Friday Five… Archaeological Cave Sites


Sac Uayum

When someone says ‘archaeology’, we tend to think of wet, muddy fields or dry, dusty plains. But from Indiana Jones to Prometheus, the new stereotypical archaeologist hang out seems to be ‘the cave.’ And why not? They do seem to yield plenty of amazing finds – like the Dovedale Coin Hoard.

So we’ve complied our top 5 archaeological caves, fact or fantasy. They’re dark, they’re atmospheric… and a couple of them may be coming soon to a cinema near you…


1. Lascaux


Just look at Lascaux cave for example. As far as archaeological caves go this one is a pretty much a big deal. Located in the Dordogne region of France, it’s famous for its Upper Palaeolithic cave paintings of large animals most of which are known to have lived locally from fossil evidence. They are estimated to date from 17,300 years ago. We bet Indiana Jones wishes he stumbled across these.

2. Grotte Chauvet

Grotte Chauvet

However despite the fame of the Lascaux cave, the Grotte Chauvet in the Ardeche region of France houses Europe’s oldest cave paintings which date from 36,000 years ago and are believed to be one of the earliest occurrences of a largescale cultural act in Europe. It’s recently been gaining recognition having just been granted World Heritage Status and is also the subject of Werner Herzog’s ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams – an awesome 3D film documenting the caves, paintings and archaeologists who explored them. Just watch out for the albino crocodiles at the end!

3. Prometheus cave

Prometheus Cave

Anyone who has seen the prequel to Alien, Prometheus will agree this cave wins the prize for ancient paintings have set off the biggest domino effect ending in disaster. Ancient star maps contain an invitation from humanities predecessor ‘Engineer’ race. Adventure, death and more aliens bursting from chests ensue, and the whole thing concludes with us being really thankful real archaeology isn’t like the movies.

4. Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Now this is one that sounds like it should be the script of a film. A Bedouin boy from the Ta’amireh tribe in Israel stumbles on a cave when looking for a lost animal. Qumran cave has been used throughout the millennia from Chalcolithic times to the Arab period. It contains scrolls dating from 2000 years ago – the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls were of great historical, religious, and linguistic importance including the earliest known manuscripts of texts which were later incorporated into the Hebrew bible. Pretty epic!

5. Sac Uayum

Sac Uayum

This cenote (flooded sinkhole) frightens nearby villagers in southern Mexico so much so that they won’t go anywhere near it. And, as recent research suggests, neither would the Mayans.

600 years ago, Mayapán was a major political centre with at least 17,000 residents and a stone wall enclosing the city and another 40 cenotes within it. But there’s a sudden zig zag in the wall, leaving Sac Uayum just outside the city’s ruins. Most people were buried near their homes, but when a team of expert archaeological divers explored the underwater caves, they discovered skulls, jugs and other remains. While we loved watching the video of the divers exploring the Sac Uayum, this watery grave is definitely one we’ll steer clear of.

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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