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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Scimitar cat tooth © 2000 The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester

Scimitar cat tooth

Possible Upper Palaeolithic pendant from Robin Hood Cave. Age uncertain.

This upper right canine from a lesser scimitar cat (Homotherium latidens) was found by W.B. Dawkins on 3rd July 1876 in Robin Hood Cave. Lesser scimitar cats were long-legged and lion-sized carnivores. The tooth was recovered at the back of the western chamber at its connection with the central chamber. In his description of the tooth Dawkins suggested (1877) that it had probably been ‘…introduced into the cave by the hand of man…’.He also noted that ‘…a few scratches at its base may have been made by a flint flake…’. Certainly an attempt has been made to thin the tooth in the area of the break and there is what appears to be an incomplete perforation. The suggestion is that the tooth was prepared as a pendant and was introduced into Robin Hood Cave in the Upper Palaeolithic. Dawkins comments that ‘…its singular shape and sharp, serrated cutting-edges would certainly strike the fancy of any rude huntsman…’.

While the most convincing interpretation of this specimen is as an Upper Palaeolithic pendant, other suggestions have been offered. In Europe the lesser scimitar cat is thought to have become extinct approximately 500,000 years ago in the Early Middle Pleistocene. Its presence within a Late Pleistocene context at Robin Hood Cave has led to suggestions that either the animal had survived here into later times or that it was derived from earlier deposits in the cave. Dawkins, when he described the specimen was aware of the apparent anomaly, but on balance felt it likely that the animal had indeed survived here into later time. In support of this idea, he cited teeth of lesser scimitar cat from Late Pleistocene sediments in Kent’s cavern on the outskirts of Torquay, Devon. However, Kent’s cavern also contains much Early Middle Pleistocene sediment and it is not impossible that these specimens were derived from these earlier deposits. In Robin Hood Cave, however, there is no clear supporting evidence for Early Middle Pleistocene deposits from which the tooth could have been derived. The most ancient sediments appear to belong to the latter part of the Middle Pleistocene and the oldest large mammal fauna to the Last Interglacial (Early Late Pleistocene). The suggestion that the tooth was planted as part of a hoax has been made on a number of occasions. No convincing evidence has ever been produced to substantiate these assertions and it is an unlikely object to have been available for such a purpose. Further, measurements of the fluorine, uranium and nitrogen contents of the Creswell tooth show it to differ from those of fossil material from other well-known find spots reducing the possibility that it had been fraudulently imported from one of these sites. However, it remains a possibility that the tooth was derived from an unknown limestone cave.

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