research: gibraltar caves project: the sites
vanguard cave

current projects

This, previously unexcavated, cave has a 17 m deep sequence of deposits which consist largely of sands interspersed with finely laminated organic-rich silts and clay. Each of the identified archaeological levels has been systematically excavated and sampled for paleoenvironmental and dating purposes (AMS, ESR, OSL and U-Series techniques) and results indicate that, with the exception of the uppermost levels, most of the units lie beyond the age range of AMS radiocarbon dating. It appears that the cave filled up to its present level by ca 45 ka BP.

A Mousterian discoidal core technology, comparable with that at Gorham's, has been found in a number of separate contexts. A well-defined layer of ash and charcoal, which included a concentration of broken and burnt mussel shells with associated quartzite flakes and a number of coprolites, has been excavated within the upper units of this cave. It represents a short-lived episode. The artefacts are refittable and indicate a limited knapping event. Of particular interest was a chert sidescraper and a heavily utilised chert flake which appear to have been introduced in a ready-made state given that no evidence of in situ manufacture was found.

A series of Mousterian occupation horizons with artefacts, bones and hearth material have been found lower down the cave sequence, separated from the 'mussel' level by a thick intervening deposit of sterile sand. The area excavated includes smashed, cut-marked and burnt bone (mostly Ibex) around combustion zones which are rich in charcoal and lithic artefacts. The artefacts are of a discoidal core technology and are low in retouched tools and of locally-obtained raw materials.

A small alcove on the north side of the chamber has produced well-preserved Spotted Hyaena, Crocuta crocuta, bones and a small, sub-circular, hearth but no artefacts have been found in association. An AMS date on pine, Pinus sp., charcoal from within this feature has given a date of >44.1 ka BP (OxA-7078).