Cow Cave, Chudleigh, Devon

Chris Proctor, 2017

Data copyright © Chris Proctor, Hazel Riley, Rob Dinnis, John Stewart, Monika Knul, Devon County Council, Chris Hunt, Dana Challinor, David Richards, Vanessa Fairbank, Chris Gleed-Owen unless otherwise stated

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Chris Proctor (2017) Cow Cave, Chudleigh, Devon [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Cow Cave, Chudleigh, Devon

The Cow Cave CC16 project was a rescue excavation and sampling project undertaken in response to ongoing damage to the site through natural and human causes. The project was funded by Historic England and managed by Devon County Council, with fieldwork carried out in 2016 and laboratory analysis over 2016 and early 2017. The cave preserves a nationally important long sequence of sediments dating from the late Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene. Biostratigraphic analysis of pollen has identified Middle Pleistocene pollen assemblages referred to the Aveley Interglacial and the following cold stage from the basal Stream Deposit and Broken Stalagmite Layer respectively; and from the overlying (Upper Pleistocene) Reindeer Stratum, early Devensian stadial and interstadial pollen assemblages including one closely comparable to the Chelford Interstadial.

Vertebrate faunas include a Middle Pleistocene assemblage referred to the Aveley Interglacial from the Stream Deposit, and a late Pleistocene mammal assemblage from the Reindeer Stratum, radiocarbon dated to greater than ~46,000 yrs BP (uncal). Holocene units at the top of the sequence include a series of pipes or burrows within the sediment, tufaceous stalagmite and dark earth sediment with associated pollen assemblages and vertebrate microfauna, notably abundant herpetofauna. In addition to radiocarbon dating of Devensian and Holocene fauna, dating of the sequence was undertaken by uranium-thorium analysis of stalagmites, which has confirmed the late Middle Pleistocene age of the Stream Deposit and Broken Stalagmite Layer. No definitely identifiable flint artefacts were found in the cave during this investigation, though the refined age for the lower part of the sequence provides an improved context for artefacts found by earlier excavators, in particular flake tools tentatively referred to the early Middle Palaeolithic. Charcoal found in the Holocene Tufaceous Stalagmite during this excavation was radiocarbon dated, yielding an age of 6049-5901 BC (cal), providing the first evidence of Mesolithic activity in the Chudleigh Rocks area.