CPAT Regional Historic Environment Record
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Pontnewydd Cave

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 102132
Trust : Clwyd Powys
Community : Cefnmeiriadog
Unitary authority : Denbighshire
NGR : SJ01527102
Site Type (preferred type first) : Palaeolithic Cave occupation
Status : scheduled monument

Description :
Cave previously explored by Boyd Dawkins. Recent excavations by S Green (NMW) (PRN 39919) has revealed evidence of human occupation dating back in excess of 128000 years. Probably Neanderthal man present also. Excavations continue.

Artefact-rich debris flows examined in 1984. Also new and undisturbed entrance located. Artefacts included hand axes, discoidal cores, Levallois flakes, scrapers and struck flakes. 1985 season produced first hominid find of unworn molar from immature individual, perhaps from 8 to 12 years old, found in previous seasons (Green, S 1985, 25-6).

1987 Excavations focussed on new entrance and deposits in cave. Entrance deposits 6m deep, palaeolithic artefact-bearing levels at base (Green, S 1987, 39).

Cave occupied 250,000 years ago by populations of Neanderthal lineage. Stone implements, animal and human bones found. Fauna include deer, bison, rhinoceros, horse, wolf, fox, hare and bird bones. Bones from adult and three children also found (Green, S 1988, 51-2).

Scheduling revised 24/8/90.

Finds in NMW. Lithic numbers taken only from first report (Green 1984). (CPAT Lithics, 2001)

Brick structures at the entrance were apparently created to act as an ammunition store in WW2. The cave is as described by previous sources. Apparently some in-situ deposits survive below ground but this was not checked, although the access doors to the interior were open. The degree of past excavation at the entrance to the site is not now readily apparent, but can be readily seen on old site photographs. (Caves Scheduling Enhancement Project, CPAT site visit 11/2/2009)

There is an extensive literature on this cave for which see Chamberlain & Williams 2000.

Initially excavated by Boyd Dawkins, Mrs Williams-Wynn and the Rev D R Thomas, who recovered various mammal bones, subsequently by the Rev Thomas and Prof. Hughes who recovered stone implements and a human tooth (Dawkins 1874, 287). The finds described by Prof. McKenny Hughes (Hughes, 1887) are apparently in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge. (Oldham, 1991, 3)

Ebbs' website provide the following information:
An entrance about 3m wide and 2m high leads through two doors to a single passage running east into the hill. A trench in the main passage and several short passages on the right have been excavated. The most easterly of these passages leads to a new second entrance (not shown on plan above). The cave is walled and securely gated. Despite being designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1923, the cave was requisitioned for wartime use in 1940. The floor was levelled for the placement of duck boards, upon which were stored land-mines and depth charges. An inner and outer wall built into the entrance, created a guard chamber once equipped with a coke stove. Source: Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves (2012).

It was originally excavated by T. McKenny Hughes and Rev. D.R. Thomas in 1871 who found amongst the animal bones, remains of cave bear, grizzly bear and rhinoceros. It was subsequently excavated by Boyd-Dawkins, author of Cave Hunting, in 1874, who paid labourers by the ton excavated. Despite this, he still managed to find the only evidence at that time of Palaeolithic man in North Wales. A major dig between 1978 and 1995 by the National Museum of Wales proved the human remains to be 225,000 years old. The cave is the most northerly of only two such sites in Britain. Remains of an adult and two children were found. As a bonus, the Boyd-Dawkins waste tips were re-examined and found to contain various items of interest including several stone hand-axes. Other remains include bones of lion, rhino, bison and bear. (, accessed December 2014) (Hankinson, 2015).

