1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cave
CAVE (Lat. cavea, from cavus, hollow), a hollow extending beneath the surface of the earth. The word “cavern” (Lat. caverna) is practically a synonym, though a distinction is sometimes drawn between sea caves and inland caverns, but the term “cave” is used here as a general description. Caves have excited the awe and wonder of mankind in all ages, and have been the centres round which have clustered many legends and superstitions. They were the abode of the sibyls and the nymphs in Roman mythology, and in Greece they were the temples of Zeus, Pan, Dionysus, Pluto and the Moon, as well as the places where the oracles were delivered at Delphi, Corinth and Mount Cithaeron. In Persia they were connected with the obscure worship of Mithras. Their names frequently are survivals of the superstitious ideas of antiquity, as, for example, the Fairy, Dragon's, or Devil's Caves of France and Germany. Long after the Fairies and Little Men had forsaken the forests and glens of Germany, they dwelt in their palaces deep in the Harz Mountains, in the Dwarfholes, &c., whence they came from time to time into the upper air.
The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus slept their long sleep in a cave. The hills of Granada are still believed by the Moorish children to contain the great Boabdil and his sleeping host, who will awake, when an adventurous mortal invades their repose, to restore the glory of the Moors in Spain.
Caves have been used in all ages by mankind for habitation, refuge and burial. In the Old Testament We read that when Lot went up out of Zoar he dwelt in a cave with his two daughters. The five kings of the Canaanites took refuge from Joshua, and David from Saul, in the caves of Palestine, just as the Aquitani fled from Caesar to those of Auvergne, and the Arabs of Algeria to those of Dahra, where they were suffocated by Marshal Pelissier in 1845. In Central Africa David Livingstone discovered vast caves in which whole tribes found security with their cattle and household stuff.
The cave of Machpelah may be quoted as an example of their use as sepulchres, and the rock-hewn tombs of Palestine and of Egypt and the Catacombs of Rome probably owe their existence to the ancient practice of burial in natural hollows in the rock. We might therefore expect to find in them most important evidence as to the ancient history of mankind, which would reach long beyond written record; and since they have always been used by wild beasts as lairs we might reasonably believe also that their exploration would throw light upon the animals which have in many cases disappeared from the countries which they formerly inhabited. The labours of Buckland, Pengelly, Falconer, Lartet and Christy, and Boyd Dawkins have added an entirely new chapter to the history of man in Europe, as well as established the changes that have taken place in the European fauna. The physical history of caves will be taken first, and we shall then pass on to the discoveries relating to man and the lower animals which have been made in them of late years.
Physical History.—The most obvious agent in hollowing out caves is the sea. The set of the currents, the force of the breakers, the grinding of the shingle inevitably discover the weak places in the cliff, and leave caves as one of the results of their work, modified in each case by the local conditions of the rock. Those formed in this manner are easily recognized from their floors being rarely much out of the horizontal; their entrances are all in the same plane, or in a succession of horizontal and parallel planes, if the land has been elevated at successive times. From their inaccessible position they have been rarely occupied by man. Among them Fingal's Cave, on the island of Staffa, off the south-west coast of Scotland, hollowed out of columnar basalt, is perhaps the most remarkable in Europe. In volcanic regions also there are caves formed by the passage of lava to the surface of the ground, or by the expansion of steam and gases in the lava while it was in a molten state. They have been observed in the regions round Vesuvius and Etna, in Iceland and Teneriffe. We may take as an example the Grotto del Cane (“cave of the dog”), near Pozzuoli, a few miles to the south-west of Naples, remarkable for the flow of carbonic acid from crevices in the floor, which fills the lower part of the cave and suffocates any small animal, such as a dog, immersed long enough in it.
The most important class of caves, however, and that which immediately demands our notice, is that composed of those which have been cut out of calcareous rocks by the action of carbonic acid in the rain-water, combined with the mechanical friction of the sand and stones set in motion by the streams which have, at one time or another, flowed through them. They occur at various levels, and are to be met with wherever the strata are sufficiently compact to support a roof. Those of Brixham and Torquay and of the Eifel are in the Devonian limestone; those of Wales, Somerset, the Pennine chain, Ireland, the central and northern counties of Belgium, Saxony, and Westphalia, of Maine and Anjou, of Virginia and Kentucky, are in that of the Carboniferous age. The cave of Kirkdale in Yorkshire, and most of those in Franconia and Bavaria, penetrate Jurassic limestones. The Neocomian and Cretaceous limestones contain most of the Caverns of France, rendered famous by the discovery of the remains of the cave-men along with the animals which they hunted; as well as those of the Pyrenees, the Alps, Sicily, Greece, Dalmatia, Carniola and Palestine. The cave of Lunelviel near Montpellier is the most important of those which have been hollowed in limestones of the Tertiary age. They are also met with in rocks composed of gypsum; in Thuringia, for example, they occur in the saliferous and gypseous strata of the Zechstein, and in the gypseous Tertiary rocks of the neighbourhood of Paris, as, for example, at Montmorency.
