Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Cave of Gollum... No, Sorry, Gorham's Cave

I'm tired. I misread. I got excited and thought maybe I had found Tolkien's inspiration. I haven't though. But, I have stumbled upon an interesting piece of Neanderthal history. Gorham's Cave is a natural sea cave located on the Rock of Gibraltar, a few meters from the Sea. It is believed to have been the last home of the Neanderthals. These of course, if you're following along would have been the unsuccessful Châtelperronian Neanderthals that lasted a measly 6,000 years and not the widely successful Mousterian variety that dominated Europe for hundreds of thousands. That'll teach you to mind your elders.

Anyway, the cave was discovered by some British chap named Gorham in 1907, hence the name. He didn't do much with it though. He scribbled his name into the rock and the date he found it and the cave sat idle for another forty odd years until it was officially excavated in the late 40's, early 50's. Ongoing excavations have been carried out throughout the decades and right up until today.

The cave itself has produced four layers of history. The top layer shows it was used variously from 800 - 300 BC by the Phoenicians. The second layer shows limited use during the Neolithic period of history, but the few artifacts suggest that it wasn't all that much of a hotspot. Layer three has a little bit more. This layer shows use of the site by Paleolithic/Mesolithic cultures like the Magdalenian and Solutrean. But the fourth layer shows artifacts and remains that are consistent with Neanderthals that date roughly to around 28,000 years ago, making them the last of their kind. 

Interestingly, the cave is now right at the water's edge basically. It was probably there fore the Phoenicians too. But when we go back further in time to the Magdalenian, Soulutrean and Neanderthal usage, the cave was as far as five km away from the sea. That's a lot of extra water. It might've worked for Gollum and made it easy, Rock and pool is nice and cool, so juicy sweet, Our only wish to catch a fish, so juicy sweet. 

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