Ice Age Gallery

Excavations at Victoria Cave have produced a collection of over 3,000 artefacts. From long-extinct animals to Ice Age hunting weapons, these are some of the highlights.

Ice Age megafauna

If there’s one thing Victoria Cave has, it is plenty of bones; the most spectacular of which date back to the Last Interglacial – a warm period sandwiched between two Ice Ages from 130,000 to 125,000 years ago.During this time, spotted hyena were using Victoria Cave as a den. Pollen recovered from their coprolites shows the area was open grassland with small areas of deciduous forest, but the hyenas also built up a deep layer of bone from the animals they hunted and scavenged. Among them are the remains of enormous Ice Age mega-fauna, including giant deer, bison, hippopotamus and now-extinct species of narrow-nosed rhino and straight-tusked elephant, as well as other top predators like lions.

Hyena mandible (jawbone)

Fragment of Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) mandible (Right side zones 1 and 2)

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Rhinoceros nasal bone

Nasal bone of a narrow nosed Rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus)

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Bison Leg Bone

Extinct bison (Bison priscus) metacarpal from the hyena bone bed, sealed by a large piece of flowstone

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Giant Deer Teeth

Megaloceros giganteus upper molar tooth row, from the hyena bone bed, sealed by a large piece of flowstone

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Hippopotamus Tusk Fragment

Lower canine tusk fragment of Hippopotamus amphibius, found in the hyena bone bed covered by a stalagmite

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Juvenile Elephant Tooth

Palaeoloxodon antiquus molar (still erupting) from the hyena bone bed covered by stalagmite

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Hyena mandible (jawbone) Fragment of Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) mandible (Right side zones 1 and 2)

Probably recovered from Chamber D in Victoria Cave during excavations in the 1870’s. A number of hyena skeltal elements from the Ipswichian interglacial were recovered during the excavations.

Archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Rhinoceros nasal bone Nasal bone of a narrow nosed Rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus)

Currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Bison Leg Bone Extinct bison (Bison priscus) metacarpal from the hyena bone bed, sealed by a large piece of flowstone

This bone provides a rare glimpse into the fascinating mix of sub-tropical and temperate woodland species that once roamed the Yorkshire Dales. It was found in 1872 by Victorian archaeologists inside Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, along with the remains of lions, brown bear, hippo, elephant, rhino, giant deer and a rare form of woodland mammoth. The bones had been brought into the cave by spotted hyenas, who were using it as a den during the Last Interglacial – a particularly warm period which lasted from about 130,000-115,000 years ago. It’s possible that this bone belonged to a bull injured during the Autumn mating season, before being hunted down by the hyena pack.

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Giant Deer Teeth Megaloceros giganteus upper molar tooth row, from the hyena bone bed, sealed by a large piece of flowstone

These teeth belong to an extinct species of giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus) that once grazed the Yorkshire Dales 120,000 years ago. They were found in 1872 by Victorian archaeologists inside Victoria Cave. The bones had been brought into the cave by hyenas, who used it as a den during the Last Interglacial – a particularly warm period which lasted from about 130,000-115,000 years ago. Misidentified at the time (hence the word “Bison” inked on the specimen), the antlers of adult male giant deer spanned over 3m and probably meant they preferred the open Dales uplands to the wooded valley floors.

Archived in the Tot Lord collection, Yorkshire.

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Hippopotamus Tusk Fragment Lower canine tusk fragment of Hippopotamus amphibius, found in the hyena bone bed covered by a stalagmite

This fragment of hippo tusk (Hippopotamus amphibius) was found in Victoria Cave, near Settle, providing hard evidence of the species that lived here during Last Interglacial – an Ice Age warm period lasting from 130,000-115,000 years ago.

Found by Victorian archaeologists in 1874, they believed it to be their most important discovery that year.

Hippo will travel considerable distances from their watery habitats in search of suitable grazing, and it is astonishing to realise that they once grazed the Dales… Even more so when you imagine the stand-offs between hippos and hyenas!

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Juvenile Elephant Tooth Palaeoloxodon antiquus molar (still erupting) from the hyena bone bed covered by stalagmite

This unworn tooth belonged to a young, straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) living in the Yorkshire Dales 120,000 years ago.

It was found in 1872 by Victorian archaeologists inside Victoria Cave, near Settle, along with the remains of hippo, rhino, lion, brown bears and giant deer, it was probably part of a skull brought in by hyenas.

A prime, male elephant would have stood over 5m tall, but at just 3 years old this baby was still entirely dependent on its mother for food and protection.

Although we can empathise with the mother loosing her baby, by keeping the local elephant population in check, hyenas helped maintain what must have been an unimaginably rich ecosystem at the time.

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.