Caves formed by the action of carbonic acid and the action of water are distinguished from others by the following characters. They open on the abrupt sides of valleys and ravines at various levels, and are arranged round the main axes of erosion, just as the branches are arranged round the trunk of a tree. In a great many cases the relation of the valley to the ravine, and of the ravine to the cave, is so intimate that it is impossible to deny that all three have been produced by the same causes. The caves themselves ramify in the same irregular fashion as the valleys, and are to be viewed merely as the capillaries in the general valley system through which the rain passes to join the main channels. Sometimes, as in the famous caves of Adelsberg, Kentucky, Wookey Hole in Somersetshire, the Peak in Derbyshire, and in many in the Jura, they are still the passages of subterranean streams; but very frequently the drainage has found an outlet at a lower level, and the ancient watercourses have been deserted. These in every case present unmistakable proof that they have been traversed by water in the sand, gravel and clay which they contain, as Well as in the worn surfaces of the sides and bottom. In all districts where there are caves there are funnel-shaped depressions of various sizes called pot-holes or swallow-holes, or bêtoires, “chaldrons du diable,” “marmites des géants,” or “katavothra,” in which the rain is collected before it disappears into the subterranean passages. They are to be seen in all stages, some being mere hollows which only contain water after excessive rain. While others are profound vertical shafts into which the water is continually falling. Gaping Ghyl, 330 ft., and Helln Pot in Yorkshire, 300 ft. deep, are examples of the latter class. The cirques described by M. Desnoyers belong to the same class as the swallow-holes.
The history of swallow-holes, caves, ravines and valleys in calcareous strata may be summed up as follows:—The calcareous rocks are invariably traversed by joints or lines of shrinkage, which are lines of weakness by which the direction of the drainage is determined; and they are composed to a large extent of carbonate of lime, which is readily exchanged into soluble bicarbonate by the addition of carbonic acid. The rain in its passage through the air takes up carbonic acid, and it is still further charged with it in percolating through the surface soil in which there is decomposing vegetable matter. As the raindrops converge towards some one point, determined by some local accident on the surface, and always in a line of joint, the carbonic acid attacks the carbonate of lime with which it comes into contact, and thus a funnel is gradually formed ending in the vertical joint below. Both funnel and vertical joint below are being continually enlarged by this process. This chemical action goes on until the free carbonic acid is used up. The subterranean passages are enlarged in this manner, and what was originally an insignificant network of fissures is developed into a series of halls, sometimes as much as from 80 to 100 ft. high. These results are considerably furthered by the mechanical friction of the pebbles and sand hurried along by the current, and by falls of rock from the roof produced by the removal of the underlying strata. In many cases the results of this action have produced a regular subterranean river system. The thick limestones of Kentucky, for example, are traversed by subterranean waters which collect in large rivers, and ultimately appear at the surface in full power. The river Axe, near Wells, the stream flowing out of the Peak Cavern at Castleton, Derbyshire, that at Adelsberg in Carniola, flow out of Caverns in full volume. The river Styx and the waters of Acheron disappear in a series of caverns which were supposed to lead down to the infernal regions.
If the direction of the drainage in the rock has been altered, either by elevations such as those with which the geologist is familiar, or by the opening out of new passages at a lower level, these watercourses become dry, and present us with the caves which have afforded shelter to man and the wild animals from the remotest ages, sometimes high up on the side of a ravine, at other times close to the level of the stream at the bottom.
Caves, as a general rule, are as little effected by disturbances of the rock as the ravines and valleys, which have been formed, in the main, irrespective of the lines of fault or dislocation.
We must now examine what happens to the bicarbonate of lime which has been formed by the action of the acid on the limestone. If a current of air play upon the surface of the water, the carbonic acid, which floats up the lime, so to speak, is given off and the insoluble carbonate is deposited, and as a result of this action we have the elaborate and fantastic stony incrustations termed stalactites and stalagmites. The water percolating through the rock covers the sides of the cavern with a stalactitic drapery, and if a line of drops persistently falls from the same point to the floor, the calcareous deposit gradually descends from the roof, forming in some cases stony tassels, and in others long columns which are ultimately united to the calcareous boss formed by the plash of the water on the floor. The surface also of the pools is sometimes, covered over with an ice-like sheet of stalagmite, which shoots from the sides, and sometimes forms a solid and firm floor when the water on which it was supported has disappeared. Sometimes the drops form a little calcareous basin, beautifully polished inside, which contains small pearl-like particles of carbonate of lime, polished by friction one against the other. The most beautiful stalactitic caves in Great Britain are those of Cheddar in Somerset, Caldy Island and Poole’s Cavern at Buxton. A portion only of the carbonate of lime is thus deposited in the hollows of the rock from which it was taken; the rest is carried into the open air by the streams, in part deposited on the sides and bottom, forming tufa and the so-called petrifications, and partly being conveyed down to the sea to be ultimately secreted in the tissues of the Mollusca, Echinodermata and Foraminifera. Through these it is again collected in a solid form, and in the long course of ages it is again lifted up above the level of the water as limestone rock, and again undergoes the same series of changes. Thus the cycle of carbonate of lime is a neverending one from the land to the ocean, from the ocean to the land, and so it has been ever since the first stratum of limestone was formed out of the remains of the animals and plants of the sea. The rate of the accumulation of stalagmite in caverns is necessarily variable, since it is determined by the presence of varying currents of air. In the Ingleborough cavern a stalagmite, measured in 1839 and in 1873, is growing at the rate of .2946 in. per annum. It is obvious, therefore, that the vast antiquity of deposits containing remains of man underneath layers of stalagmite cannot be inferred from a thickness of a few inches or even of a few feet.
