Caves give up more secrets
A NEW dig to find evidence of Britain's first man starts in Torquay next week.
The team of archaeologists are back at Kents Cavern to continue their major excavations underground in search of more evidence for the Neanderthal occupation of the caves tens of thousands of years ago.
The cavern is open during the excavation from Tuesday to Thursday from September 10 and visitors will be able to view the dig in action, the first in more than 80 years, as part of the guided cave tour.
Cavern owner Nick Powe said: "We are thrilled Kents Cavern could soon be revealing more of its tantalising secrets, and play a part in increasing our knowledge of the Neanderthal occupation of Britain, thanks to the expertise of the team.
"The caves have already yielded some incredible finds, such as a 37,000-year-old ancient human jawbone unearthed during the last excavations at Kents Cavern in 1927, which it is believed could be Neanderthal. The bone is now back on display at Torquay Museum.
"Many Torbay residents know Kents Cavern as a tourist attraction, but I don't think many realise just how important an archaeological site the caves are, not just in Britain but in Europe, and is the oldest Scheduled Ancient Monument in Britain, with evidence of human occupation dating back half a million years — and as such it's the oldest recognisable human dwelling in the entire country."
Experts Dr Mark White, of Durham University, and Dr Paul Pettitt, of Sheffield University, will be running the dig.
Dr White said: "Britain played a major role in the professional development of archaeology and the way we think about human origins and the antiquity of humans on Earth.
"We hope the information recovered from this series of excavations will contribute to widely-debated issues in human evolution, specifically whether the expansion in numbers of our own species tens of thousands of years ago was connected with the extinction of the Neanderthals.
"Britain has so far failed to play a role in this fascinating and important debate, and we believe Kents Cavern is the prime site where answers could be found."
The team of archaeologists also hopes to learn more about the origins of Kents Cavern's use as a human shelter, and establish firm dates for the first occupation of the cave by Neanderthals and early members of our own species.