This page offers a brief summary of some of the more significant caves of archaeological interest in the Peak District.

Image: Beeston Tor, Manifold Valley.

Dovedale

Reynard’s Cave. Archaeology dates it to the Bronze Age. Some of the artefacts are on display in Buxton museum.

Cheshire Wood Cave. This has been dated to the Romano-British age and also the Iron Age. There were several burials involving adults and children from both periods of history.

Falcon Low Cave. Not dated conclusively via the archaeology, but the arrangement of the adults and children who were buried here points to the Neolithic.

Wirksworth

Harboro Rocks Cave. Visitors to Harboro Rocks cannot miss the cave. It has a wide entrance and an large interior with a convenient chimney and central large rock. More recently, it has been used by climbers caught out in bad weather, but humans have been using the site for thousands of years. The initial archaeology came from the excavations of the early part of the twentieth century.

The oldest finds are no earlier than the bronze age but a Neolithic barrow has been recorded up near the trig point. No trace of this now remains but it is alleged to have contained about 16 skeletons in a single chamber. Some of these were found in a crouched position which was the common burial practice in the Neolithic. Neolithic Peterborough ware provides further substantive evidence that the site was used in that period.

Within the cave there have been some great finds, a bronze pin, bronze brooch, iron spearheads, pot sherds and part of a shale bracelet. All of these date to the Iron Age or earlier. Above the cave, on a flat area, Iron Age pottery has been found and it is possible that hut platforms are present. If this is the case then Harboro Rocks may have been an important settlement. Finds are held in various local museums.



Chelmorton

Thirst House Cave. Finds at this site include Romano-British Brooches and burials. The archaeology does not make it clear whether this is a domestic site or a metal working site with seasonal occupation.

Earl Sterndale

Fox Hole Cave. A small but important site high up on the side of High Wheeldon. This cave was in use for a huge time span. A bear skull, upside down and covered with flat stones was a practice that dates back to Mousterian times but here probably only dates back to the end of the last ice age thus indicating occupation in the late Upper Palaeolithic. Other finds have been made in this location which date to Neolithic (burials and Peterborough ware), Bronze Age and Romano-British hearths.

Manifold Valley

There is a large concentration of caves in the Manifold Valley of archaeological interest.

Thor’s Cave. The tourist attraction of the valley! Well signposted and steep paths lead the visitor to the cave. A station was built in Victorian times close to the start of the path - tourism is not new to the region! In the cave itself, evidence for Romano-British occupation has been unearthed but the cave had already been used in late Neolithic times for a crouched burial in a cist.

Thor’s Fissure Cave. A completely different kettle of fish in terms of access. Flint tools from the late Upper Palaeolithic were discovered here together with Artefacts from the Iron Age and Roman periods. Animal bones have also been found, including deer and dolphin! The latter belonged to the Beaker period, as did a stone axe.

Seven Ways Cave. This does not seem to have been occupied, however, burials from the Neolithic and Saxon periods have been found here.

Mill Pot Cave. Situated near Wetton, this cave was excavated in the early 1960s. Bronze Age pottery was found.
Wetton Mill Rock Shelter. Archaeology also shows this to have been a Mesolithic site, with bones of arctic animals, indicating very cold conditions. Situated on Nan Tor, close to the tea rooms. Yummy!



Elder Bush Cave. Access to the lower levels needs caving experience. One burial dating to the late Neolithic or early bronze age was found. A pile of deer bones covered by rocks was also found indicating a possible meat cache. Flints and pottery dating to the Bronze Age have also been retrieved. Carbon dating has been carried out on charcoal from the cave and shows that it may have been used as far back as the Mesolithic.

Ossum’s Cave. Reindeer bones have been recovered from the floor of this cave, interpreted as animal kill, probably wolves.

Beeston Tor Cave. Also known as St Bertram’s Cave, has been visited on and off from the late upper Palaeolithic, with flints, animal bones and a Saxon hoard turning up in excavations.

Old Hannah’s Hole. Several burials plus pottery and flint finds, dating occupation to the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.