraphic sequence of this important fossil assemblage.]

    2.5.1.    GENERAL :
    " .... The fauna of the cave comprises at least 33 species, including Man, Rhinoceros, Lion, Hyaena, Wolf, Fox, Dog, Badger, Weasel, Polecat, Bison, Urus, Long-fronted Ox, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Hog, Goat, Hedgehog, Common Bat, Horseshoe Bat, Mole, Shrew, Water Vole, Field Vole, Bank Vole, Rat, Hare, Rabbit, with various birds. ..... "
    [Ed. Note :..We think that the Hyaena was the Cave Hyaena. The Lion has been frequently referred to as a Cave Lion. We may be able to corroborate this in the future.]

    2.5.2.    THE HUMAN REMAINS :"The Human remains found are those of a number of individuals -- at least fifteen -- of both sexes and ranging from childhood to old age. No single skeleton was complete but every bone in the Human frame, so far as I know, was represented.
    "The most perfect portions were skulls and jaws and bones of the extremities -- the smaller especially. In this, as in other respects, the aspect of the Human remains precisely resembled that of the lower animals with which they were associated.""I append a list of the most interesting features of the human relics :

    "1...SKULL, with left side of Face intact; the Frontal Bones over both Orbits; the right Maxillary detached. The Jaw, Forehead and left Orbit are complete, with the right Brow and the lower part of the Nasal Orifice."
    -.Dentition :
    "The left Maxillary contains 5 teeth; the 3 Molars and 2 Bicuspids (wholly or partially encrusted with stalagmite), with the sockets of the Canine and of 2 Incisors. The 1st Bicuspid displays a remarkable abnormal feature; the fang has pierced the Jaw and grown outside it for a third of its total length of 1 inch. 
    The right Maxillary contains the 3 Molars, 1st Bicuspid and 4 Sockets. The Molars are strongly tubercular and shows no appreciable signs of wear and the Skull is evidently that of a person in early maturity. The full breadth at the back of the Jaw is 2.5 inches [63.5 mm]."
    -.Osteometric Data :
    "Extreme height from teeth to Crown = 6.25 inches [158.8 mm].
    Extreme breadth on the Inter-zygomatic line (arrived at by doubling the perfect half) = 5 inches.[128 mm].
    Between the outer rims of the Orbits = 4.25 inches [107.96 mm].
    Breadth of Orbit = 1.63 inches [41.4 mm].
    Height of Orbit = 1.25 inches = [31.76 mm].
    The height from the upper rim of the Orbit to the Crown as preserved = 3 inches [76.2 mm].
    Breadth of Nose at base = 0.81 inch [20.57 mm].
    Height of Nose from base to suture = 1.96 inches [49.78 mm].
    The Brow is strongly marked; the Forehead receding.
    Length of the Face = 2.64 inches [67.1 mm].
    Length of upper lip to edge of Alveolus = 1.06 inches [26.93 mm].
    Distance from the lower rim of the Orbit to the edge of the Alveolus = 1.64 inches [41.66 mm]."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    "This came from the outer part of the stalagmitic-breccia and the teeth are partly encrusted with stalagmite."

    "2...SKULL, with upper Jaw intact; the left Orbit, Nasal Orifice and a portion of the right Orbit. Of the Frontal Bone, the Brow only remains. The Skull is that of a person of mature years, probably a woman."
    -.Dentition :
    "The Jaw is 2.25 inches [57.15 mm] in breadth at the back and contains 10 teeth, much worn, not flattened but sloping outwards from within. Those wanting are the Canines and Incisors."
    -.Osteometric Data :
    "The breadth over Nasal Suture does not seem to have exceeded 4.5 inches [114.3 mm].
    Breadth of Orbit = 1.44 inches [36.58 mm].
    Height of Orbit = 1.38 inches [48.37 mm].
    The Orbit lies rather low. The distance between its lower rim and the edge of the Alveolus = 1.56 inches [39.63 mm.] and having the appearance of being still less.
    Breadth of Nose = 0.96 inches [24.39 mm].
    Height of Nose = 1.7 inches [43.18 mm].
    Length of Face = 2.5 inches [63.5 mm].
    Length of upper lip to edge of Alveolus = 1.125 inches [28.58 mm]."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    The first found in loose outer breccia.

    "3...SKULL, (marked CA) of which only pieces could be preserved, including :-
    Several small portions of Cranium;"
    -.Dentition :
    "fragment of right Ramus of lower Jaw, with 1st and 2nd Molars (a little worn), two Sockets and remains of two more. External depth of Jaw with teeth = 1.5 inches [38.1 mm] and without the teeth = 1.125 inches [28.58 mm]. Second fragment of lower Jaw with Canine. Small fragment of Maxillary also with one tooth."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    "Found at base of stalagmitic-breccia, 4 feet [1.22 m] from inner end of Northern Chamber."

    "4...CALVARIA, (marked CB) embedded in stalagmite. Probably a part of the same Skull to which belonged one fragment of a lower Jaw with two Molars, fairly worn, and two fragments of upper Jaw with one tooth."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    "found in the stalagmitic-breccia after the blast and taken out by myself immediately after the hole was fired."

