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31 January 2009
New dig hopes to reveal British cavern's secret

A team of archaeologists will survey Kents Cavern, Torquay (Devon, England), in advance of major excavations at Easter and in September. The digs aim to discover more about the Neanderthals who lived in the caves tens of thousands of years ago. The project is being carried out by archaeologists Dr Mark White from Durham University, and Dr Paul Pettitt from Sheffield, and is the first archaeological dig at the cave for more than 80 years.
     Dr White said: "We hope he information recovered from these excavations will contribute to widely-debated issues in human evolution, specifically whether the expansion in numbers of our own species tens of thousands of years ago was connected with the extinction of the Neanderthals. Britain has so far failed to play a role in this fascinating and important debate, and we believe Kent's Cavern is the prime site where answers could be found."
     The team of archaeologists also hopes to learn more about the origins of Kents Cavern's use as a human shelter, and establish firm dates for the first occupation of the cave by Neanderthals and early members of our own species. Kents Cavern owner Nick Powe said: "The caves have already yielded some incredible finds, such as a 37,000-year-old ancient human jawbone unearthed during the last excavations at Kents Cavern in 1927, which it is believed could be Neanderthal. Kents Cavern is the oldest Scheduled Ancient Monument in Britain, with evidence of human occupation dating back half a million years, and as such it's the oldest recognisable human dwelling in the entire country."
     Kents Cavern will be open during the excavation at Easter, from March 30 until April 12, and visitors will be able to view the dig in action as part of their cave tour. Many of the artifacts unearthed during previous excavations are in Torquay Museum, under the care of curator of collections Barry Chandler.

Source: Herald Express (26 January 2009)

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