Ben Scar Cave

From Ice Age predators, to trinkets left by Romano-British cave cults, our crowdfunders helped us expose the wonders hidden deep inside Yorkshire's caves.

102.8% Funded
£2,570 Pledged
£2,500 Goal

About the Project

This is an archaeological crowdfunding campaign with a difference: We want YOU to help us excavate a prehistoric cave, but this time you get to decide what you think the experience, and the knowledge it produces, is worth…

How much are you willing to pledge to join the team, excavate this archaeologically unexplored cave in Yorkshire and help the world find out what kind of remarkable archaeology is inside?

Archaeologists do a lot of work before they begin an excavation, and they think very carefully before deciding when, where and how to dig. So when an archaeologist says ‘we’ve found a pristine cave in Yorkshire that we’d love to excavate’ you know they think there’s a good chance of finding something EXTRAORDINARY. And that’s exactly what’s happened to us.

Our team will be excavating Ben Scar Cave in the Yorkshire Dales from 15th – 21st August 2016, and we want YOU to be part of our team!

Prehistoric cave archaeology in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is an archaeologically rich landscape, studded with the remains of ancient field systems, dry stone walls, Norman tower houses, Roman military bases, Iron Age enclosures and Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds.

The area is also home to half of all the known caves in Great Britain. Inside these caves is the remarkable evidence of a time when elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus roamed the Yorkshire Dales; when it was pristine wilderness, full of predators and their prey.

Over the last 2.5 million years, Ice Ages have come and gone. Each time the huge glaciers slid down the Yorkshire valleys we walk through today, they scoured their surfaces clean, removing evidence of the animals and humans that populated these landscapes in between Ice Ages.

But not everything was lost. The distinctive caves of Yorkshire’s limestone uplands are like time capsules, capturing and preserving sediments that we can use to reconstruct these long-lost landscapes. Inside them, there is also a wealth of archaeology, which is being pieced together to tell a story of staggeringly rich ecosystems, now-extinct animal species, and the Ice Age hunter-gatherers who once thrived in the Yorkshire Dales.

Ben Scar cave

We really, really REALLY want to know what’s inside Ben Scar Cave. The question is: how much do you want to be a part of it?

Will there be bones of tropical animals like lions, hyenas and rhino? Or hunting implements left by early hunter-gatherers? Or will we be lucky enough to find a pristine soil samples containing vital environmental evidence, or even an untouched speleothem?

All of these things and more have been found in caves very near to Ben Scar. Even so, this kind of evidence is so rare that every piece of animal bone, hunting implement, or pristine soil sample we recover is archaeologically significant, and can add reams of information in our quest to understand these caves, who used them and how the environment has changed over millennia.

But the most important thing of all is that we want to share ALL of this data and make it available to everyone for FREE. We will publish everything we find online, so that EVERYONE can see what kind of evidence has been trapped inside Yorkshire’s caves, and what we can all learn from it.

So, if you join the dig what happens?

We want EVERYONE who has an interest in caves, Yorkshire, archaeology, or just in trying something new, to be able to join us and learn hands on about Yorkshire’s incredible cave archaeology.

Specialist skills are needed to do cave archaeology, so we’ve got a cave archaeology expert on the team who will make sure you know exactly what you are doing, and why, and will guide us every step of the way in our scientific excavation.

Our plans are to open up this cave, which as far as we know has never been excavated before, and bring YOU inside with us to learn hands-on about the weird wonderfulness of cave archaeology, all while actually helping us to uncover what’s inside.

So what exactly should you do now?

Decide what you’re willing to pledge to join a prehistoric cave excavation for a day, and how much you think the knowledge it produces is worth. Make your pledge, and email to let us know that you DO want us to reserve a dig space for you. We will then be in touch to agree which day you can join us.

We will update this page AS SOON AS all the dig places are filled, so unless it says ‘all dig spaces are now filled’ in big red letters, you can be pretty sure that your pledge will get you a place on the dig.

Can you still support the dig without actually having to dig?

Yes of course you can! Just make your pledge and then email to let us know that you don’t want us to reserve a dig space for you. Instead, we’ll add you to our ‘Digital Diggers’ list which means you’ll get special updates about the dig, and be the first to hear about any opportunities to get involved in post-excavation activities, like joining a photogrammetry masterclass and helping to make 3D models of any artefacts we find.

So here’s the key: this crowdfunding campaign is an experiment. As far as we know, this method of support has never been tried in archaeology before. It’s up to YOU to decide what you think the experience of digging with us in Ben Scar Cave, and the value of the scientific knowledge it produces, is worth.

So whether you pledge £50 or £525, every pound helps on our mission so you deserve a HUGE THANK YOU for helping us to find out what’s inside the cave. In return, you get to dig with us for a day!

Please note: We can only take a maximum of five people into the cave with us each day, and places on the dig will go to the first 30 people who pledge their support. If you want to dig for more than one day, you’ll have to pledge more than once.

And this too: Excavation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to funding archaeology. We need to look after everything we find. Conservation, post-excavation analysis and specialists can be quite expensive – especially for the sensitive environmental material that we expect to find in Ben Scar Cave. Please think carefully about this when you make your pledge for a day of digging with our team. The big question really is how much you think the experience is worth, and how much you value further discovery of our ancient past. If a £50 pledge for a day is a big stretch for you, that’s fine and we will happily have you on board our team. But if you would happily spend £200 on a weekend getaway, please think carefully about how much your pledge could mean for our research… the more that is pledged, the more prehistoric cave archaeology we can do.

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