Worms Head Cave - Worms Head, South West Gower Properties (Rhossili - Mewslade)

Record ID:  89353 / MNA133160
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: None Recorded
NT Property:  Gower; Wales
Civil Parish:  Rhossili; Abertawe - Swansea
Grid Reference:  SS 3837 8769
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Summary

The cave which can only be approached with difficulty lies in the western tip of Worms head above high water. Three excavations have revealed fragmentary human jaw bones and teeth, flint flakes, two quartz implements, a crystal object, a sling stone and animal bones.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • CAVE (Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • FLINT SCATTER (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)

Description

cave which can only be approached with difficulty lies in the western tip of Worms head at about 5m above high water. The entrance passage which is 8.2m long, narrowing from 3.7m to 1.0m in width leads to a chamber roughly 6m square with an offshoot about 7m long and at most 2m wide from the south eastern corner. There have been three excavations, the first sometime prior to 1917, the second in 1923 (Glamorgan Inventory Vol 1 (1), p15, No1) and the third in 1981 (Davies 1981 p25) though only the last two have been recorded in detail. Finds included fragmentary human jaw bones and teeth, flint flakes, two quartz implements, a crystal object, a sling stone and animal bones. Pleistocene fauna from the first excavation is in the R.I.S.W. Museum but although the second excavation is described in the R.I.S.W. report for 1923-24 (p20-25) C.H. Houlder for the R.F.A.H.M. could not locate them in 1970. There is however, some suggestion that they may be in the Pitt Rivers Museum (N.M.R. Files Glamorgan 30 NW). The finds from the third excavation are in the N.C.C. centre at Oxwich.

2003/4 survey
A large cave on the western tip of Worms Head, approached with difficulty and not visited during this survey. The main entrance is c3m high, 2m wide. The entrance passage is 8.2m long, narrowing from 3.7m to 1m, opening into a chamber c6m square with a clay floored passage leading to a 2nd chamber. The existence of this cave was reported as early as the C16th by Leland, antiquarian to Henry VIII who mentioned a "Hole at the Poynt of Worme heade, but few dare enter it, and Men fable there that a Dore within the spatius Hole hathe be sene with great Nayles on it", also claiming that an underground passage with "spatius waulles" linked with a cave near Gwendraoth Fach in Carmarthenshire.

The cave has been excavated 3 times. The 1st was sometime prior to 1917, undertaken by E.C.Cunnington, but not recorded in detail. Pleistocene fauna from this excavation was reported in the RISW records in 1923-4, although they could not be located in 1970, there was some suggestion they may be in the Pitt Rivers museum. The fauna included wolf, hyena, mammoth and rhinoceros.

The 2nd excavation was carried out in the southern arm in 1923 by Riches an Northwood. They reported scattered finds all at a fairly consistent depth embedded in a clay fill 6-8 inches above the original cave floor. The finds included part of a human jawbone and teeth, flints, a curious 'crystal article' whose function was unclear, a quartz slingstone and animal bones, all deposited at Swansea Museum (RISW). Boyd Dawkins and Jackson stated that these remains represented 'the Pleistocene and Neolithic periods and the Period of Alluvium'. The bones apparently included bear, badger, wolf, dog, wild cat and reindeer.

M Davies carried out a series of investigations and visits to the site in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1st chamber he reported the sediment as boulder strewn , embedded in clay, and partly cemented by stalagmite. Undated worked flints were found in the 1st chamber and main passage, from deposits that had been disturbed by earlier excavation or storm waves. In this 1st chamber Davies also repost the existence of a low wall of large slabs, apparently of some antiquity as it is partly covered in stalagmite. In the rear chamber Davies excavated a small trench, partly to identify the ext5ent of the Riches and Northwood excavation. Davies recorded 4 layers of sediment, a bottom layer of bedrock (4), the next layer up (3) contained Pleistocene bones, the net layer (2) was a stony clay c0.2m thick and the upper layer (1) was a clay floor c0.3m thick from layer 1 Davies recovered flint artefacts, possibly Neolithic, and human remains. The human bones, some of which came from the disturbed deposits, consisted of jaw, shoulder, rib, arm, and finger bones and also a left leg and ankle bones, all of which could have come from one individual. Davies identified this as the layer for which Riches and Northwood also retrieved human bones, and may represent Mesolithic or Neolithic activity and burial. In layer 2 Davies recovered a rhyolite blade, which he dated to the upper Palaeolithic. Layer 2 contained Pleistocene fauna, which Davies identifies as the layer from which Riches and Northwood recovered similar bones. Further worked flint and teeth of probably a red deer or reindeer has recently been recovered from the surface of the cave by Sian Musgrave, the NT head warden. The flint is possibly Mesolithic.

References

  • SZO25467 - Aerial Photograph: T James. 01/08/1986. General view of Worms Head taken by Terry James of D.A.T. Given G.G.A.T. to the Trust. 1986/16.20A.

  • SZO4757 - National Trust Report: E Plunkett Dillon. 1986. The South West Gower Porperties - Part Two Worms Head, Rhossili Beach and Mewslade.

  • SZO50084 - National Trust Report: Philip Poucher. 2003-4. South-West Gower Properties Rhossili-Mewslade 2003-4 - The National Trust Archaeological Survey.

  • SZO64 - Article in serial: RISW. 1923-1924. Report of the Royal Institute of South Wales.

Designations

None Recorded

Other Statuses and References

  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Common Land
  • HER/SMR Reference (External): 108w
  • Heritage Coast
  • National Monuments Record Reference: OSSS38NE/1
  • Nature Reserve (National)
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (Biological)

Associated Events

  • ENA3014 - Field Survey, The SW Gower properties - Part II, Worms Head, Rhossilli Beach and Mewslade 1986
  • ENA3015 - Field Survey, South-West Gower Properties Rhossili-Mewslade, Philip Poucher 2003-4 - The National Trust Archaeological Survey

Associated Finds

  • FNA667 - ANIMAL REMAINS (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FZO171 - HUMAN REMAINS (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)

Related Records

None Recorded