The intimate relation which exists between caves and ravines renders it extremely probable that many of the latter have been originally subterranean watercourses, which have been unroofed by the degradation of the rock. In all limestone districts ravines are to be found continued in the same direction as the caves, and the process of atmospheric erosion may be seen in the fallen blocks of stone which generally are to be met with at the mouths of the caverns. In illustration of this the valley and caves of Weathercote, in Yorkshire, may be quoted, or the source of the Axe at Wookey; and the ravine formed in this way has very frequently been widened out into a valley by the action of subaerial waste, or by the grinding of glaciers through it during the glacial stage of the Pleistocene period.
For further details as to the physical history of caverns we must refer the reader to the works quoted at the end of this article, by E. A. Martel, the intrepid explorer of most of the large European caves, including those of Great Britain and Ireland. The history of the Glacières or Ice-caves will be found in Browne’s Ice Caves in France and Switzerland.
Classification.—The caves which have offered shelter to the mammalia are classified according to their contents, and are of various ages, ranging from the Pliocene to the present day. (1) Those containing the Pliocene mammalia belong to that age. (2) Those with the remains of the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and other extinct species, or with paleolithic man (see Archaeology), are termed Pleistocene. These are sometimes called Quaternary, under the mistaken idea that they belong to an age succeeding the Tertiary period. (3) Those which contain the remains of the domestic animals in association with the remains of man either in the Neolithic, Bronze or Iron stages of civilization are termed Prehistoric. (4) The fourth group consists of those which can be brought into relation with the historic period, and are therefore termed Historic.
The Pliocene Caves.—It is a singular fact, only to be explained by the vast denudation of the earth’s surface since the Pliocene Age, that only one cave referable to that age has as yet been discovered, that at Doveholes near Buxton, Derbyshire, described by Boyd Dawkins in 1903 (Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc.). The cave consists of a large horizontal chamber and a small passage, connected with a swallow-hole close by, and exposed in the working face of a quarry in 1901, at a depth of about 40 ft. from the surface. The locality is in the limestone plateau, 1158 ft. high, which forms the divide between the waters flowing into the Mersey on the west and the Humber on the east. Both swallow-hole and cave were completely blocked up with débris, and the latter was filled with red and yellow clay, horizontally stratified and containing pebbles of sandstone from the neighbouring ridge of Axe Edge, and bones and teeth of fossil mammals, some waterworn and others without traces of transport by water. All the mammals belong to well-known species found in the Pliocene strata of East Anglia, and in Auvergne and Italy. Among them were the sabre-toothed lion (Machairodus crenatidens), the hyena of Auvergne, the mastodon, and the southern elephant (E. meridionalis), and rhinoceros (R. Etruscus), and Steno’s horse. Most of the bones had evidently been gnawed by hyenas and accumulated in one of their dens, and had afterwards been carried by water into the chambers deep down in the rock, where they were found. Since that time the general level of the district has been lowered by denudation to an extent of more than 230 ft., and all the hyena dens destroyed with the Pliocene surface not only in this district but generally over the world. In this case a covering of limestone some 270 ft. thick, including the depth from the present surface, protected the remains from the denuding forces.
The Pleistocene Caves.—The search after ebur fossile or unicorns' horn, or in other words the fossil bones which ranked high in the materia medica of the 16th and 17th centuries, led to the discovery of the ossiferous caverns of the Harz Mountains, and of Hungary and Franconia. The famous cave of Gailenreuth in the last of these districts was explored by Goldfuss in 1810. The bones of the hyena, lion, wolf, fox and stag, which it contained, were identified by Baron Cuvier, and some of the skulls have been proved by Busk to belong to the grizzly bear. They were associated with the bones of the reindeer, horse and bison, as well as with those of the great cave bear. These discoveries were of very great interest, because they established the fact that the above animals had lived in Germany in ancient times. The first bone cave systematically explored in England was one at Oreston near Plymouth in 1816, which proved that an extinct species of rhinoceros (R. leptorhinus) lived in that district. Four years later the famous hyena den at Kirkdale in Yorkshire was explored by Buckland. He brought forward proof that it had been inhabited by hyenas, and that the broken and gnawed bones of the mammoth, rhinoceros, stag, bison and horse belonged to animals which had been dragged in for food. He pointed out that all these animals had lived in Yorkshire in ancient times, and that it was impossible for the carcases of the rhinoceros, hyena and mammoth to have been floated from tropical regions into the places where he found their bones. He subsequently investigated bone caves in Derbyshire, South Wales and Somerset, as well as in Germany, and published his Reliquiae Diluvianae in 1822, a work which laid the foundations of the new science of cavehunting in this country. The well-known cave of Kent’s Hole near Torquay furnished McEnery, between the years 1825 and 1841, with the first flint implements discovered in intimate association with the bones of extinct animals. He recognized the fact that they proved the existence of man in Devonshire while those animals were alive, but the idea was too novel to be accepted by his contemporaries. His discoveries have since been verified by the subsequent investigations carried on by Godwin Austen, and ultimately by the committee of the British Association, which worked for several years under the guidance of Pengelly. There are four distinct strata in the cave. 1st, The surface is composed of dark earth, and contains medieval remains, Roman pottery and articles which prove that it was in use during the Iron, Bronze and Neolithic Ages. 2nd, Below this is a stalagmite floor, varying in thickness from 1 to 3 ft., and covering (3rd) the red earth, which contained bones of the hyena, lion, mammoth, rhinoceros and other animals, in association with flint implements and an engraved antler, which proved man to have been an inhabitant of the cavern during the time of its deposition. 4th, Filling the bottom of the cave is a hard breccia, with the remains of bears and flint implements, in the main ruder than those found above; in some places it was no less than 12 ft. thick. The most remarkable animal found in Kent’s Hole is the sabre-toothed carnivore, Machairodus latidens of Owen. While the value of McEnery’s discoveries was in dispute the exploration of the cave of Brixham near Torquay in 1858 proved that man was coeval with the extinct mammalia, and in the following year additional proof was offered by the implements that were found in Wookey Hole. Similar remains have been met with in the caves explored since that time in Wales, and in England as far north as Derbyshire (Creswell), proving that palaeolithic man hunted the mammoth and rhinoceros and other extinct animals over the whole of southern and middle England.