    "5...PORTIONS OF UPPER and LOWER JAWS, (marked CC) .... 
    The lower Jaw is very massive Jaw and the curvature approaches closely to that given for the Australian type in Professor Owen's "Odontography". The chin was evidently very prominent. 
    The teeth are big and worn."
    -.Dentition :
    " ... the upper Jaw is represented by a portion of the right Maxillary containing two Molars, two Bicuspids, the Socket of a Canine and that of one Incisor.
    The lower Jaw by a portion of the right Ramus, containing the 1st and 2nd Molars and the Socket of the 1st Bicuspid. The 2nd Bicuspid was lost during life and the bone has closed in; the Socket of the 1st rises to a level with the surface of the Molars. We have here a very peculiar and interesting feature and it is not quite clear how it originated."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    " ...  found in the stalagmitic-breccia on the level of the "concrete floor", at extreme back of Northern Chamber, 7 feet [2.13 m.] below the stalagmitic floor covering the breccia."

    "6...PORTION OF RIGHT MAXILLARY WITH FIVE TEETH. Two fragments of right Ramus of Mandible with four teeth. These appear to belong to the same individual; the teeth, little worn, are precisely of the same character and in the same condition."

    "7...UPPER JAW IN TWO PORTIONS, with very tubercular teeth, little worn. 
    Right Maxillary contains two Molars and five sockets; 
    left Maxillary (which comprises a portion of the Nasal Orifice), one Molar and six Sockets."

    Left Maxillary in two pieces with four teeth and three Sockets;
    right Maxillary with four teeth and two Sockets. Teeth tubercular, unworn."

    "9...RIGHT MAXILLARY with four teeth and three Sockets."

    "10...LEFT MAXILLARY (not correspondent to the preceding) with one tooth very much worn and remains of six Sockets."

    "11...PORTION OF RIGHT MAXILLARY embedded in stalagmite from breccia."

    "12...LOWER JAW perfect with the exception of right Condyle and portion of Ramus adjacent."
    -.Dentition :
    "Contains all the Sockets but only two teeth, much worn on an outward slant. The broken fangs of right Canine and Bicuspid are left in their Sockets."
    -.Osteometric Data :
    "Massive angular Chin; slanting Ramus 1.75 inches [44.45 mm.] broad;
    depth at Symphysis = 1.25 inches [31.75 mm.]."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    "This was the first Jaw found."

    "13...LOWER JAW perfect with exception of the Condyles. Chin somewhat rounded. Corresponds very closely in character with No. 2."
    -.Dentition :
    "Contains seven teeth, with both Canines; much worn."
    -.Osteometric Data :
    "Interangular breadth = 3.5 inches [88.9 mm.];
    depth at Symphysis = 1.125 inches [28.58 mm.]."

    "14...PORTIONS OF MANDIBLE from 1st right Bicuspid to 2nd left Molar. Contains four teeth with sockets of Incisors and Canines. Jaw thick but not deep."

    "15...LEFT RAMUS OF MANDIBLE with Condyles and six teeth worn flat and two Sockets; lower front margin absent."
    -.Osteometric Data :
    "Extreme depth from top of Condyle = 2.75 inches [69.85 mm.];
    extreme breadth of Ramus = 1.5 inches [38.1 mm.].
    Also portion of right Ramus, with one tooth and five Sockets;
    Depth at Sympysis = 1.18 inches [29.97 mm.]."


    "17...UPWARDS OF SEVENTY LOOSE TEETH, the majority of which cannot be connected with the fragments of Jaws enumerated."
    -.Position in the Stratigraphic Sequence :
    "In the "concrete floor" 28 were found, representing at least three individuals - one set large and little worn, including a Canine 1.06 inches [26.925 mm.] in length; another much worn and a third small and much worn.
    Teeth were found in every part of the Cave, in something approaching the same proportions to the remains of other animals. They are chiefly of a massive character and, however much worn, show hardly a trace of decay.
    The Jaws give ample room in every instance for the full number of teeth and in the majority of cases the Canines are prominent."

    "The most perfect long bones are the Humeri. The biggest is 11.75 inches [29.90 cm.] in length; the smallest 11.2 inches.[28.50 cm.].and this bone is very slender between the Condyles. There is no perfect Femur or Tibia; but the biggest Femur was probably between 15 and 16 inches [38.18 - 40.72 
    cm.] and the longest Tibia 14 inches [35.63 cm.]."

