Homepages for the
THE CAVE EXCAVATIONS OF R.N. WORTH AND R. BURNARD, 1886-1887
AT "WORTH'S CATTEDOWN BONE CAVE".
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.
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 :
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.
INTRODUCTION TO THE R.N. WORTH & ROBERT BURNARD EXCAVATIONS :
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.
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
recent years, we have learned, to our great surprise and pleasure, that
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
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
of this Website.
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.
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.
Where necessary, we have indicated the Metric equivalents of the Imperial Units used by Worth.
PRE-EXCAVATION DETAILS OF THE SITE :
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."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.
FIRST DISCOVERY OF THE CATTEDOWN BONE CAVE :
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.
EXCAVATION DETAILS OF THE CATTEDOWN BONE CAVE AND CONTEMPORARY
...............IMAGES OF THE EXCAVATION :
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE CAVE LAYOUT :
[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 :
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.
Locational Images of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave and of Cattedown Quarry
Image WCBC2.4-1. PLAN AND SECTIONS OF "WORTH'S CATTEDOWN BONE CAVE".
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.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE NORTH CHAMBER (1) :
(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
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."
184.108.40.206. "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. ........"
220.127.116.11. 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."
18.104.22.168. "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."
22.214.171.124. "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."
126.96.36.199. "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."
188.8.131.52. "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."
184.108.40.206. "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."
220.127.116.11. "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."
NOTES FOR PARAGRAPH 18.104.22.168.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE SOUTH CHAMBER :
(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.)
|22.214.171.124. "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."|
EXCAVATIONS IN THE CONNECTING FISSURE :
(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).
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."
EXCAVATIONS IN THE NORTH CHAMBER (2) :
(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.)
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
126.96.36.199. "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."
188.8.131.52. "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."
184.108.40.206. "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."
220.127.116.11. "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."
WORTH'S DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY OF THE CAVE DIMENSIONS AND HYPOTHESIS OF THE
CAVERN'S FORMER DISPOSITION :
18.104.22.168. "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.
NORTH CHAMBER :
SOUTH CHAMBER AND CONNECTING FISSURE :
HYPOTHESIS OF THE FORMER DISPOSITION OF THE BONE CAVE WITHIN
WORTH'S DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE OSSIFEROUS CAVE-DEPOSITS
TYPES OF CAVE DEPOSITS :
22.214.171.124. A SUMMARY OF THE DISPOSITION OF THE FOSSIL BONES THROUGHOUT THE CAVE
DEPOSITS AND WITHIN THE CAVE :
"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."
HYPOTHESIS FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE OSSIFEROUS CAVE-DEPOSITS
may have been carried or dragged into the cavern by Man;
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.
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.
OF A HYAENA DEN SCENARIO :
OF A SITE OF HUMAN OCCUPATION? :
FLINT IMPLEMENT :
The extreme length of the nodule is 45/8 inches. [4.625 ins. / 11.77 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."
WORTH'S DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE FOSSIL ASSEMBLAGE AND THEIR POSITION IN
STRATIGRAPHIC SEQUENCE :
[In Paragraph 126.96.36.199. 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.]
THE HUMAN REMAINS :
188.8.131.52..."I append a list of the most interesting features of the human relics :
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."
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."
(marked CA) of which only pieces could be preserved, including :-
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."
OF UPPER and LOWER JAWS, (marked
"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."
JAW IN TWO PORTIONS, with very tubercular teeth, little worn.
JAW IN THREE PORTIONS.
"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."
JAW perfect with the exception of right Condyle and portion of Ramus
JAW perfect with exception of the Condyles. Chin somewhat rounded.
Corresponds very closely in character with No. 2."
"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."
RAMUS OF MANDIBLE with Condyles and six teeth worn flat and two Sockets;
lower front margin absent."
"16...GERMS OF TWO DECIDUOUS MOLARS."
OF SEVENTY LOOSE TEETH, the majority of which cannot be connected with
the fragments of Jaws enumerated."
"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
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.)
SOME OF THE CATTEDOWN CAVE HOMININ JAWBONES.
with the Perthi Chwareu Hominins in North Wales :
of the Cattedown Hominins :
of the Cattedown Hominin Bones :
of the Cattedown Hominin Skulls :
[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.]
MATCHING THE SURVIVING HUMAN FOSSIL REMAINS WITH THOSE DESCRIBED
BY WORTH :
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 ; Rhino Teeth ; Red Deer Teeth ; Hyaena Bones and Bison Teeth . 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.
Image WCBC2.5.3-1a. (above-left)
RECONSTRUCTED FRAGMENTS OF A CATTEDOWN HOMININ SKULL
Image WCBC2.5.3-1b. (above-right)
RECONSTRUCTED FRAGMENTS OF A CATTEDOWN HOMININ SKULL
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".
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.
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.
R.N. Worth's 1887 Table of Qualitative Comparisons
of Fossil Bone Finds from South Devon Bone Caves
(Active & complete, HTML., 44kB.)
2.6. WORTH'S ARGUMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY OF THE DISCOVERY AND HIS INTERPRETATION OF THE AGE OF THE FOSSIL BONES :
WORTH'S ARGUMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY OF THE DISCOVERY
"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?"
queries, I think, cover the whole ground of possible objection.
"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."
WORTH'S INTERPRETATION OF THE AGE OF THE FOSSIL BONES :
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 :-
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.
"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.
ON THE SURVIVING PARTS OF WORTH'S CATTEDOWN BONE CAVE AND ITS ENVIRONS
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  ..... 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.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.
LOCATING WORTH'S CAVE AND ITS CONTEXTUAL KARST ENVIRONMENT :
ORIGINAL CONTEXTUAL KARST ENVIRONMENT :
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.
" .....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.
..... "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.
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
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 184.108.40.206. 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.
There is a substantial area of the pre-1886 quarry floor still in existence
as at 2005.
ON THE SURVIVING PARTS OF THE FOSSIL BONE COLLECTION FROM WORTH'S CATTEDOWN
BONE CAVE :
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, LACK, & ALGER.
Telegraphic Address :
"Burnard, Alger, Plymouth."...................................................The Plymouth Chemical Works
................................................................................................May 24. 87.
you are all well.
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.
THE SOCIETY'S CONCLUSIONS ABOUT WORTH'S ACCOUNT :
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?
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
The outstanding and more general questions that require further consideration are :-
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
a one-time or periodic human occupation site?
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.
Were these individuals contemporaries in life or is this an accumulation
of Hominins over a longer period of time?
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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