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Prehistoric Scratchpad

Cave that opens up to Cheddar Yeo, the largest underground river system in Britain. Includes some of the earliest known humans to live in Britain, including Cheddar Man.


10,000 Years Ago[]

The population of Britain was very low at this time, slightly before Cheddar Man's birth. The first population of the cave had left Britain, and it's possible the second population had not yet arrived.

Earlier History[]

  • 24,000 years ago, an ice sheet extended over much of Britain, which would have pushed out or killed any prior humans settled there.
  • The land warmed up again and a river system in the bed of the English Channel may have acted as a barrier to humans and fauna from crossing from France into England.
  • An early wave of Britains who left no descendant was living in this cave 14,700 years ago. They are from a people who may have been following horses into the newly thawed Britain, via a pass around the channel river system. These bones represent one of the largest groups of human remains (at least six individuals) associated with the Magdalenian culture (17-12 KA). The remains include a young child about 3 years old, a young adolescent, and older adolescents, two adults, and one elder, all of which bore the marks of cannibalism. Some skulls were used to create bowls, and the arms were engraved while processing their meat.
  • A mammoth carving was left in the cave 13,000 years ago.
  • Britain experiences the Younger Dryas cold period, extinguishing all sign of human occupation.
  • Britain was settled again 11,000 years ago.

Later History[]

  • Cheddar Man lived about 9,150 years ago. He may have died a violent death in his early 20s. He was found to share 10% of modern British DNA and is the oldest known Britain with British descendants. He may have had dark skin and blue eyes. His people were the western European hunter-gatherers whose remains have been found in Spain, Luxembourge, and Hungary, and also had dark skin and blue eyes. He is known to have descendants living at Cheddar today.
  • The last land connection between Britain and Europe (Doggerland) vanished beneath rising sea levels 8000 years ago.
  • The first farmers reached Britain 6000 years ago, who may have brought the genes for lighter skin to Britain, which may have been formed due to their poorer diet.

Modern History[]

  • The near sections of the cave were accessible prior to the 19th century.
  • Starting in 1892, Richard Gough excavated and opened to the public areas further up the cave.
  • Electric lights were installed in 1899.
  • In 1903, Cheddar Man was discovered.
  • The cave was flooded for three days during the Great Flood of 1968.
  • Extensive flooded parts of the cave system were found and explored between 1985 and 1990.
  • In 2007, a mammoth carving was found.
  • Further Magdalenian bones were found and analysed in 2010-2011.
  • In 2018, Cheddar Man's DNA was analysed and it was found that he could have had dark skin.


The caves are located in Cheddar Gorge on the Mendip Hills in Cheddar, Somerset, England. Public access is available, while deeper parts of the cave can be accessible via diving.

Gough's Cave Web Pages[]

Gough's Cave In the News[]

Cave Carving Found (Aug 2007)[]

Bones Dated to 14,700 Years Ago (Jul 2009)[]

Human Skull Cups Found (Feb 2011)[]

More Evidence of Cannibalism (Apr 2015)[]

Cannibalism Confirmed (Oct 2016)[]

Living Descendants of Cheddar Man Found (Nov 2016)[]

Arm Bones Engraved (Sep 2017)[]

Gough's Cave Flooded (Jan 2018)[]

Cheddar Man May Have Had Dark Skin (Feb 2018)[]


Google Street View[]

Related Pages[]