    Image WCBC2.5.2-1...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1107. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)

    mage WCBC2.5.2-2...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1106. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)

    Image WCBC2.5.2-3...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1103. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)

    Image WCBC2.5.2-4...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1102. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)
    SOME OF THE CATTEDOWN CAVE HOMININ MANDIBLES. with the Perthi Chwareu Hominins in North Wales :
    "The most interesting point concerning the tibiae is their markedly platycnemic or flattened character, in the extent of which they closely resemble platycnemic tibiae from Perthi Chwareu in North Wales. But likeness does not stop here. The longest of the Perthi Chwareu adult tibiae is bigger than the longest of the Cattedown; and the least of the Cattedown is smaller than the shortest of the Welsh. Mr Busk assigned the Perthi Chwareu bones to a Race of low stature, ranging from 4 feet 10 inches to 5 feet 6 inches [147.61 cm. - 167.97 cm.]." of the Cattedown Hominins :
    "Lowness of stature is also a characteristic of the Cattedown folk. The data are imperfect, but assuming the usual proportions from the dimensions of Humeri and Femurs, four calculations work out to 4 ft 91/4 ins. [145.70 cm.];  4 ft 91/2 ins. [146.38 cm.];  4 ft 93/4 ins. [146.97 cm.];  5 ft 01/4 in. [153.34 cm.] respectively. And this is, at any rate, sufficient to indicate that we are dealing with a short Race. Some of the bones appear to show considerable relative strength; others are decidely feeble, but probably this is due to the exaggerated sexual differences of frame of early times." of the Cattedown Hominin Bones :
    "Neither of the skulls could be removed intact. The most perfect were more or less embedded in stalagmite, and others were partially crushed when found. Two, however, are facially almost perfect, and one of these retains the frontal bone. Some of the detached pieces of skull are well charactered, especially the occipital bones. Parietal bones are also intact. Several of the skulls were exceptionally thick; others again are very thin." of the Cattedown Hominin Skulls :
    "So far as I am able to judge of the shape and proportions of the crania, they are neither dolichocephalic nor brachycephalic, but of a middle type -- orthocephalic. They are also essentially orthognathous and some of the lower jaws have prominent chins. The teeth are large and singularly free from traces of decay, although in many cases much worn and the jaws in every instance give ample room for the full number."

    [A full early-modern catalogue of the Hominin fossils as presented in Worth's continuing text hereafter, is given in Section 3.0. elsewhere in these Webpages. A catalogue current as of this year is in preparation.]

    Image WCBC2.5.2-5...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1104. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)

    Image WCBC2.5.2-6...R.N. Worth's Glass Photographic Plate No. 1105. (Reproduced by kind permission of the Torquay Museum.)
    (Photo :  Mr David Roy for R.N. Worth, 1887.)

    At first sight, you could be forgiven for thinking that Worth provides sufficient descriptive information for us to be able to match the surviving fossil bones with those he has described. However, this is not an easy task, due mainly to the very primitive efforts of "reconstruction" of parts of the Fossil Collection by late 20th century Museum Keepers around the time of the 1970's and 1980's. The expensive problem of expert "deconstruction" now has to be borne by the extremely professional team at the City Museum.
    Any future attempts at expert reconstruction can only follow equally expensive conservation work.
    As an example of the problem, we offer the Human fossil Skull illustrated in Image WCBC2.5.3-1. below. 

    This Human fossil skull featured in an exhibition on the ground floor of the City's Merchant's House Museum from about 1978 to 1982, together with a Human Lower Jaw, [combined Loans in 11(38)]; a Flint Core, [Loans in 11(37)]; Ox Bones [1355]; Rhino Teeth [1348]; Red Deer Teeth [1334]; Hyaena Bones and Bison Teeth [1322]. Whilst not being aware of the exhibition at the time, we were shown a monochrome photograph in May 2004, which had been recorded by a newspaper reporter from the Western Morning News in 1982., to illustrate the exhibition.


    as last displayed to public view in 1981-82 in the Plymouth City Museum's  Merchant's House Museum.

    detailed image of the skull as shown in the adjacent Image.

    On first seeing this skull in the photograph, we were pleased to note the detail provided of the brow (Superciliary Arch) and Frontal Bone areas. However, self-evidently, the skull has been very badly "reconstructed". 
    It should be noted that in the particular case of skull reconstruction, bad orientation and assembly of the reconstructed fragments can lead to an end-product that looks more primitive in appearance than is actually the case. Therefore, the visual evidence per se in the above photograph is unreliable.

    According to the label in Image WCBC2.5.3-1. below, the fossils depicted alongside it, as recorded in the Plymouth City Museum Collection in May 2004., apparently represent the same skull and jawbones as exhibited in the Merchant's House Museum 22 years previously.

    Image WCBC2.5.3-2. (Scales are in centimetres)
    The label reads :- "1 skull, 1 lower mandible. Removed for Display in Merchant's House 18-3-78."

    Worth does specifically label a few of the Human fossil Skulls as CA.; CB. and CC. How they were marked thus, we are not sure. The identification marks may still survive or they may have been eradicated by exposure to the fires of the burning Athenaeum Museum.
    2.5.4.    THE FAUNAL REMAINS :

    A full catalogue of the Faunal fossils as presented in Worth's continuing text hereafter, is given in Section 3.0. elsewhere in these Webpages.

    The following Link opposite provides access to a Table, which qualitatively compares the fossil finds at Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave with those from other Bone Cave locations elsewhere in Plymouth and South Devon. This was published by Worth in his Paper read at the Meeting of the Plymouth Institution on 20 October 1887 but was not included in his earlier Paper presented to the Devonshire Association at their Plympton Meeting in July 1887.

    [Return to Top of Page.]

    Click on the Link below to access :
    R.N. Worth's 1887 Table of Qualitative Comparisons 
    of Fossil Bone Finds from South Devon Bone Caves
    (Active & complete, HTML., 44kB.)

