Cave situated on the steep north slope of High Wheeldon Hill consisting of a passage opening out into several chambers (Entrance, First and Main), and a second deeper series including the Bear Chamber. The entrance passage and upper chamber are the main areas of archaeological interest. The cave was excavated in 1928-29, and again between 1961 and 1981 revealing Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Beaker, Bronze Age and Roman material. The cave was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1991.
Identification Images (0)
- CAVE (Lower Palaeolithic to Roman - 500000 BC to 409 AD)
- FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
- FINDSPOT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
- HUMAN REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
- ROCK ART (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
Fox Hole Cave is situated on the steep north slope of High Wheeldon Hill, less than 30m below the summit and approximately 100m below the current valley floor. The cave consists of a passage opening out into several chambers (Entrance, First and Main), and a second deeper series including the Bear Chamber. The entrance passage and upper chamber are the main areas of archaeological interest.
(1) An area around the cave entrance was excavated in 1928-29 by the Rev S.G.B. Birks and Mr. B.S. Furneaux after a dog had to be rescued, after going to ground, and the extensive cave system was revealed. The cave was also excavated by D. Bramwell and the Peakland Archaeological Society between 1961 and 1981 (Peakland Archaeological Society Bulletins vols. 15-30 & 32; DAJ 91: p.1-19). The excavations produced Mesolithic, Neolithic, Beaker, Bronze Age and Roman material, but it is the cave's Palaeolithic context that makes it of particular interest. The Finds Archive is probably held at Buxton Museum.
Later Upper Palaeolithic artefacts of flint and antler have been found in association with charcoal, denoting a hearth, and the bones of bear, horse and red deer, split and therefore indicating human activity. Two recent radiocarbon dates of c.12000BP (Before Present) have been obtained from antler spearpoints from the cave.
Mesolithic occupation was represented by a microlith found on the trip during the course of the Peakland Archaeological Society excavations (the object is now in Buxton Museum). At least one other microlith was found at the entrance to the cave in 1929. Animal bone from this period includes red and roe deer and bird bones.
A number of features and associated sherds of Peterborough ware and grooved ware indicate Neolithic occupation of the cave. Hart (1984:41) mentions the discovery of disarticulated human bones from this period. A small greestone polished axe was also found, which is similar to those from the Great langdale axe factory (see Moore & Cummins, 1974: 69).
The Derbyshire SMR states that fairly extensive Beaker period occupation was in the first chamber of the cave by quantities indicated of flint (including scrapers), Beaker pottery and worked bone (see Vine 1982, figs 372-376). Beaker pottery was also found in the mouth of the cave in 1928-9.
One or two sherds of possibly bronze age date come from the recent excavations. Cereal pollen, though to be of this period, came from a pit in the first chamber.
Evidence for Roman occupation, particularly at the entrance to the cave, was found during the excavations. Roman pottery and a late Roman bronze armlet were recovered.
Many suggest ritual activity rather than habitation. It is not clear if the relatively large numbers of bear bones found with these depositis were associated with rituals, or whether bears lived in the cave.
(2) The cave was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1991 and the scheduling includes all the deposits within the cave, and includes the flat area outside the cave entrance,(Scheduled Entry Copy Mon. No. SMI3242, English Heritage 29.01.91). The Palaeolithic caves of Derbyshire form an important regional grouping of which Fox Hole Cave is a significant example owing to the well- preserved organic artefacts and the survival of in situ deposits. It is also one of the few northern sites where human activity can be directly dated to the Late Glacial interstadial.
(4) In September 2016 Anne Teather and Andrew Chamberlain from the University of Manchester visited Fox Hole Cave (as well as Darfar Ridge Cave - NTSMR 60064) to assess some reported rock art. The art at Fox Hole consists of two incised lines that commence as parallel lines but appear to converge upwards to a point around 15cm above the base of the motif, and is located at a junction of passages. Although the art at Fox Hole is a very simple design, and so parallels to the motif are wider and more challenging to assess, it was confirmed that the lines appear to be deiberate in their execution and have some resemblance to Neolithic scratched art on building stones at the Neolithic settlements of Skara Brae and the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney (Thomas, 2016: 107, 148). The radiocarbon dates on human skeletal remains from Fox Hole Cave also confirm that the cave was used for burial at the start of the Neolithic period (source: SNA67357).
- SNA66471 - Scheduling record: Historic England. National Heritage List of England. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1011922.
- SNA66976 - Article in serial: Bramwell, D.. 1971. Excavations at Fox Hole Cave, High Wheeldon: 1961-1970. DAJ 91; pp.1-19.
- SNA67357 - Document: Anne Teather and Andrew Chamberlain. 2018. A report on Rock Art present in Fox Hole Cave and Darfar Ridge Cave.
- SZE12975 - Photograph - colour: 01/10/1985. Fox Hole Cave, High Wheeldon, South Peak Estate. 13.
- SZE17391 - Photograph - colour: 01/10/1985. Fox Hole Cave, General View, High Wheeldon, South Peak Estate. 15.
- SZE25725 - Photograph - colour: 01/10/1985. Fox Hole Cave, General View, High Wheeldon, South Peak Estate. 16.
- SZE3253 - Unpublished document: Beamish, H. & Smith, L. (National Trust). 1985. National Trust Archaeological Survey: The South Peak Estate. p.101-105.
- SZE37002 - Photograph - colour: 01/10/1985. Fox Hole Cave, High Wheeldon, South Peak Estate. 14.
- SZE6607 - Unpublished document: J Malley, S L Rix. 1992. Corrrespondence re: Foxhole Cave - Door.
- SZE669 - Collection: National Trust. The National Trust Sites and Monuments Record Data Input Forms - High Wheeldon, South Peak Estate.
- SZE7141 - Collection: National Trust. The National Trust Archaeological Survey Sites and Monuments Record Data Prinouts - High Wheeldon, S.
- SZE8589 - Unpublished document: J Barnatt. 1993. High Wheeldon, Hartington Middle Quarter, Archaeological Survey.
Other Statuses and References
- HER/SMR Reference (External): 6801
- National Monuments Record Reference: SK06NE7
- National Park
- Site of Special Scientific Interest (Geological)
- ENA1105 - Archaeological Intervention, Excavation of Fox Hole Cave near High Wheeldon (1928-29) (Ref: 6796)
- ENA1109 - Archaeological Intervention, Excavation of Fox Hole Cave near High Wheeldon (1961-1970) (Ref: 18242)
- ENA1110 - Archaeological Intervention, Excavation of Fox Hole Cave near High Wheeldon (Ref: 6792)
- ENA8480 - Field Survey, NT Archaeological Survey of High Wheeldon, White Peak
- Related to: Darfar Ridge Cave to the south-east of Wetton Mill, Hamps & Manifold Valleys (Monument) - 60064 / MNA164227