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Key Dates

Milestones in story of Victoria Cave

June 2015

Under the Uplands launches!

With help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, DigVentures is teaming up with Tom Lord - the custodian of the Victoria Cave archive - to bring this fabulous collection to national attention.


Pig Yard Club Discover More Lateglacial Hunting Implements

Tot Lord and the Pig Yard Club carry out further excavations of the Hyena Bone Bed. They also dig up other evidence of Lateglacial hunters, including an implement made from reindeer antler deep in the cave's inner chamber.


Victorian Excavations Come to an End

Lack of funding means the excavations now end. By now, Richard Tiddeman has taken over from William Boyd Dawkins as the Scientific Director, and has interpreted the sedimentary deposits as evidence that the Ice Age consisted of a series of cold and warmer events, rather than a single prolonged period of extreme cold as many Victorian scientists had believed.


The Victorians Discover the Hyena Bone Bed

The deep bed of bone that built up during the Last Interglacial (125,000 years ago) is excavated, revealing that hippo, rhino, and elephant once lived in the Yorkshire Dales.


Victorian Archaeologists Dig Up Evidence of Lateglacial hunters

Over the 8 years of excavations, the Victorian archaeologists make lots of incredible discoveries, like evidence that Lateglacial hunters once used the cave, including a wild horse vertebra that had been butchered with stone tools, and several hunting implements carved from reindeer antler.


Joseph Jackson Becomes a Professional Archaeologist

Thomas McKenny Hughes (a geologist working for the Geological Survey in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales) set up the Settle Cave Exploration Committee in 1869. The Committee included many of the most eminent archaeologists and geologists of the time, like Charles Lyell. Joseph Jackson - now in his 50s - was appointed the Site Superintendent and William Boyd Dawkins the Scientific Director in overall charge. Together, they ran excavations for several months each year from 1870 to 1878 with a break in 1871. The work cost around £200 annually, a huge sum at the time.


Joseph Jackson Publishes the First Report on Roman Use of Victoria Cave

By 1840, Joseph Jackson had amassed so much evidence that he contacted Charles Roach Smith, an expert in Roman history. Together they published the first evidence that Romans had used the cave. Later that year, Joseph found something much, much older: a hyena’s jawbone...

Autumn 1837

Joseph Jackson Starts Excavating Victoria Cave

Joseph Jackson is a plumber and glazier from the local town of Settle. He is just 20 years old when he begins excavating Victoria Cave's inner chamber. Cut off from all sunlight, he carries out his investigations in the evenings after work by candlelight...

Spring 1837

Michael Horner Re-Discovers Victoria Cave

Michael Horner re-discovers Victoria Cave after his friend's dog disappeared down a hole while they were out walking. He followed the dog and found a narrow passage leading to a chamber. He returned a few weeks later with Joseph Jackson, who discovered an even bigger chamber deeper inside.

1,600 years ago (400 AD)

Victoria Cave is Abandoned by the Romans

A Romano-British cave cult has been leaving offerings inside Victoria Cave for a few hundred years, but this activity is now abandoned.

1,900 years ago (100 AD)

Romans Start Leaving Offerings in Victoria Cave

Soon after the Roman conquest, people begin placing small artefacts in the dark recesses of Victoria Cave, including coins, brooches, bits of pottery, crafting implements and some mysterious pierced bone 'spoons'.

1,930 years ago (70 AD)

The Romans Conquer Northern Britain

Many of the soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and it seems that Victoria may have become the site of a new Romano-British cave cult initiated by people associated with the Roman military.

2,900 years ago

Bronze Age Pottery

People aren’t using the cave to place human bones, unlike at Jubilee Cave which features Neolithic activity. There are a few examples of human bone from the scree from outside Victoria Cave (and some show evidence for blunt force trauma and cut marks) but more secure dates are needed to understand how this fits in with the Victoria Cave story.

12,800 years ago

People Disappear from the Dales

Things get cold again very suddenly. Bears and people disappear from the Dales. Did they manage to migrate south, or did they simply perish in the sudden cold?

13,000 years ago

More Hunters Use the Cave

People are still using the cave sporadically. This time, they leave behind a double-ended harpoon point and a decorated lance - both carved from reindeer antler.

14,500 years ago

The First Humans Arrive!

Magdalenian hunters reach the Yorkshire Dales, leaving behind some cutmarked wild horse bone and a lance point.

14,600 years ago

The First Bears Arrive!

Brown bears are hibernating in Victoria Cave, and the oldest include the remains of a female bear skull and her cub. They probably died during hibernation, and chew marks on the bone show their carcasses were later scavenged by wolves.

14,700 years ago

Things Warm Up!

Abrupt and very rapid global climate change.

18,000 years ago

The Ice Sheets Start to Retreat

The ice sheets start to retreat, but not because it's getting warmer... it's because it's getting drier, which means snow isn't being deposited.

25,000 years ago

The Fourth and Final Glaciation

This is the period that really forms the Yorkshire Dales landscape as we know it today. Ice sheets form drumlins, scour the surface clean of earlier features and depositions, and leave those big, misplaced boulders called 'erratics' on the hillsides.

115,000 years ago

The Last Interglacial

The Yorkshire Dales are more like a tropical savanna. Hyenas are using Victoria Cave as a den, bringing in prey like hippo, elephant, rhino, giant deer, bison and woodland mammoth.

125,000 years ago

Glacial Event

The Yorkshire Dales are frozen over. The entrance to Victoria Cave was left open, but before that it was blocked.

300,000 years ago

Interglacial Period

The entrance to Victoria Cave is blocked during this time, but there are humans (Neanderthals!) in Britain - they just don't make it this far north to Victoria Cave. In fact, even though it's relatively warm, there's little evidence of life inside the cave at all, probably because the entrance was blocked.

340,000 years ago

Glacial Event

Laminated clays are forming

380,000 years ago

Interglacial Event

The cave is forming stalagmites.

420,000 years ago

The Big Ice Comes

This is the time of the Anglian Glaciation, and this ice sheet is so big it spreads as far south as London, stopping just north of Finchley. Ice is blocking the entrance to Victoria Cave and water is ponding up inside. In this low energy environment, very fine sediments get deposited, allowing the first set of laminated clays to form.

600,000 years ago

Interglacial Event

A now-extinct species of wolf is sheltering in the cave, but the only evidence we have is a few teeth dating back to this time. This is when the earliest surviving sediments in Victoria Cave start forming. Stalagmites are growing and it's becoming a beautifully decorated cave. Meanwhile, the valleys are starting to deepen for the first time.

1,000,000 years ago

Victoria Cave Starts Forming

One million years ago, the valleys we see today hadn’t yet been carved out by glaciers. The ground was flat and the landscape was completely unrecogniseable. Victoria Cave is nothing more than a small hole filled with surface water, but it’s slowly getting bigger…

Archaeology / In Your Hands