The discoveries in Kent’s Hole and in the Creswell caves prove further that palaeolithic man was in two stages of civilization—the ruder or riverdrift man, with implements of the type found in the river gravels (see Archaeology; and Palaeolithic) being the older; and the more highly advanced, or the cave-man, mainly characterized by the better implements, and a singular facility in depicting animal life (as shown by the figure of a horse incised on the fragment of a bone found in the Creswell caves), being the newer. We may also conclude from the absence of palaeolithic implements from the glaciated regions in which most of these caves occur, that both riverdrift and cave-men dwelt in middle and northern Britain in the pre-glacial age, their remains being protected in the caverns from the denuding forces that removed all traces of their existence from the surface of the ground in glacial and post-glacial times. The riverdrift man is, however, proved to be post-glacial in southern and eastern England, by the occurrence of his implements in the river gravels of that age. Both these peoples inhabited southern England and the continent before and after the glacial period. The riverdrift man, whose implements occur in river deposits in middle and southern Europe, in Africa, Palestine and Hindustan, is everywhere in the same age of primitive barbarism, and has not as yet been identified with any living race. The cave-men are in a higher and more advanced stage, and led a life in Europe identical with that of the Eskimos in the Arctic regions.
The Pleistocene Caves of the European Continent.—The researches of Mortillet have proved that the same two groups of cave-dwellers occur in the caves of France, the older being represented by the Chelléen and Moustérien sections, and the newer by that of Solutré and La Madelaine. To the former belong the human remains found in the caverns of Spy and Neanderthal, which prove that the riverdrift man had “the most brutal of all known human skulls.” To the latter we must assign all the caves and rock-shelters of Périgord, with the better implements, explored by Lartet and Christy in 1863–1864 in the valleys of the Vézère and Dordogne. These offer as vivid a picture of the life of the cave-men as that revealed of Italian manners in the 1st century by the buried cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The old floors of human occupation consist of broken bones of animals killed in the chase, mingled with rude implements and weapons of bone and unpolished stone, and with charcoal and burnt stones, which indicate the position of the hearths. Flakes without number, awls, lance-heads, hammers and saws made of flint rest pêle-mêle with bone needles, sculptured reindeer antlers, arrowheads and harpoons, and bones of the reindeer, bison, horse, ibex, Saiga antelope and musk sheep. These singular accumulations of débris mark the places where the ancient hunters lived, and are merely the refuse cast aside. The reindeer formed by far the greater portion of the food, and must have lived in enormous herds at that time in the centre of France. From this, as well as from the presence of the most arctic of the herbivores, the musk sheep, we may infer the severe climate of that portion of France at that time. Besides these animals the cave bear and lion have been met with in one, and the mammoth in five localities, and their remains bear marks of cutting or scraping which showed they fell a prey to the hunters. The most remarkable remains left behind in these refuse heaps are the sculptured reindeer antlers and figures engraved on fragments of schist and on ivory. A well-defined outline of an ox stands out boldly from one piece of antler; a second represents a reindeer kneeling down in an easy attitude with his head thrown up in the air so that the antlers rest on the shoulders, and the back forms an even surface for a handle, which is too small to be grasped by an ordinary European hand; in a third a man stands close to a horse’s head, and on the other side of the same cylinder are two heads of bisons drawn with sufficient clearness to ensure recognition by any one who has seen that animal. On a fourth the natural curvature of one of the tines has been taken advantage of by the artist to engrave the head and the characteristic recurved horns of the ibex; and on a fifth horses are represented with large heads, upright dishevelled manes and shaggy ungroomed tails. The most striking figure is that of the mammoth engraved on a fragment of its own tusk; the peculiar spiral curvature of the tusk and the long mane, which are now not to be found in any living elephant, prove that the original was familiar to the eye of the artist. These drawings probably employed the idle hours of the hunter, and hand down to us the scenes which he witnessed in the chase. They are full of artistic feeling and are evidently drawn from life. The mammoth is engraved in its own ivory, and the reindeer and the stag on their respective antlers. Further researches have revealed the fact that in Auvergne and in the Pyrenees the cave-men ornamented some of their caves with incised figures and polychrome frescoes of the wild animals. Rivière has discovered on the walls of the grotto of La Mouthe (Dordogne) three large hunting scenes, one with bisons and horses, a second representing a primitive hut, a bison, reindeer, ibex and mammoth, and a third with a mammoth, hinds and horses. In the Pyrenees similar frescoes have been described by Cartailhac and Breuil. They are on the walls of the cavern and roof of Altamira, and on the walls of Marsoulas. The outlines have been engraved first, and afterwards filled in with colour in brown and red ochre and black oxide of manganese.
