Robin Hood Cave

Robin Hood Cave, once called Robin Hood's Hall, is the largest cave at Creswell Crags and the limestone area. Four main chambers are linked together by short passages.

Who excavated Robin Hood Cave?

Several archaeologists dug here starting with the Victorian antiquarians, Revd Magens Mello, Thomas Heath and Professor W.Boyd Dawkins, in 1875 and 1876 and Robert Laing before 1889. Mello, Heath and Dawkins concentrated their work in the western chamber and took just over a month to remove most of the cave deposit.

Laing, on the other hand, appears to have removed deposits from the both the central and rear chamber and possibly the eastern chamber. In 1969, John Campbell carried out a small-scale excavation in the entrance area and on the scree slopes leading up to the cave. More recently, Rogan Jenkinson directed excavations within the cave in 1981 on remnants of deposits left by earlier archaeologists.

Who used Robin Hood Cave during the Ice Age?

A wide range of stone tools were recovered during the 19th and 20th century excavations. Tools left by Neanderthal people between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago included some handaxes and scrapers made from flint, quartzite and clay-ironstone. Excavation also uncovered leaf points deposited between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago.

Toward the top of the deposits evidence was found for Late Upper Palaeolithic hunters camping here 12,500 years ago. The finds include some of the most notable discoveries of flint and bone objects including the only engraving of an animal found in Britain. Recent research on cut marked bone from this cave has shown that people were trapping and butchering arctic hare during the late stage of the Ice Age between 12,600 and 12,300 years ago.

Which animals were living in the area?

Many of the animal bones from the cave show a characteristic pattern of gnaw marks indicating that spotted hyaenas used Robin Hood Cave as a den during the Ice Age. Bones, which must have littered the cave floor, indicate a wide range of animals including wolf, bear, lion, horse, giant deer, reindeer and bison as well as smaller mammals like arctic hare and arctic lemming.

Early deposits in the central chamber were building up even before the Last Ice Age. Buried within these layers were remains of hippopotamus and a narrow-nosed rhinoceros, animals which lived at Creswell when the climate was as warm as today. One of the biggest mysteries of the cave is the find of a tooth from a lesser scimitar cat. These animals are known to have become extinct long before the last Ice Age. So how did it come to be in such late deposits? Did Ice Age hunters find the tooth, think it interesting and keep it?

Explore the objects found in Robin Hood Cave


Local walks and trails

Find out more

Find us

Plan your route to Creswell. Enter a UK postcode and let Google maps do the rest!

Go