Upwards at 45 degrees: the use of vertical caves during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age on Mendip, Somerset.

Jodie Lewis, Department of Archaeology, University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol. BS8 1UU.

jodie.lewis@worc.ac.uk


When referencing this article, please use the following convention:

Lewis, J. 2000. Upwards at 45 degrees: the use of vertical caves during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age on Mendip, Somerset. Capra 2 available at - http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/2/upwards.html




Abstract.

The Mendip Hills in Somerset contain geological features known locally as swallets, vertical 'shafts' in the limestone, usually formed by dissolutional activity. In recent years, excavations by cavers have revealed a range of archaeological material placed inside them. The materials are generally of prehistoric date, and seem to indicate a climax of deposition in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. Using the evidence from two sites, Charterhouse Warren Farm Swallet and Brimble Pit Swallet, it is argued that swallets were being used for deliberate ritual deposition during these periods. A link between swallets and monuments is also made, both in terms of the material placed within them and their spatial relationship in the landscape. The possibility of the chthonic 'cults' of the Iron Age and Roman periods having a much earlier origin is also considered.

Keywords - Mendip, Neolithic, Bronze Age, swallets, deposition, ritual, monuments.




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