The cave-men ranged over middle Europe as far south as the Pyrenees and the Alps, and inhabited the caverns of Belgium and Germany, Hungary and Switzerland. Their remains have not as yet been met with in southern Europe. They lived by hunting and fishing, they were fire users, and lit up the darkness of their caves with stone lamps filled with fat (Altamira). They were clad in skins sewn together with sinews of reindeer or strips of intestines. They used huts as well as caves for habitation. They had a marvellous facility for drawing animal figures. They possessed no domestic animals, nor were they acquainted with spinning or with the potter’s art. We have no evidence that they buried their dead—the interments, such as those of Aurignac, Les Eyzies and Mentone, most probably belonging to a later age.
If these remains be compared with those of existing races, it will be found that the cave-men were in the same hunter stage of civilization as the Eskimos, and that they are unlike any other races of hunters. If they were not allied to the Eskimos by blood, there can be no doubt that they handed down to the latter their art and their manner of life. The bone needles, and many of the harpoons, as well as the flint spearheads, arrowheads and scrapers, are of precisely the same form as those now in use amongst the Eskimos. The artistic designs from the caves of France, Belgium and Switzerland, are identical in plan and workmanship with those of the Eskimos, with this difference only, that the hunting scenes familiar to the Palaeolithic cave-dwellers were not the same as those familiar to the inhabitants of the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Each represented the animals which he knew, and the whale, walrus and seal were unknown to the inland dwellers of Aquitaine, just as the mammoth, bison and wild horse are unknown to the Eskimos. The reindeer, which they both knew, is represented in the same way by both. The practice of accumulating large quantities of the bones of animals round their dwelling-places, and the habit of splitting the bones for the sake of the marrow, are the same in both. The hides were prepared with the same sort of instruments, and the needles with which they were sewn together are of the same pattern. The stone lamps were used by both. In both there was the same disregard of sepulture. All these facts can hardly be mere coincidences caused by both peoples leading a savage life under similar conditions. The conclusion, therefore, seems inevitable that, so far as we have any evidence of the race to which the cave-dwellers belong, that evidence points only in the direction of the Eskimos. It is to a considerable extent confirmed by a consideration of the animals found in the caves. The reindeer and musk sheep afford food to the Eskimos now in the Arctic Circle, just as they afforded it to the cave-men in Europe; and both these animals have been traced by their remains from the Pyrenees to the north-east through Europe and Asia as far as the very regions in which they now live. The mammoth and bison also have been tracked by their remains in the frozen river gravels and morasses through Siberia as far as the American side of Bering Strait. Palaeolithic man appeared in Europe with the arctic mammalia, lived in Europe with them, and in all human probability retreated to the north-east along with them.
There are refuse heaps in north-eastern Siberia containing the remains of the mammoth and woolly rhinoceros as well as the reindeer and musk sheep, which may be referred with equal justice to the cave-men or to the Eskimos.
Ancient Geography of Europe.—The remains of man and the animals described in the preceding paragraphs have been introduced into the caves either by man or the wild beasts, or by streams of water, which may or may not now occupy their ancient courses; and the fact that the same species are to be met with in the caves of France, Switzerland and Britain implies that our island formed part of the continent, and that there were no physical barriers to prevent their migration from the Alps as far to the north-west as Ireland.
The same conclusion may be gathered from the exploration of caves in the south of Europe, which has resulted in the discovery of African species, in Gibraltar, Sicily and Malta. In the first of these the spotted hyena, the serval and Kaffre cat lie side by side with the horse, grizzly bear and slender rhinoceros (R. leptorhinus)—see Falconer’s Palaeontographical Memoirs. To these African animals inhabiting the Iberian peninsula in the Pleistocene age, Lartet has added the African elephant and striped hyena, found in a stratum of gravel near Madrid, along with flint implements. The hippopotamus, spotted hyena and African elephant occur in the caves of Sicily, and imply that in ancient times there was a continuity of land between that spot and Africa, just as the presence of the Elephas antiquus proves the non-existence of the Straits of Messina during a portion, to say the least, of the Pleistocene age. A small species of hippopotamus (H. Pentlandi) occurs in incredible abundance in the Sicilian caves. It has also been found in those of Malta along with an extinct pigmy elephant species (E. Melitensis). It has also been discovered in Candia and in the Peloponnese. For these animals to have found their way to these regions, a continuity of land is necessary. The view advanced by Dr Falconer and Admiral Spratt, that Europe was formerly connected with Africa by a bridge of land extending southwards from Sicily, is fully borne out by these considerations. The present physical geography of the Mediterranean has been produced by a depression of land to the amount of about 400 fathoms, by which the Sicilo-African and Ibero-African barriers have been submerged, and Crete and Malta separated from the South-European continent. It is extremely probable that this submergence took place at the same time that the adjoining sea-bottom was elevated to about the same amount so as to constitute that region now known as the Sahara.