    [Return to Top of Page.]


    " ..... it may be desirable to meet some possible objections to my inferences of the antiquity of the remains, at least of the Human. I have hitherto rather assumed this antiquity, than advanced categorical proof, though no step has been taken in the presentation of the case without evidence being given.
    I may be asked;

    "What evidence have you, after all, that the Human remains are of equal age with those of the Rhinoceros, the Lion and the Hyaena -- the three locally pre-historic members of the cavern fauna? May not the two sets of remains -- the Human and the earlier infra-Human -- have been associated subsequently to the original deposition of the latter? May there not be some fault in the method of investigation? Have not the investigators been deceived?"

    "These queries, I think, cover the whole ground of possible objection.
    It has been said that the only way of obtaining absolutely satisfactory evidence from the exploration of a cavern deposit, is to keep it under lock and key and I frankly admit that in the present case, nothing of the kind was done. Short of building a house over the fissure, the thing was impossible. But the cave was on enclosed premises, not accessible readily to the general public. Moreover, it was sealed by nature far more effectually than it could have been by any Human lock."

    "Let us for a moment recapitulate the facts. We have a deposit of stalagmitic-breccia, containing not merely detached bones but the remains of complete skeletons of various animals -- Deer, Wolf, Hyaena and Man, the principal. The association of these bones is such as to make it perfectly clear that they were deposited where found, while still covered with the integuments; that is, soon after death. They were therefore contemporaneous; and thus we have the Cattedown Man brought back, at any rate to the era of the English Hyaena. For proof that the facts were so, there are the statements of Mr. Robert Burnard and myself, that we removed many of the remains ourselves; nay, that when the solider portion of the breccia was blasted out, we were the first to examine it, and before anyone else had touched it, took out not only portions of the Human skeleton, but found traces of Human occupation in the shape of fragments of charcoal embedded in the heart of masses of stalagmite then broken."

    "But we do not stop here. In the cave earth beneath this stalagmitic-breccia and therefore anterior to it -- sealed up and inaccessible until the breccia was removed, and certainly not more recent than the era of the English Hyaena -- we have the remains, not merely of the Hyaena, but of the Rhinoceros and the Cave Lion, and again of Man. We have thus double proof -- the stalagmitic-breccia gives us evidence of the association of Man with the Hyaena; the cave earth of his association with the Hyaena, Rhinoceros and Lion. Is it possible then seriously to question either the integrity of the deposits when they were first opened by Mr. Burnard and myself; or the conclusion that the Human remains found are those of men and women and children who were contemporary in this country with the Mammoth and Rhinoceros, the Lion and the Hyaena?"

    "But for the stalagmitic seal of the breccia, which dates itself Hyaenine, it might have been argued that the cave earth was an ancient re-deposit and not necessarily contemporary. Such an objection might have been raised by a determined opponent of a hasty turn of mind. But I should have been content even in that case to argue that the presence in the cave earth.in proximity, of both humeri of what no reasonable man could question to be the same Lion, and of an associated humerus and ulna of the same Human subject, indicated that here also, deposition took place, at least in these cases, before final integumental decay.

    Something also may be held to turn on the physical condition of the bones -- a point in its degree of much interest, though its importance is apt to be exaggerated. Many had been broken into minute and unidentifiable fragments. Of the remainder the bulk were light and adherent to the tongue; but while some were so friable as to crumble at the touch if dry, or to fall into a kind of paste if wet -- and to require great care in drying -- others again were fairly solid and some really dense and hard. These differences existed between bones lying close together, parts of the same finds, and in some instances of the same animal; and it will easily be understood that bones exposed to the air continuously would be in a very different condition from others enclosed in stalagmite, or in a dense mass of clay permeated with animal matter."

    [Return to Top of Page.]

    The determination of an age for the Cattedown Bone Cave fossils is currently being sought. There is disagreement on this issue mainly because the scientific establishment have failed to reconcile the obvious basic facts relating to the discovery. So, for the sake of completeness, and to allow Worth this modern opportunity to present his case. we reproduce all of his somewhat rambling thoughts on the subject, rather than just give you his principal statements :-

    Worth continues .....  "Now as to the age of the deposits. I do not of course commit myself to any absolute chronological statement. There are no positive data for this beyond the fact that the existence of the Rhinoceros and Lion and Hyaena in this country is prehistoric. Nor do I intend to found any argument upon such a very variable factor as the growth of stalagmite.
    But there is no need to stop here. The conditions of the deposits seem to render a very considerable change of level essential to the carriage of the contents of the breccia by water in flood; and we cannot separate them from others in the locality. In dealing with the general question in my Paper on the "Bone Caves of the Plymouth District" already cited, I re-affirmed a suggestion made in an earlier Paper on the Geology of Plymouth, that the deposits in the caverns at Oreston, and in the fissures on the Hoe, generally dated back to a time "when the limestone rocks" enclosing them "were but slightly raised above the waters, and when, therefore, nothing was easier than the introduction into the caverns of bodies of animals swept down the streams, probably in time of flood." I made allowances then, however, for the possibility of some of our bone caves turning out to be dens; and in fact, I almost seem to have forecast this very cave: for I remarked "if any of the caves were dens, the time range must have been long enough to have placed the cavities so occupied, above the general reach of the waters, while the character of the fauna remained unchanged. Nay, it is quite possible that when the deposits originated, some of the caverns into which portions have since found their way, had no adequate surface communication." The exceptional conditions of the present discovery could hardly have been more carefully provided for."

