CPAT Regional Historic Environment Record
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Cefn Cave (formerly Cefn caves multiple)

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 19306
Trust : Clwyd Powys
Community : Cefnmeiriadog
Unitary authority : Denbighshire
NGR : SJ02057052
Site Type (preferred type first) : MULTIPERIOD CAVE OCCUPATION
Status : scheduled monument

Description :
Multiple site: Cefn Caves. See PRNs 102137, 102138, 102135. Probably only one (PRN 102135) has been excavated.

CPAT 2009:
This record is an overall reference to the upper three cave entrances recorded in the Cefn Rocks, all of which (PRNs 102135, 102137 and 102138) interconnect to form a single system (see detailed survey in Oldham 1991, 13).

Exploration and excavation commenced in the 1830s and is first described by the Rev E Stanley in 1833. Early finds included four flint flakes and pottery, together with human and apparently Pleistocene mammal bone. The presence of boulder clay pebbles and waterworn bone suggested that the deposits had been brought into the cave by the action of water (Dawkins 1874, 286).

The human bone and flint flakes are described as originating from the 'lower' entrance by Dawkins (1874, 159 and 286), probably referring to PRN 102135, although the possibility that some material originated from cave PRN 102136, nearby, cannot be dismissed. A late Upper Palaeolithic Creswellian point is recorded from an excavation, and noted by Campbell (1977). (Davies 1989, 100)

The finds from the 1830s excavations are now apparently in both the Grosvenor Museum, Chester and the National Museum Wales, Cardiff. (Oldham, 1991, 12). Other finds in Chester and Liverpool museums, and also in private hands (Cullingford 1962, 337).

There is an extensive literature on this group of caves for which see Chamberlain & Williams 2000.

The W entrance is one of three whose passages interconnect underground, this being the first to be discovered and facing W towards Dolben outdoor activity centre on the opposite side of the valley. This entrance is situated at the rear of a ledge with near vertical rock faces above and below, its present appearance suggesting that it would have provided good shelter. It is unknown whether any deposits survive on the shelf outside the entrance, but it seems likely that this area is the 'lower entrance' mentioned by Dawkins (1874, 286), from which the flints and human bone were recovered. The other two entrances (PRNs 102137 and 102138) both appear to have been partially dug out, and this is confirmed by Dawkins (1874, 286) who describes them as having been 'completely blocked up with red silt, containing a vast quantity of bones in very bad preservation'. These other entrances face SSW and S.

In the interior, there are places where steps have been created to aid access, and it seems evident that the passages were used by visitors, probably in the 19th century, whose access was facilitated by a number of contouring tracks that can still be identified on the hillside. The site is used occasionally by the outdoor centre, but there seems to be no real impact as the floor is hard and quite stable. Its passages were formed during an early phase of the downcutting of the Elwy gorge and probably reflect fossil remnants of the old underground flow of the river. (Caves Scheduling Enhancement Project, CPAT site visit 11/2/2009)

Information from Ebbs is as follows:
Archaeological cave, length 220m. Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument DE115, the designated area encompasses the three entrances of Cefn Cave and Old Cefn Cave, the large cave nearer to river level below Cefn Cave. Three entrances give access to a series of large walking-sized passages. Much of the cave was cleared of infill in the search for bones from 1830 onwards. Finds include, hominin, mammoth, hippo, cave bear, lion and also flint flakes, worked antler and pottery. The National Museum of Wales carried out small-scale work at the cave in 1982-84. The oldest floor deposits have been dated to nearly 230,000 years (see also Pontnewydd Cave nearby). Once inhabited in the 1750s by a 'mysterious hermit' who lived in the entrance passage when it was only 20 feet long. The cave was visited by Charles Darwin in 1831 (then aged 22) with Adam Sedgewick (geologist). Later that year Darwin accepted his famous passage aboard the Beagle.
Excavated 1866 by T.J.Moore, curator of Liverpool City Museum.
Excavated 1869-70 by landowner, Mr Williams Wynn.
Excavated 1872 by William Boyd Dawkins.
Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1923.
Source: Neanderthals in Wales (2012)
(, accessed December 2014)

Ebbs does not specify the exact location of these entrances but has produced a location plan and an annotated satellite image. According to the plan produced by Ebbs (based on surveys by Bryn Ellis and others in 1966 and a survey by the National Museum of Wales in 1991), the three entrances are the Western entrance, described as the main entrance, which faces south-west, the southern entrance facing south-south-east and the eastern entrance facing east-south-east.

The original HER records are as follows:
PRN 102135 Cefn cave III
PRN 102137 Cefn cave I
PRN 102138 Cefn cave II

To avoid any further confusion, these have been changed by CPAT to:
PRN 102135 Cefn Cave Western Entrance
PRN 102137 Cefn Cave Southern Entrance
PRN 102138 Cefn Cave Eastern Entrance

Documentary sources suggest that the finds from this cave are certainly prehistoric and perhaps as early as the Palaeolithic. This record name has been changed from Cefn caves (multiple) to Cefn Cave to reflect the fact that it is actually one cave with three entrances. This is not to be confused with Cefn Old Cave (PRN 1022136). (MB 11/12/14). (Hankinson, 2015)

Sources :
Anon , 1921 , title unknown - Cefn caves (multiple)
Anon , 1947 , title unknown - Cefn caves (multiple)
Boyd Dawkins, W , 1874 , Cave Hunting
Cadw , 1990 , Scheduling map - De115(DEN)
Cadw , 2003 , Cadw Field Monument Wardens Report - De115(DEN)
Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust , 2009 , Site visit record - PRN 19306 ( © )
Davies, E , 1929 , The Prehistoric and Roman remains of Denbighshire
Dyfed Archaeological Trust , nd , Tiroedd coll ein cyndadau/The lost lands of our ancestors
Ffoulkes, W W , 1872 , On the discovery of platycnemic men in Denbighshire, and notes on their remains , Archaeologia Cambrensis : 3 : 22-32
Green, H S , 1983 , Excavations at Pontnewydd and Cefn Caves , Archaeology in Clwyd : 6 : 1
Green, H S , 1986 , The Palaeolithic settlement of Wales research project: a review of progress 1978-85
Hankinson, R , 2015 , Caves of North-East Wales: Archaeological Assessment 2014-15 ( © CPAT)
Hankinson, R & Silvester, R J , 2009 , Caves. The Scheduling Enhancement Programme ( © CPAT)
National Museum of Wales , 1994 , Correpondence - Cefn caves (multiple)
Stanley, E , 1833 , Memoir on a cave at Cefn in Denbighshire , Edinburgh New Philisophical Journal : 14 : 40-3
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
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

Events :
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 : 19306

Compiled date : 07-10-1994

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, 2019 (and in part © Crown, 2019). 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.

March 25, 2019, 3:30 am - 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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