Pleistocene Caves of the Americas and Australia.—The Pleistocene caverns of the Euro-Asiatic continent contain the progenitors of the animals now alive in some parts of the Old World, the extinct forms being closely allied to those now living in the same geographical provinces. Those of Brazil and of Pennsylvania present us with animals whose nearest analogues are to be found in North and South America, such as sloths, armadillos and agoutis. Those, again, of Australia present us with marsupials (metatheria) only, allied to, or identical with, those of that most ancient continent. The extinct forms in each case are mainly those of the larger animals, which, from their large size, and low fecundity, would be specially liable to be beaten in the battle for life by their smaller and more fertile contemporaries, and less likely to survive those changes in their environment which have undoubtedly taken place in the long lapse of ages. It is, therefore, certain that the mammalian life in the Old, New and Australian worlds, was as well marked out into geographical provinces in the Pleistocene age as at the present time, and that it has been continuous in these areas from that remote time to the present day.
Prehistoric Caves of Neolithic Age in Europe.—The prehistoric caves are distinguished from Pleistocene by their containing the remains of domestic animals, and by the wild animals to which they have afforded shelter belonging to living species. They are divisible into three groups according to the traces of man which occur in them—into the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages.
The Neolithic caves are widely spread throughout Europe, and have been used as the habitations and tombs of the early races who invaded Europe from the East with their flocks and herds. The first of these systematically explored was at Perthi Chwareu, near the village of Llandegla, Denbighshire, in 1869. In the following years five others were discovered close by, as well as a second group in the neighbourhood of Cefn on the banks of the Elwy. They contained polished celts, flint flakes, rude pottery and human skeletons, along with the broken bones of the pig, dog, horse, Celtic shorthorn and goat. The remains of the wild animals belong to the wolf, fox, badger, bear, wild boar, stag, roe, hare and rabbit. Most of the bones were broken or cut, and the whole group was obviously an accumulation which resulted from these caves having been used as dwellings. They had subsequently been used for burial. The human skeletons in them were of all ages, from infancy to old age; and the interments had been successive until each became filled. The bodies were buried in the contracted posture which is so characteristic of Neolithic interments generally. The men to whom these skeletons belonged were a short race, the tallest being about 5 ft. 6 in., and the shortest 4 ft. 10 in.; their skulls are orthognathic, or not presenting jaws advancing beyond a vertical line dropped from the forehead, in shape long or oval, and of fair average capacity. The face was oval, and the cheek bones were not prominent. Some of the individuals were characterized by a peculiar flattening of the shinbone (platycnemism), which probably stood in relation to the free action of the foot that was not hampered by the use of a rigid sole or sandal. This, however, cannot be looked upon as a race character, or as a tendency towards a simian type of leg. These Neolithic cave-dwellers have been proved to be identical in physique with the builders of the cairns and tumuli which lie scattered over the face of Great Britain and Ireland. (See Thurnam, Crania Britannica.) They have also been met with abundantly in France. In the Caverne de l’Homme Mort, for example, in the department of Lozère, explored in 1871, the association of remains was of precisely the same nature as those mentioned above, and the human skeletons were of the same small type. The same class of remains has also been discovered in Gibraltar, in the caves of Windmill Hill, and some others. The human remains examined by Busk are of precisely the same type as those of Denbighshire. In the work of Don Manuel Gongora J. Martinez (Antiguedades prehistoricas de Andalusia, 1868), several interments are described in the cave of Murcielagos, which penetrates the limestone out of which the grand scenery of the southern Sierra Nevada has been to a great extent carved. In one place a group of three skeletons was met with, one of which was adorned with a plain coronet of gold, and clad in a tunic made of esparto grass finely plaited, so as to form a pattern like that on some of the gold ornaments in Etruscan tombs. In a second spot farther within, twelve skeletons formed a semicircle round one covered with a tunic of skin, and wearing a necklace of esparto grass, ear-rings of black stone, and ornaments of shell and wild boar tusk. There were other articles of plaited esparto grass, such as baskets and sandals. There were also flint flakes, polished-stone axes, implements of bone and wood, together with pottery of the same type as that from Gibraltar. The same class of remains have been discovered in the Woman’s Cave, near Alhama de Granada. From the physical identity of the human remains in all these cases it maybe inferred that in the Neolithic Age a long-headed, small race inhabited the Iberian peninsula, extending through France, as far north as Britain, and to the north-west as far as Ireland—a race considered by Professor Busk “to be at the present day represented by at any rate a part of the population now inhabiting the Basque provinces.” This identification of the ancient Neolithic cave-dwellers with the modern Basque-speaking inhabitant of the western Pyrenees is corroborated by the elaborate researches of Broca, Virchow and Thurnam on modern Basque skulls. It may, therefore, be concluded that in the Neolithic Age an Iberian population occupied the whole of the area mentioned above, inhabiting caves and burying their dead in caves and chambered tombs, and possessed of the same habits of life. The remains of the same small, oval-featured, long-headed race have been found in Belgium in the cave of Chauvaux, and they have been described by Sergi in southern Europe under the name of the Mediterranean race.
