Late Upper Palaeolithic (8,000 BC)



Victoria Cave Harpoon


Victoria Cave Harpoon

Bone harpoon,

Victoria Cave, Settle, N.Yorks.

Late Upper Palaeolithic (8,000 BC)

The sands and gravels of southern Lancashire and Cheshire were deposited after 28000 BC and it seems likely that the retreating ice freed virtually all of northern England, apart from the Lake District and some parts of the adjacent high Pennines by about 10000 BC.

We know that Scandinavian Ice perhaps 50 miles off the present east coast deflected the ice which flowed down Teesdale around Flamborough Head where it and other materials built up Holderness. Once that ice began to melt, the lake which covered the Vale of York was able to flow down the Humber.

Unlike the caves in southern England or even those in the Cresswell Gorge area which were south of the last (Devensian) ice front, Victoria, Jubilee, Dowkerbottom and Gaping Ghyll were close to the top of the ice mass while other caves were completely buried. Though the ice wasted away locally and was replaced by tundra conditions it still existed further north and generated a high pressure feeding continously freezing winds. These blasted the north of England so that the early exploratory hunting groups of the Late Upper Palaeolithic period would have been grateful for the cave’s shelter.

Formerly discussion about the harpoons and other early projectile points from the caves was limited to comparing their shapes with others from France or Germany. But we now have a list of published C14 dates for the more important finds. As the illustration attempts to show, the grooved and zigzag-decorated harpoon was probably mounted with two similar points to make a fish spear or bird lance. That point is now dated to 8270+/-110 BC, while two pieces of reindeer, also from Victoria Cave, have given dates of 9020+/-120BC and 9640+/-130BC.