History of Henry Wellcome's unique collection, £19.99
Length: 5.400 cm
Presented by the Creswell Caves Exploration Committee (1878)
P&EE Sieveking Catalogue no. 850
Prehistory and Europe
Late Upper Palaeolithic, around 12,000 years old
From Church Hole Cave, Nottinghamshire, England
A pendant or a tool?
Excavations at Church Hole cave took place in 1876. Although directed by the eminent bone specialist William Boyd Dawkins, he was often away from site and the workmen were evidently not careful enough. The finds got mixed up and no proper records were kept to show where exactly they came from. This notched bone is assumed to come from a deposit called the cave-earth, which contained stone tools of late Upper Palaeolithic type. It is exceptional, as bone objects of this time are not common in Britain.
The bone was broken during excavation. The complete outline of the piece would have been nearly D-shaped, one side being more convex than the other. It comes from the bottom of one of the vertebra that made up the back bone of a horse. Around the edge tiny bits of bone have been cut out, leaving V-shaped notches. These may have been intended as decoration, and the broken end possibly had a hole so that the piece could be worn as a pendant. Alternatively, it may have been a tool used for cleaning the insides of the skins of arctic hares, numerous bones of which were found in the cave.
A. Sieveking, A catalogue of Palaeolithic ar (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)