There is no evidence that any other race except the Iberic buried their dead in the caves of Britain in the Neolithic Age. In Belgium, however, the exploration of the cave of Sclaigneaux by Soreil proves that broad-headed men of the type defined by Huxley and Thurnam as brachycephalic, and characterized by high cheek-bones, projecting muscles and large stature, the average height being 5 ft. 8.4 in. (Thurnam), inhabited and buried their dead in the caves of that region. In France they occur in the sepulchral cave of Orrouy (Oise) in association with those of the Iberic type. They have also been met with in Gibraltar. This type is undistinguishable from the Celtic (Goidelic) or Gaulish, found so abundantly in the chambered tombs of the Neolithic Age in France. Both these ancient races are represented at the present day by the Basques and Aquitanians of France and Spain, and by the Celts or Gauls of France, Britain and the Mediterranean border of Spain, their relative antiquity being proved by an appeal to their history and geographical distribution. For just as the earliest records show that the Iberic power extended as far north as the Loire, and as far east as the Rhone, so we have proof of the gradual retrocession of the Iberic frontier southwards, under the attacks of the successive Celtic hordes, until ultimately we find the latter in possession of a considerable part of southern Spain, forming by their union with the conquered the powerful nation of Celt-Iberi. The Iberians were in possession of the continent before they were dispossessed by the Goidels, and at a later time by the Brythons. They are recognized by Tacitus in Britain in the Silures of Wales; and they are still to be seen in the small, dark, lithe inhabitants of North Wales. The discovery of the characteristic skulls of both these races in the same family vault in the cave of Gop near Prestatyn, Flintshire, proves that the two races were mingled together in Britain as far back as the Bronze Age.
From the present distribution of this non-Aryan race it is obvious that they were gradually pushed back westward by the advance of tribes coming from the East, and following those routes which were subsequently taken by the Low and High Germans.
The exploration of the Grotta dei Colombi, in the island of Palmaria, overlooking the Gulf of Spezzia, in 1873, proves that the stories scattered through the classical writers, that the caves on the Mediterranean shores were inhabited by cannibals, are not altogether without foundation. In it broken and cut bones of children and young adults were found along with those of the goat, hog, fox, wolf, wild-cat, flint flakes, bone implements and shells perforated for suspension.
Prehistoric Caves of Bronze and Iron Ages.—The extreme rarity of articles of bronze in the European caves implies that they were rarely used by the Bronze folk for habitation or burial. Bronze weapons mingled with gold ornaments have, however, been discovered in the Heatheryburn cave near Stanhope, Durham, as well as in those of Kirkhead in Cartmell, in Thor’s cave in Staffordshire, and the Cat Hole in Gower in Glamorganshire. In the Iberian peninsula the cave of Cesareda, explored by Signor Delgado, in the valley of the Tagus, contained bronze articles, associated with broken and cut human bones, as well as those of domestic animals, rendering it probable that cannibalism was practised in early times in that region. Busk believes, however, that the facts are insufficient to support the charge of cannibalism against the ancient Portuguese.
Caves containing articles of iron, and therefore belonging to that division of the prehistoric age, are so unimportant that they do not deserve notice in this place. As man increased in civilization he preferred to live in houses of his own building, and he no longer buried his dead in the natural sepulchres provided for him in the rock.
Prehistoric caves have been rarely explored in extra-European areas. Among those which abound in Palestine, one in Mount Lebanon, examined by Canon Tristram, contained flint implements along with charcoal and broken bones and teeth, some of which may be referred to a small ox, undistinguishable from the small short-horn, Bos longifrons. In North America the remains found by F. W. Putnam in the caves of Kentucky, consisting of moccasins, rudely-plaited cloth, and other articles, may be referred to the same division.
Historic Caves in Britain.—The historic caves have only attracted notice in fairly recent years, and in Britain alone, principally through the labours of the Settle Cave Committee from the year 1869 to the present day. To them is due the exploration of the Victoria cave, which had been discovered and partially investigated as early as the year 1838. It consists of three large ill-defined chambers opening on the face of the cliff, 1450 ft. above the sea, and filled with debris very nearly up to the roof. It presented three distinct eras of occupation—one by hyenas, which dragged into it rhinoceroses, bisons, mammoths, horses, reindeer and bears. This was defined from the next occupation, which is probably of the Neolithic Age, by a layer of grey clay, on the surface of which rested a bone harpoon and a few flint flakes and bones. Then after an interval of débris at the entrance was a layer of charcoal, broken bones, fragments of old hearths, and numerous instruments of savage life associated with broken pottery, Roman coins, and the rude British imitations of them, various articles of iron, and elaborate personal ornaments, which implied a considerable development of the arts. The evidence of the coins stamps the date of the occupation of the cave to be between the first half of the 5th century and the English conquest. Some of the brooches present a peculiar flamboyant and spiral pattern in relief, of the same character as the art of some of the illuminated manuscripts, as for example one of the Anglo-Saxon gospels at Stockholm, and of the gospels of St Columban in Trinity College, Dublin. It is mostly allied to that work which is termed by Franks late Celtic. From its localization in Britain and Ireland, it seems to be probable that it is of Celtic derivation; and if this view be accepted, there is nothing at all extraordinary in its being recognized in the illuminated Irish gospels. Ireland, in the 6th and 7th centuries, was the great centre of art, civilization and literature; and it is only reasonable to suppose that there would be intercourse between the Irish Christians and those of the west of Britain, during the time that the Romano-Celts, or Brit-Welsh, were being slowly pushed westwards by the heathen English invader. Proof of such an intercourse we find in the brief notice of the Annales Cambriae, in which Gildas, the Brit-Welsh historian, is stated to have sailed over to Ireland in the year a.d. 565. It is by no means improbable that about this time there was a Brit-Welsh migration into Ireland, as well as into Brittany. Objects with these designs found in Germany are probably directly or indirectly due to the Irish missionaries, who spread Christianity through those regions. The early Christian art in Ireland grew out of the late Celtic, and is to a great extent free from the influence of Rome, which is stamped on the Brit-Welsh art of the same age in this country.