    "I also said in 1879, and repeat now, that the period to which these remains belong "was certainly sufficiently remote to allow of the production of a present change of some hundred feet in the relative local positions of land and water, and beyond that of a pause of sufficient duration for the formation of our raised beach, with the time occupied in the continued elevation and subsequent depression of the submerged forest." That no noteworthy change of level has taken place here in the historic period we know; and the fact that the kitchen midden on the Mount Batten isthmus, which apart from the caves gives us the earliest distinct evidence of Man in this locality, has come down partially intact to the present day, shows that since its formation there can have been no material depression; and that our cave men must be very far older than their rude successors of the shore."

    "The point to remember in dealing with this question of antiquity, is that the Cattedown Cave is not an isolated fact, but part of a series."

    "So far as the evidence of date is affected by accessory points, it is decidedly in the direction of antiquity. The traces of Human handiwork are, it is true, very few; but they are such as are consistent with the earliest men known to us in this country. The very paucity of those traces, it seems to me, is itself an argument in favour of age. The belongings of Neolithic Man were not only less rude but more numerous than those of his Palaeolithic predecessor; and I cannot imagine that Neolithic men and women could have been present in such numbers, without more examples of Human handiwork being present with them; and some at least unmistakeable in assignment."

    With the benefit of hindsight and with over a century's worth of data from countless cave excavations to call upon, we are in a position to shed a more modern interpretation on the likely age of the fossil assemblage. This is given in Section 13. of the Cattedown Webpages.

    [Return to Top of Page.]


    2.7.1.    PREAMBLE :
    It should be noted that there have long been differing opinions about not only where Worth's original cave was located but also whether any part of it has survived.

    In the 1906 Vol. 1. of the Victoria History of the County of Devon, the Chapter on "Early Man", offers a general assessment of the Hominin fossil record in the County's Bone Caves. In the part devoted to an assessment of "The Cattedown Bone-Cave", some interesting details are retrospectively presented by R. Burnard, who was on the Official Committee tasked with presenting the County History Series for Devon. Thus, some 20 years after the discovery, he writes :-

    " ...... In the autumn of [1886] ..... bones of the cave-men of Devonshire were discovered at Cattedown, Plymouth, in juxtaposition with the remains of the cave hyaena. The Cattedown Bone-Cave was accidentally discovered by some workmen who were employed by Messrs. Burnard and Alger to remove limestone from an old quarry at Cattedown for the purpose of providing stone for quay extension on the northern shore of the Cattewater. It was situated -- for it is now destroyed -- about 150 yards north of the old shore of the Cattewater, in a line with No. 7. warehouse, and Messrs. Burnard and Alger's Office.
    This old quarry had been excavated many years since down to some 60 ft. below the cliff surface, and the old upper floor of a portion of the excavation was being worked down to a lower level when a fissure was broken into." .......
    As more modern examples of this uncertainty, we cite, for instance, the totally incorrect assumptions drawn by the field team of Wessex Archaeology in 1993 in their otherwise reasonable Report of the caves of the area for Plymouth City Council prior to the almost complete removal of the Shapter's Field area of the karst at Cattedown, for the City Council's ill-advised "Cattedown Reclamation Scheme". In the Wessex Archaeology Report (Vol. 2.), Appendix B. "Cattedown Cave Survey", we can report that the whole of this Appendix B is totally insufficient; it is misleading through its lack of information and certainly not up to the high standards of the rest of the Report, which is otherwise well researched. Perhaps due more to the inability and lack of expertise of their local guides, together with a lack of suitable understanding of the contents of Worth's written records, they have failed to observe many of the most important features at Cattedown and have therefore, critically mis-interpreted the actual location of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave, as well as giving incorrect information about others! This in spite of actually reproducing the main cave-locator-information in their own Report which they have then obviously and ironically failed to acknowledge in the field study stage of their archaeological assessment!

    Another more wild example of the confusion about the location of Worth's Cave is given by the professional archaeologists and Authors of a 1994 publication "A Catalogue of Quaternary Fossil-Bearing Cave Sites in the Plymouth Area", published by "Plymouth Archaeology", (a small team within the Planning Department of Plymouth City Council), as their Occasional Publication No. 1. This Report is a source of much inaccurate information, in addition to the grossly incorrect data which begins the section on Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave, giving its location as being at Cattedown Wharves with an equally impossible NGR. This publication cites the Wessex Archaeology Report mentioned above, which the Authors clearly had access to but obviously couldn't have read. Again, they have failed to comprehend some of their own inadvertantly correct information relating to this site in the same section of the publication. To their credit, the authors have clearly undertaken some good quality desk-top study work about certain aspects of surviving documentation on Worth's Cave.

