Phreatic-tube cave excavated during the 1950's, producing finds suggesting seasonal mobility of an Upper- Palaeolithic community. Also disturbed Romano-British material. The site was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1991.
Identification Images (0)
- CAVE (Lower Palaeolithic to Roman - 500000 BC to 409 AD)
(1) Ossom's Cave is situated on the western slope of Ossom's Hill on the west side of the Manifold Valley, above Darfur Road Bridge. It was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1991. Its scheduling description notes that the cave 'consists of a narrow phreatic passage which slopes steeply downwards and is flooded 5m beyond the entrance. It has a small exterior platform with banked deposits on either side and a steep talus in front of the cave suggesting a major continuation of the cave deposits. A limestone block on the right of the entrance perhaps indicates a former extension of the cave mouth. Between this block and the cave wall is the remains of a side- passage sloping up towards the concavity known as Ossum's Eyrie. South of the entrance and slightly below the level of the cave is a vertical pothole with a modern wooden manhole covering. Most of the deposits within the cave were removed during excavations carried out by the Orpheus Caving Club and D Bramwell (1954: 56), but there are still major deposits outside the cave which have been partly sampled by a 6.4m long trench through the platform talus. Amongst the finds recovered in the excavations were Upper Palaeolithic flint artifacts in apparent association with charcoal and the bones of reindeer. Although the bones showed no obvious traces of burning or cutmarks, they occurred in the same layer (layer C) as the flint artifacts and have been radiocarbon dated to about 10500 BP. There is probably little material left inside the cave, unless deposits survive in the deeper flooded areas. However, the talus and areas of excavation spoil outside the entrance are thought to be undisturbed and offer considerable potential. The scheduled area includes all the deposits within the cave, and outside the cave includes an area of 10,5m radius from the cave entrance….The Palaeolithic caves of Staffordshire form a small but significant regional group of which the monument at Ossum's Cave is an important example owing to the good survival of the talus deposits and the preservation of rare faunal remains'.
(2) The NT archaeological survey of 1985 noted that Ossums Caves was a small fissue cave, about 2.9m wide and under 3m high extending back for c.9m and decreasing in size. There were some 2m of deposits in the cave which was excavated by The Peakland Archaeological Society in 1954 and 1955 and earlier by persons unknown. At the entrance was a disturbed Romano-British layer showing black mould, animals bones and fragments of pottery. A transitional layer produced few finds and below this was a true gravel containing late Pleistocene mammalia and six patinated flints. The 1955 excavation produced a Romano-British potsherd and a number of pieces of flint. A large bone (possibly of small bison) was found; this was pitted on its convex surface and crushed underneath, suggesting its use as an "anvil" in the manufacture of flints. Subsequently, a concentration of about 34 flints was found, at a point where the cave was only 22 inches wide. Work in 1956 produced a late Palaeolithic bone point.
(3) In a letter dated the 18.05.92, the Manifold area warden wrote that the erosion at the entrance to the cave had been repaired, however it does not give any further details as to what this entailed.
(4) Archaeological Comments - Of the 34 flints found only 4 might be termed implements. No 1 was a backed blade (common among Aurignacian finds - or equally well interpreted as a gravettian or Chatelpervonian point). No 2 a double sided scraper. No 3 & 4 Gravers; The former with two striking points. Although the number of identifiable flints is small, the evidence clearly points to Cresswellian Industry.
41 pieces of flaked flint and 2 of chert are thought to be of Later Upper Palaeolithic age. Amongst the 5 or 6 retouched items are 2 backed bladelets, one of which is a curved backed piece 3.9cm long. All of these stone artefacts come from layer C. One bone artefact has been recovered from the underlying layer D or from C; it is a bison metapodial whittled to a point (identified by J Cook, British Museum). Stuart also reports "a battered lump of galena that has clearly been used as a hammerstone." Many butchered reindeer bones are said to be present. Charcoal and flint artefacts are said by Scott to have been found in association with the reindeer bones 15cm below the top of layer C. "This concentration was no more than 15cm thick and extended from Sector 2 outside the cave back to Sector 8, where the cave becomes very narrow" (each Sector was 3ft wide). However, there may be some doubt over the association of the butchered bones and the other finds. A major synthesis on this site is being prepared by D Bramwell, R M Jacobi, K Scott and A J Stuart.
- SNA66471 - Scheduling record: Historic England. National Heritage List of England. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1011919.
- SZE10209 - Unpublished document: Frank Oulsnam. 1994. The National Trust South Peak Estate Manifold Valley Cave Survey, Maps plus SMR Numbers, List of Cav.
- SZE17257 - Photograph - black and white: 15/06/1989. Cave CL Entrance, Looking W, Manifold Valley Cave Survey. 33.
- SZE2177 - Document: Frank Oulsnam. 1992. Information for Archaeological Survey Update, of South Peak Estate.
- SZE22464 - Photograph - black and white: 15/06/1989. Cave CL Entrance, Looking W, Manifold Valley Cave Survey. 34.
- SZE2398 - Collection: Alison MacDonald. 1996. Concordance of Manifold Valley Cave Survey Names Given by the Warden and TPAT.
- SZE2823 - Collection: National Trust. The National Trust Archaeological Survey Sites and Monuments Record Data Prinouts - Hamps & Manifold.
- SZE3112 - Collection: National Trust. The National Trust Sites and Monuments Record Data Input Forms - Hamps & Manifold Valley, South Peak.
- SZE3253 - Unpublished document: Beamish, H. & Smith, L. (National Trust). 1985. National Trust Archaeological Survey: The South Peak Estate. p.56.
- SZE36919 - Photograph - black and white: 15/06/1989. Cave CL View from Entrance, Looking E, Manifold Valley Cave Survey. 35.
- SZE5185 - Collection: Frank Oulsnam, C J Shaw. 1989-1994. Manifold Valley Caves Survey, South Peak Estate, Recording Forms.
- SZE6557 - Unpublished document: Frank Oulsnam. 1994. The National Trust South Peak Estate, Manifold Cave Monitoring, Wardens Working Guide to Cave Sites.
- SZE9616 - Unpublished document: Trent and Peak Archaeological Trust, RCHME. 1989-1992. Manifold Valley, Staffordshire, Cave Survey 1989-1992.
Other Statuses and References
- National Park
- Site of Special Scientific Interest (Biological)
- ENA1065 - Field Survey, Cave Survey, Manifold Valley, Hamps & Manifold Valleys
- ENA1128 - Archaeological Intervention, Excavation of Ossum's Cave, Hamps & Manifold Valleys, 1954-1956 (Ref: 3351)
- ENA8462 - Field Survey, NT Archaeological Survey of the Hamps & Manifold Valleys