Sources :
Grimes, W F , 1951 , Prehistory of Wales
Green, S , 1988 , Pontnewydd , Archaeology in Wales : 28 : 51-2
Green, S , 1987 , Pontnewydd Cave , Archaeology in Wales : 27 : 39
Davies, E , 1929 , The Prehistoric and Roman remains of Denbighshire
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales , 1914 , Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire - IV County of Denbigh
Green, S , 1985 , Pontnewydd Cave , Archaeology in Wales : 25 : 25-6
Green, H S et al , 1981 , Pontnewydd Cave in Wales - a new Middle Pleistocene hominid site , Nature : 294 : 707-13
Green, H S & Currant, A P , 1982 , Early Man in Wales: Pontnewydd Cave (Clwyd) and its Pleistocene Fauna , Nature in Wales : 1 : 40-3
Unknown , 1874 , title unknown - Bontnewydd Cave
Green, H S , 1978 , Excavations at Pontnewydd Cave, St Asaph , Archaeology in Clwyd : 1 : 10
Green, H S , 1983 , Excavations at Pontnewydd and Cefn Caves , Archaeology in Clwyd : 6 : 1
Green, H S , 1981 , Excavations at Pontnewydd Cave, St Asaph , Archaeology in Clwyd : 4 : 2
Green, H S , 1980 , Excavations at Pontnewydd Cave, St Asaph , Archaeology in Clwyd : 3 : 6
Green, H S , 1984 , Pontnewydd Cave, a lower palaeolithic hominid site in Wales: 1st report
Hughes, T M , 1887 , On the drifts of the vale of Clywd and their relation to the caves and cave deposits , Journal of the Geological Society of London : 43 : 73-120
Jacobi, R M , 1980 , The upper palaeolithic of Britain with special reference to Wales
Stanley, E , 1832 , Memoir on a cave at Cefn in Denbighshire , Journal of the Geological Society of London? : 14 : 40-53
Valdemar, A E , 1970 , A new assessment of the occupation of the Cefn caves in relation to the Pont Newydd cave , Transactions of the Cave Research Group of Great Britain : 12 : 109-12
Livingston, H J , 1985 , Glaciers, lakes and the elwy valley , Archaeology in Clwyd : 7 : 6-7
Hicks, H , 1886 , Results of some recent researches in some bone caves in North Wales , Journal of the Geological Society of London : 42 : 3-11
Valdemar, A E & Jones, R D , 1970 , An initial report on the archaeological and palaeontological caves and rock shelters in North Wales , Transactions of the Cave Research Group of Great Britain : 12 : 99-107
Green, H S , 1981 , The First Welshman: excavations at Pontnewydd , Antiquity : 55 : 184-95
Burnham, H , 1995 , A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys
Green, H S , 1986 , The Palaeolithic settlement of Wales research project: a review of progress 1978-85
Green, H S & Walker, E , 1991 , Ice Age Hunters and Early Modern Hunters in Wales
Green, H S et al , 1989 , Le site Acheuleen de la Grotte de Pontnewydd, Pas de Galles
Aldhouse-Green, S et al , 1996 , Holocene humans at Pontnewydd and Cae Gronw caves , Antiquity : 70 : 444-447
Gibson, A M , 1996 , Proposed Cefn Meiriadog Watermains Refurbishment: archaeological assessment ( © CPAT)
Davies, J , 1999 , The Making of Wales
Cadw , 1985 , Cadw Field Monument Wardens Report - De116(DEN)
Cadw , 2003 , Cadw Field Monument Wardens Report - De116(DEN)
Cadw , 1990 , Scheduling map - De116(DEN)
Ordnance Survey , 1959 , OS record card SJ 07 SW 14
Clwyd Archaeology Service , Photograph of Bontnewydd Cave
Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust , 2002 , CPAT Project Archive - lithics
Clwyd Archaeology Service , 1979 , title unknown - Bontnewydd Cave
Denbighshire Free Press , 1998 , title unknown - Bontnewydd Cave
National Museum of Wales , 1994 , Correpondence - Bontnewydd Cave
National Museum of Wales , 1981 , title unknown - Bontnewydd Cave
Silvester, R J & Owen, W J , 2002 , Early Prehistoric Settlement in Mid and North-East Wales: the Lithic Evidence ( © CPAT)
Dyfed Archaeological Trust , nd , Tiroedd coll ein cyndadau/The lost lands of our ancestors
Hankinson, R , 2015 , Caves of North-East Wales: Archaeological Assessment 2014-15 ( © CPAT)
Chamberlain, A 1996 - C14 date

Events :
39919 : Bontnewydd Cave, excavation 1984ff (year : 1984)
35000 : Cefn Merriadog Watermains, assessment 1996 (year : 1996)
37598 : Bontnewydd Cave, excavation C19th (year : C19th)
113237 : Early Prehistoric Settlement in Mid and North East Wales: The Lithic Evidence, desk-based assessment 2002 (year : 2002)
113485 : Caves, assessment project 2009 (year : 2009)
132573 : Caves Scheduling Enhancement Programme follow up 2014-17 (year : 2014-17)
130439 : Caves Scheduling Enhancement Programme follow up, desk based assessment 2014-15 (year : 2014-15)

Related PRNs :

Compiled date : 30-06-1986

Images :

Archaeological data, from the Historic Environment Record, supplied by The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust in partnership with Local Authorities, Cadw and the partners of ENDEX © CPAT, 2017 (and in part © Crown, 2017). It is intended to be used for private research only and is not for use as part of commercial projects. If you wish to use this information for publication in printed or multimedia form or to compile resources for commercial use, prior permission must be obtained in writing. Use of this information is subject to the terms and conditions of access to HER data published on CPAT's website. Please contact the HER if you have any further questions regarding this information. Please quote the Primary Reference Numbers (PRNs) in any correspondence.

June 24, 2017, 12:24 pm - File produced for Archwilio from CPAT's Regional HER.
Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys SY21 7RR.
tel (01938) 553670, fax (01938) 552179, website

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