Kent's Cavern in Torquay
Animal life in Kent's Cavern
This World Heritage Site is just a ten minute walk from The Muntham Apartments and Town House and offers visitors a unique insight into the prehistoric world that exisited in and around what in now modern day Torquay.
The story of the caves began about 2 million years ago when water seeped through cracks in the rock and began to carve out chambers below. For 1.6 million years the Earth went through enormous changes including repeated ice ages that could last for up to 100,000 years. These periods were then followed by periods of warmer climate.
During the ice ages sea levels dropped by up to 120 meters meaning that England was effectively joined to Europe and where the channel now is there were once vast forests.The remains of these are now submerged beneath the sea but at low tides it is possible to glimpse fossilised remains of trees along the coast. The actual ice sheet never reached Devon (it stopped somewhere near Somerset) but the area around Devon would have resembled a frozen Tundra. A consequence of the repeated Ice Ages was that there was free movement of beasts back and forth between England and Europe and these animals thrived in the warmer periods when vegetation and animal life was in abundance.
It is amazing to think that on the land upon which we now stand wild and exotic animals lived and hunted. These include cave bears which are the oldest remains found in the caves at 500,000 years old. The bears used the caves as a place of hibernation and it is likely that some died in the winter. Remains of Cave Lions have also been found. They are larger counterparts to modern African Lions and lived in the caves between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. Amongst some of the more dramtic animals to leave remains in the caves are Woolly Mammoths and Woolly Rhinos. Remain of Mammoths ended up in the caves probably because they were the prey of hyeanas that lived in the caves and who dragged parts of them back there and this is probably true also of the Rhinos. The Hyenas that lived in the caves were larger than their modern counterparts and scavenged what they could find just like their modern equivalents. Chillingly, they also hunted at night in packs of up to 30 attacking the Rhinos and Mammoths but also creatures like dear, bison and horses.
Human Life in Kent's Cavern
Evidence of human existence around the caves goes back as far as 500,000 years as there are tools which are believed to have been washed into the caves. Actual human remains in the form of a jaw bone and teeth were found in the 1920's and are now believed to be about 40,000 years old making them the earliest human remains found in north western Europe. These remains date from a period when there was not just one species of human around but several.
There is also evidence of Roman visitors to the caves and votive offerings have been found. At the end of the Victorian period and beginning of twentieth century the caves became what we would recognise today as a visitor attraction. It is likely that Agatha Christie would have been amongst these early visitors as the caves make an appearance in one of her books - The Man in The Brown Suit.
The Caves Today
The Caves are open every day except Christmas day and modern visitors are conducted on guided tours through the various chambers. Throughout the year there are also events held in the Caves making the most of their unique setting. Click here for more details.
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