Several other ornaments with enamel deserve especial notice. The enamel, composed of red, blue and yellow, has been inserted into the hollows in the bronze, and then heated so as to form a close union with it. They are of the same design as those which have been met with in late Roman tumuli in this country, and in places which are mainly in the north. They all belong to a class named late Celtic by Franks, and are considered by him to be of British manufacture. This view is supported by the only of enamelling furnished by the classical writers. Philostratus, a Greek sophist in the court of Julia Domna, the wife of the emperor Severus, writes, “It is said that the barbarians living in the ocean pour these colours (those of horse-trappings) on heated bronze, and that these adhere, grow as hard as stone, and preserve the designs that are made in them.” It is worthy of remark that, since the emperor Severus built the wall which bears his name, marched in person against the Caledonians, and died at York, the account of the enamels may have reached Philostratus from the very district in which the Victoria Cave is situated.
Associated with these were bronze ornaments inlaid with silver, and miscellaneous iron articles, among which was a Roman key. Remains of this kind have been met with in the Albert and Kelko caves in the neighbourhood, in that of Dowkerbottom near Arncliffe, in that of Kirkhead on the northern shore of Morecambe Bay, in Poole’s Cavern near Buxton, and in Thor’s Cave near Ashbourne, and over a wide area ranging from Yorkshire and the Lake district southwards into Somerset and Devon.
List of Principal Animals and Objects found in Brit-Welsh Strata in Caves.
|Canis familiaris. Dog||×||×||×||×||×||?|
|Sus scrofa. Pig||×||×||×||×||×||?|
|Equus caballus. Horse||×||×||×||×||×||?|
|Bos longifrons. Celtic short-horn||×||×||×||×||×||?|
|Capra hircus. Goat||×||×||×||×||×||?|
|Canis vulpes. Fox||×||..||×||×||×||?|
|Meles taxus. Badger||×||..||×||..||..||×|
|Cervus elaphus. Stag||×||..||×||×||×||?|
|Cervus capreolus. Roe||×||..||×||×||..||?|
Roman coins, or imitations
|Enamelled ornaments, in bronze||×||×||×||×||..||..|
|Bronze ornaments, inlaid with silver||×||×||×||..||×||..|
|Bone spoon fibulae||×||×||×||..||..||..|
It is obvious in all these cases that men accustomed to luxury and refinement were compelled, by the pressure of some great calamity, to flee for refuge to caves with whatever they could transport thither of their property. The number of spindle-whorls and personal ornaments imply that they were accompanied by their families. We may also infer that they were cut off from the civilization to which they had been accustomed, because in some cases they extemporized spindle-whorls out of fragments of Samian ware, instead of using those which were expressly manufactured for the purpose. Why the caves were inhabited is satisfactorily explained by an appeal to contemporary history. In the pages of Gildas, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and in the Annales Cambriae, we have a graphic picture of that long war of invasion by which the inhabitants of the old Roman province of Britannia were driven back by the Jutes, Angles and Saxons, who crossed over with their families and household stuff. Slowly, and in the chances of a war which extended through three centuries, they were gradually pushed back into Cumberland, Wales and West Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. While this war was going on the coinage became debased and Roman coins afforded the patterns for the small bronze minimi, which are to be met with equally in these caves and in the ruins of Roman cities. As the tide of war rolled to the west, the English tongue and, until towards the close of the struggle, the worship of Thor and Odin supplanted the British tongue and the Christian faith, and a rude barbarism replaced what was left of the Roman civilization in the island. It is to this period that relics of this kind in the caves must be assigned. They are traces of the anarchy of those times, and complete the picture of the desolation of Britain, revealed by the ashes of the cities and villas that were burnt by the invader. They prove that the vivid account given by Gildas of the straits to which his countrymen were reduced was literally true.
The shrines of Zeus in the Idaean and Dictaean caves have been explored by Halbher and Orsi (Antichità dell’ antro de Zeus Ideo) and by Arthur Evans and Hogarth (Journal of Hellenic Studies). These discoveries prove that the cult of Zeus began among the Mycenaean peoples some 2000 years b.c. according to Evans, and was practised far down into the later Greek times. They show that the Greeks are indebted to the Mycenaean peoples not only for their art, but for the chief of their divinities.
Authorities.—1. Britain: Boyd Dawkins, Cave-hunting (1874); Early Man (1880); Mattel, Irlande et cavernes anglaises (1897); Buckland, Reliquiae Diluvianae (1821); Brit. Assoc. Reports (1860–1875); Journ. Anthrop. Inst. (1870–1876); Quart. Geol. Journ. (1860–1875); Pengelly, Trans. Devonshire Association. 2. The European Continent: Martel, Les Abîmes (1894); Cartailhac and Breuil, L’Anthropologie, xv., xvi.; Lartet and Christy, Reliquiae Aquitanicae; Internat. Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology; Marcel de Serres, Les Ossemens fossiles de Lunel Viel; Dupont, L’Homme pendant les âges de la pierre dans les environs de Dinant-sur-Meuse; Schmerling, Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles découverts dans les cavernes de Liége; Merk, Excavations at Kesserloch, transl. J. E. Lee (1876). For the chief American caves, see Luray Cavern, Mammoth Cave, Wyandotte Cave, Colossal Cavern, Jacob’s Cavern. (W. B. D.)