Dig A Little Deeper
The Trust is a registered Museum and holds a collection of nearly 100,000 objects. Many of these objects are the bones of small mammals found during excavations at Pin Hole Cave in the 1980s. Other objects include flint stone tools and bones of large mammals found during earlier excavations in other caves at Creswell Crags.
Objects found during excavations at Creswell Crags are scattered amongst 37 museums in England, Scotland and Ireland. We work closely with many of these institutions to ensure that the public has access to as many of our objects as possible. Our museum currently has long-term loan agreements with The British Museum, The Natural History Museum and many others.
We also have large Comparative and Handling Collections. These feature objects from Creswell Crags and further afield, and provide an educational resource for students, academics and special interest groups.
Below is our collection of six objects that tell the story of Creswell Crags! Our staff members will be selecting their favourite artefacts and adding to this page over time. If you are conducting research and would like any more information on the objects in our care please contact our Curator
Baby Hyena Skeleton ‘Eric’
The Pin Hole Cave excavations in the 1980s led to the discovery of many amazing artefacts which we have on display in our museum, but Eric is one of our favourites. He is an articulated and almost complete skeleton of a baby hyena, and is always surprising visitors as they enter our museum. Hyenas were a common animal in the Ice Age, and many of the animal bones found on site have gnaw-marks from hungry hyenas.
This flint artefact is a long, thin blade, and may have been used as a knife. Creswell Points are identified through having one long, sharp edge, and a shorter edge which is deliberately blunted to make it softer on the hand. This Creswell Point was found close to a cut-marked hare, and may have been used to butcher the meat and remove the fur.
Nine Men’s Morris Stone
This oddly-shaped and decorated stone is actually believed to be the playing board for an ancient game known as Nine Men’s Morris. Not quite what you’d expect to find outside Church Hole? Well, it was found alongside various Medieval bottles and coins, suggesting that the cave may have been used as a gambling den in the past. It could even relate to the group of Monks who inhabited nearby Welbeck Abbey.
Creswell Crags has been the focus of excavations for centuries, and it’s fascinating to look at how archaeology and archaeologists have changed over time. However, one thing that remains the same is the simple trowel, the most important tool an archaeologist owns. This one belonged to A.L. Armstrong and as you can see it got a lot of wear over the years.
Our staff and volunteers currently care for approximately 75,000 objects within the collection, and occasionally, mistakes are made or information is lost. If you recognise the item below or know anything specific about how it came to Creswell Crags, please let us know!
What we know: This artefact is labelled ‘Rhinoceras tichorhinus pelvis, Pleistocene, Thuringewold, Germany’. It has been found in a box in our collection labelled ‘WR’. It has not been treated with any conservation materials or varnishes.
What we don’t know: How it came to be at Creswell Crags, and whether it belongs to us or we have it on loan from somewhere else.
‘Cave Bear’ Phalanges
These bear remains were purchased at some point in the 1970s or 1980s, and are labelled with beautiful handwriting ‘Cave Bear… Gondenans-Les-Moulins, 1952’. We now think it may be a brown bear rather than a cave-bear, but they are now travelling to Sheffield University where they can be studied further and used as an educational resource.
Here are a selection of tiny pieces of flint, known as ‘debitage’, discovered in a Mesolithic layer of Mother Grundy’s Parlour. Creswell Crags is unique not only for its Palaeolithic remains, but for the later artefacts, including the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Roman and Medieval periods.
Woolly Rhinoceros Tooth
This is the tooth of the extinct woolly rhinoceros. They inhabited Creswell Crags during the middle of the last glacial period, and disappeared from Britain around 35,000 years ago. Their coat of long hairs and thick wool kept them warm in the cold conditions. However, their short legs made were unsuited for traversing through deep snow. It is thought that increased snowfall may have contributed to the species’ extinct.
The spotted hyaena inhabited Britain discontinuously from around 700,000 to 34,000 years ago. During this time, they used many caves as dens. When excavating these caves, palaeontologists find evidence of the hyaenas’ life, including the bones of the hyaenas themselves, their coprolites (preserved faeces), and remains of their prey. This partial upper jaw is just one of many hyaena specimens that have been found in the Creswell Crags caves.
These massive teeth from Pin Hole are of a wild horse. Only one subspecies is alive today, living in China and Mongolia. This subspecies’ habitats include open grassland. This is similar to the vegetation of Creswell Crags during part of the last glacial period. The past vegetation is inferred from the environmental tolerances of species that inhabited the Crags, in addition to pollen from hyaena coprolites (preserved faeces) found in the caves.