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University teams to dig into cave's distant past

Source: Source: English Riviera Geopark Published:Mar 24,2009

FINAL preparations are being made for the first archaeological dig in 80 years at the country's oldest known home.

A team of archaeologists from the universities of Durham and Sheffield will begin digging at Kents Cavern, in Torquay from March 30 until April 12.

The project is to try to discover more about the Neanderthals who may have lived in the caves tens of thousands of years ago.
It is also hoped to learn more about the origins of Kents Cavern, which is the UK's oldest Scheduled Ancient Monument, with evidence of humans dating back 500,000 years.

The scientists hope to establish firm dates for the first occupation of the cave by early members of our own species.

One of the helpers will be Italian zoo-archaeologist Chiara Corbino, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Siena.
She is at Kents Cavern to lend her expertise to the dig, along with more than a dozen volunteers from Torquay and across Britain.
She has come to Torquay especially to take part in the dig and will be spending three months here.

Chiara graduated with a degree in Medieval Archaeology from Florence University, and is currently writing her PhD thesis at Siena University.

She said: "I'm thrilled to be involved with such an exciting excavation at one of Europe's most important archaeological sites, in search of Neanderthals - one of our closest ancestors.

"Kents Cavern is famous around the world for its amazing geology and the invaluable information it has revealed about the evolution of humans and the amazing Ice Age animals which our ancestors shared their world with.

"It's also here in Kents Cavern that the foundations of modern methods of archaeological excavation were laid by William Pengelly, who dug here extensively in the 19th century."

Cavern owner Nick Powe said: "Kents Cavern already has a reputation as one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe and we're hoping this dig will unearth more secrets about the enigmatic and elusive Neanderthals who called Kents Cavern home 40,000 years ago.

"Raising the profile of the caves in the national and international media will be a really positive boost for Torquay, and should inspire more people to visit the area and explore its rich history and archaeology.

"But we would love not just holidaymakers but local residents to visit Kents Cavern during the dig.

"Torquay is indeed privileged to be home to the oldest Scheduled Ancient Monument in Britain, with evidence of human occupation dating back half a million years."

A cut price £2 ticket to see the dig only, quiz the archaeologists and visit the finds tent outside the caves where material from the dig will be sieved and sorted, will be available 10am to 11am from April 2 and 9.