    The above example of confusion was almost transposed by the Members of Plymouth Archaeology, into the text of another publication in 1995, Occasional Publication No. 2., which enhances the "Cattedown mis-information" of the former publication to a heightened degree. The other worrying issue is that this publication, published under the title of "Archaeological Investigations and Research in Plymouth, Vol. 1. : 1992-93",  contains a series of eight Papers originally presented at the 1st Annual Symposium on Archaeology in Plymouth, held at the University of Plymouth on 13 November 1993. In other words, its content was dissipated to a listening audience, who, no doubt, will communicate the mis-information to many others.

    Surrounding all of the cases (and there are many) that we have seen relating to incorrect assumptions about the location or continued existence of Worth's Cave, there is a common thread throughout; which is that in almost all the modern cases, there is always a rush to produce a publication or a Paper by "professionals" for some reason, which consequently reduces the quality of the end-result. A common lack of concentrated application to the cause, insufficient understanding of the subject and inadequate fieldwork by way of incorrectly reporting "observations" via pre-conceived ideas, (subjective reporting) rather than AS SEEN, are often common causes of mis-information. The most serious element is undoubtedly a lack of objective reporting of the observed facts.

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    So where does Burnard's account above and all the subsequent, more modern speculation lead us? As result of meticulous field surveys and investigations, we can confirm that a surprising amount of the original locational karst scenario does still survive, including a substantial part of Worth's original Bone Cave.
    In paragraph 2.2. above, we have reproduced part of Worth's original published text describing the quarry situation both immediately prior to and after Burnard, Lack and Alger's acquisition of the site for their re-development. Taking each descriptive clause of his text in turn, we can compare the 1886 scenario with the current observable situation :-

    In the first part of Worth's description, he states

    "... the original quarry had been worked to a depth of about 60 feet (18.3 metres) below the original surface of the hill and the old quarry floor was partly overlaid next the cliff by a spoil-bank of earth and small stones, which formed a talus."
    Burnard's later recollection sheds a little more light on this but where the now surviving bench of the original pre-1886 quarry-floor remains untouched, it exactly matches this description.
    In the second part of Worth's description, he also states that,
    "... Messrs. Burnard, Lack and Alger have constructed extensive wharves on their waterside frontage in Cattewater; and in connection with this have partially re-worked the old quarry at the back of the ship-yard, at a lower level, the foot of the new face being 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 metres) beneath the level of the old floor, part of which was long used as a garden."
    Again, Burnard's later recollection shed a few extra details on this but it all confirms that the original quarry scenario was only "partially re-worked" and that, by inference, some of it was left untouched.
    The area "... which was long used as a garden ..."  is indeed still in existence and "... the foot of the new face being 12 to 15 feet beneath the level of the old floor ..." is the approximate current working level of the Oil Terminal area, bearing in mind that it has been levelled and laid with concrete. Some of the newer quarry faces resulting from the 1886-87 re-development survive, are still observable and match the stated depth dimension.   THE CAVE :
    Burnard gives the most exact data in the position of the cave, relating it to a position relative to the Cattewater and to his Company's buildings at the time. We repeat his statement from above to remind you :-

    " .....It was situated -- for it is now destroyed -- about 150 yards north of the old shore of the Cattewater, in a line with No. 7. warehouse, and Messrs. Burnard and Alger's Office. ....."
    We can next turn to the published records of the Plymouth Caving Group in its Newsletter No. 9., dated February 1964., wherein some evidence by way of a record of a visual observation is given by T J Collings. Collings had wanted to locate the position of Worth's original site and seems to have done so without any difficulty.
    He writes
    ..... "On Saturday, February 15th., the Editor  [Ed. Note :  Collings was then the Editor of the PCG Newsletter.]  led a party to Cattedown to find the exact spot of the old bone cave. A series of three photographs had turned up during the week in a publication which previously had not been seen. The trip met with immediate success but found that the old cave was not in the Fison's Quarry but in the quarry of Messrs. Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.  Permission was granted for the party to investigate the area. The east wall of the north chamber of the old cave was found still intact but it had been spoiled by fires which had burned up it. Nevertheless, we now know exactly where the old cave is."  ......
    It should be noted that Burnard Lack and Alger's Wharves Company had subsequently been merged into another Company called Cattedown Wharves Ltd., and that in the 1940's., they finally relinquished ownership of all land in the former Cattedown Quarry area on the north side of Cattedown Road. The main quarry floor area was then consolidated into two principal ownerships; that of the Fison's Fertilizer Company, occupying most of the inner quarry area and that of Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd., taking most of the outer area and leasing the land on the other side of the residual limestone bluff in the ownership of Plymouth City Council, up to the boundary with the Plymouth Abbattoir. For reasons unknown to us, Collings originally thought that Worth's Bone Cave was in the Fison's area, which he incorrectly refers to as Fison's Quarry.
    However, we absolutely concur both with Collings's conclusions as to the whereabouts of the cave and with his identification of which part of Worth's Cave he saw. The Society was able to make the same observations in 1976.

