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17 June 2003
Archaeologists discover Britainís first cave paintings

The first examples of prehistoric cave art in Britain have been found at Church Hole cave, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire (England). Estimated at 12,000 years old, the depictions appear to be of a crane or swan, a bird of prey, and an ibex - an animal not previously thought to have existed in Britain. The engraving may record a rare sighting of an ibex that had strayed from south west Europe at a time when Britain was joined to the continent.
The discovery, by Pal Bahn, Paul Pettit and Spanish colleague Sergio Ripoll, fills a major gap in the countryís archaeological record. Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London, says: ďIf this is verified, it represents a wonderful discovery. There are fine examples of cave art in Spain and France but none has been found here until now.Ē The best preserved examples are the horses and rhinos painted on the cave walls at Lascaux and Chauvet (France) and Altamira (Spain). The Church Hole engravings are similar in style to this continental cave art from the palaeolithic period. The total absence, so far, of other examples in Britain is attributed to climatic deterioration.
    It is believed that sites of this kind contributed to the creation of a ritual ambience that played a key role in rites of passage and the strengthening of tribal bonds.

Source: Guardian Unlimited (15 June 2003)

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