Exhibition Objects

Welcome to Exploring Objects. Here you can explore the rich collection of objects that have been unearthed from the Creswell Heritage Area. To find an object, type in the words that best describe what you are looking for and click ‘Search’

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Notched bone © 2000 The British Museum

Notched bone

Upper Palaeolithic tool or ornament from Church Hole. Made on bone. 12,000 years old

This piece of notched bone is one of the most curious finds from the Creswell caves. It was excavated in 1876 from Church Hole and although nothing is known about the context of its discovery, it is probably about 12,000 years old. Suggestions about the use of this artefact vary from a decorative possession, possibly a pendant, although there is no surviving perforation, to a "flesher" used for cleaning animal hides since it is reminiscent of notched tools used by aboriginal North Americans. It is tempting to suggest that it was used by late Upper Palaeolithic trappers to clean the pelts of arctic hare in the cave.

The piece of bone has been identified as from the transverse process of a lumbar vertebra. Nineteen irregular V-shaped notches have been cut into a slightly chamfered edge. It has been recently broken, presumably during excavation, and it is unknown whether this notching originally extended around more of the edge. Although not directly dated, this artefact is thought to be Late Upper Palaeolithic with confirmed radiocarbon dates from other artefacts for human use of this cave between 12,250 and 12,000 years ago.

Length 5.5 cm

Glossary: Anatomically modern humans, Artefact, Assemblage, Backing, Biface, Blade, Bronze Age, Context, Cordiform, Core, Cortex, Creswellian, Culture, Debitage, Early Upper Palaeolithic, Flake, Flake tool, Glacial, Hafting, Handaxe, Ice Age, Interglacial, Late Upper Palaeolithic, Lumbar vertebra, Middle Palaeolithic, Neanderthal, Palaeolithic, Pleistocene, Radiocarbon, Radiocarbon dates, Retouch, Tool, Upper Palaeolithic