    Since 1976, there have been changes at the No. 2. Site of the Oil Terminal in Cattedown Middle Quarry, resulting in the laying of a new concrete floor on top of the old concrete floor of the Terminal in 1979-1981. This has meant that the surviving parts of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave located in the floor of the quarry have become even further buried. However, under the Society's instruction, the area in front of the visible East Wall of his North Chamber was not concreted over but was buried under a pile of quarry aggregate containing limestone mixed with a "fingerprinting component" of greenstone dolerite, to enable us to distinguish the recent fill from the older fill below it, in the event of future excavation. Before this aggregate was placed there, an additional 5 feet in depth of the East Wall was visible.
    The exposed East Wall of the North Chamber, even now, exhibits the principal characteristic of Worth's own account, whereby it is increasingly undercut with increase of depth. It is covered in stalagmite and in places there clings quantities of stalagmitic breccia.

    In Worth's Plan and Sections of the cave, he indicates a Datum of 17.70 feet above Ordnance, (5.395m. AOD), representing the then new (post-1886) quarry-floor level. Below this level, the cave passages supposedly remained intact. Indeed, in practical terms, it would have served no useful purpose to quarry down any lower. The present elevation of the concrete floor of the Oil Terminal's No. 2. Site, adjacent to the partly exposed East Wall of the North Chamber, is at about 5.0m. AOD. Of great interest is the fact that the North Chamber of Worth's Cave was never excavated to bedrock, insofar as it continued to widen at depth down to the high-tide level and of more immediate interest is the fact that a side passage leading off from the undercut East Wall of the North Chamber was never excavated. This situation is highly relevant to the discoveries of adjacent fissures made by the Society in more recent years, the presence of which Worth was totally unaware, though he did predict their possible existence.

    We can also add to this positioning of the cave by re-iterating again what Worth wrote about the North Chamber, as given in Para above,  :

    ..... "The fissure was quickly found to open into what at first appeared a lower chamber. It did not narrow so rapidly or so much as elsewhere, and at a depth of 4 feet began to expand, eventually widening on the east, where the rock overhung, to a width of 8 feet. Instead of a lower chamber, it was in reality a continuation of the upper on the dip of the strata. This was then excavated to a depth of 15 feet below the quarry floor, without reaching the bottom. Southward, it was found to be closed, save for the jointing; but that an open crevice continued to the sea was evident from the fact that at spring tides the water found its way into the excavation."  .....
    So, with a new lower quarry-floor level at 17.70 feet above Ordnance, (5.395m. AOD) and the bottom of the North Chamber excavated down to a level of 15 feet below this, we can simply deduct that the bottom level of his excavation in the North Chamber was located at 2.70 feet (0.823m. AOD) and being situated within the upper range of influence of the local high tides.   CONCLUDING REMARKS :
    In conclusion, we can state that :-

    1.  There is a substantial area of the pre-1886 quarry floor still in existence as at 2005.
    2. Burnard's statement about the location of the Cave is the most accurate of all the accounts, contemporary and modern. However, he is only partly correct about the survival-status of the Cave. We suspect that because the whole of the West Wall of the entire cave was removed down to the new lower quarry floor level, he thought that the value and scientific integrity of the remaining parts (ie. the whole of the cave with its North and South Chambers and Connecting Passage laying below the new datum / quarry-floor level and the contiguous surviving undercut East Wall with its unexcavated side passage), was zero and even not worthy of being called a "cave". In mitigation of his statement, he could not possibly be aware of later modern concepts and he was certainly totally unaware of what lay in the ground to the east nearby.
    3.  If Burnard's locational observations are applied to the modern site, we do indeed find Worth's Bone Cave still in existence with its partly intact undercut and enormously important East Wall of the North Chamber still visible. This is what Collings observed in 1963 and it continues to be a highly visible cave feature visible today, in 2005.
    4.  By inference, much of the previously published speculation about the location and non-existence of the Site should be totally disregarded.
    5.  Although the original natural entrance to the Palaeolithic cave site has long been quarried away, (even long before R.N. Worth's appearance at Cattedown), the nearby Cattedown Reindeer Rift Cave (as is) is certainly near the original natural entrance and, most likely, was directly connected to Worth's Cave, as is strongly suggested by the structural karst geology in the vicinity. Future work at the Cattedown Reindeer Rift Cave and its vicinity may well shed further facts to corroborate the situation.

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    After their excavation from Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave, the fossil bones were initially dispersed into at least two private ownerships and one Public Sector Museum. Originally, the majority of the Cattedown Hominin fossils were donated in 1887 by R. Burnard via R N Worth to the Museum of the Plymouth Institution in the Plymouth Athenaeum, which also received much stalagmitic breccia containing embedded bone material. We do not know if Worth retained any of this material for his own Collection, if indeed he had a personal Collection.
    Burnard himself retained some of the less important Human bones and much of the other non-hominin fossil material, until he subsequently donated it to the Plymouth City Museum in 1899. Again, we do not know if he retained any of the material for himself. However, we know from a contemporary letter, which he wrote 24 May 1887, that he offered some of the fossil material to his friend, Professor C. Stewart, of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, in London. (Burnard was obviously socially well connected.) We do not know if Prof. Stewart accepted or declined the offer. We reproduce below the text of this materially-important evidence, which also gives an insight into related matters :-

    Telegraphic Address :
    "Burnard, Alger, Plymouth."...................................................The Plymouth Chemical Works
    ................................................................................................May 24.  87.

    My Dear Stewart
    Many thanks for your letter. The skulls are in fairly good condition - they must be very old as hyaena remains &c. occur with them in stalagmitic floor.
    The human remains will be dealt with by R. N. Worth at Plympton meeting of the Devon Assn.  - the animal remains at Institution later. 
    The best selection of the whole of the find are being lodged in Museum of Plymo. Institn. where you can see them when you come down. 
    Shall I send you a few of the smaller bones for your collection (animal) ?

    Hope you are all well.
    Yours very Truly
    [signed] Robert Burnard
    C. Stewart Esq.

    The Society holds a monochrome photograph of this letter in its Archives, as provided to us in 2003 by the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, in London. Some of the Cattedown fossil material also subsequently found its way to the British Museum (Natural History) in London. Further information will be given here very soon about this situation. An image-rich account of the surviving remnants of this nationally important Collection is being compiled in Sections 14a. (Hominin Collection) and 14b. (Faunal Collection) of the Cattedown Webpages.

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    In conclusion, we have no problems with Worth's account of his excavations, although there are some questions that need to be addressed. One of these questions relates to the cave survey which was drawn by his son R Hansford Worth. The cave plan and sections do not reflect Worth's final description of the cave-passage profiles at their lower levels after most of the cave infill material had been removed down to the high-water springs above sea-level. So at what point were the drawings made?

    We have no problem with his scrutiny of the relative age of the fossil assemblage, including that of his conclusions that the Hominin components were, in all probability, of Palaeolithic age. Under the technological restrictions of the Victorian era, this was an accomplished "rescue dig", although such a site, if discovered in the modern day, would never have been excavated in the same way, if at all. The use of dynamite is certainly not an acceptable method of progressing such important work, yet the Victorian cave excavators seemed to have resorted to its use in many locations, including Kent's Cavern!
    We cannot yet disagree with Worth's conclusions.

    The outstanding and more general questions that require further consideration are :-

    ........1.  Using 21st Century scientific methods and technology, can we ever achieve a date for the absolute age of the Cattedown Hominin fossils or the associated faunal fossils?
    ........2.  Exactly what was the reason for a minimum of 15 Hominins, of both sexes with a biological age range from childhood to old age, being present in a cave passage situated about 30 metres vertically below the ground surface and about 150 metres from the nearest and most probable accessible south-facing cave entrance in the nearby Catte(water)down Gorge?
    ........3.  Notwithstanding the presence of the charcoal remains of at least one fire, one worked flint tool, the existence of 3 pieces of worked horn splinters and the practical consideration that a certain minimum level of physical agility on behalf of both male and female - young and old - would have been required to clamber down to the North and South Chambers below the surface, was this cave passage functioning as :-

    ..............a)  a one-time or periodic human occupation site?
    ..............b)  a short-term or long-term human burial site?
    ..............c)  a site representing both of the above scenarios?
    ..............d)  a site of transient shelter from an immediate health-or-life-threatening surface situation, such as that caused by an extreme weather condition or by wild animals respectively?
    ..............e)  a site of accidental and sudden entrappment such as that caused by the collapse or blocking of the passage back to the surface entrance?
    ..............f)  a site of willing mass retreat in which to die?
    ..............g)  a site of mass accidental death by suffocation (bearing in mind the apparent dead-end, closed nature of the two chambers and the fact that quantities of the charcoal remains of a fire or torches were found in both Chambers and Connecting Passage)?

    A further and more complex hypothesis for the origin of all this ossiferous material may be suggested as follows :

    ..............h)  does the site represent the lowest open space into which massive amounts of material have periodically fallen from several separate downward-collapse episodes higher up in the cave system, where any of the above-mentioned scenarios a) to f) could have prevailed? We have here an intermixed fauna representing both Cold Stage and Warm Stage animals. If this fossil assemblage is indeed the result of a succession of periodic internal cavern-collapse episodes, only absolute dating methods could confirm such a scenario.

    However complex the stratigraphic sequence, the reason for the presence of the Hominins has to be a fairly simple one.

    ........4.  Were these individuals contemporaries in life or is this an accumulation of Hominins over a longer period of time?
    ........5.  If they were living contemporaries, were they related, ie. the same family or were they representative of several families, ie. an associated group?
    ........6.  Are the Hominin fossils representative of the same anthropomorphic type?

    Even after a very detailed consideration is given to Worth's descriptions of the cave passages and his interpretation on the most likely point of ingress for the bulk of the cave-infill material into the two chambers and their interconnecting passage, there still remains several outstanding questions surrounding this issue. Further direct details about this may come to light in the near future, during the current programme of work being undertaken in and around Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave. Indirect evidence about this issue in connection with recent discoveries in the same vicinity will also be made available in the future. The accumulation of ossiferous deposits in this immediate locale is not as simple and straightforward as we may think it to have been.

    We refer you to Section 16.0. of the Cattedown Bone Caves Webpages - "Proposals for the Development of a Cattedown Bone Caves Heritage Site", currently under reconstruction.

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