Monday, 28th September 2020

This Month's Magazine

Gibraltar Gateway

The secrets of Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar by Professor Clive Finlayson, Director, Gibraltar Museum.

Gorham's Cave was named by a captain in the British Army who discovered it in 1907. It is situated on the eastern side of Gibraltar at sea level and it is not in the standard tour of Gibraltar. The cave is within a military area and access, via 350 steps down a 60-metre tall cliff, is difficult even for the young and fit. The cave's archaeological value was not realised until much later, in the 1940s when fragments of ceramic were found.

This led to the first excavation of the site in the 1950s but the cave was once again forgotten until the recent work, under the auspices of the Gibraltar Museum, commenced in 1991.
Why is Gorham's so important? The answer lies in the 18-metre thick archaeological deposit that we now know spans the time period 120 thousand years ago to the third century BC. Very few caves have such a rich archaeological sequence and Gorham's ranks among the most important sites in the world.
So what do these deposits tell us? Much of the sequence represents the occupation of the site by Neanderthals. Gibraltar is rich in deposits representing these humans. In fact, there are seven caves in Gibraltar with archaeological material from the Neanderthal period. Two of the sites have actually produced fossil Neanderthals. One of them, Forbes' Quarry at the base of the North Face of the Rock, produced one of the best-preserved skulls ever, in 1848. It predated the Neander Valley discovery by eight years but the importance of the skull was only realised much later.

The levels at Gorham's contain many of the stone tools made by these humans. There are also the remains of campfires - charcoal that allows us to reconstruct the vegetation at the time, and hence also the climate. Fossil remains of many animals indicate the rich resources available to Neanderthals around Gibraltar at that time. Neanderthals hunted the Ibex (a wild mountain goat) and the Red Deer but they occasionally went for larger prey such as horse, wild cattle and rhinos. They also consumed seal meat and fat. The richness of the supplies meant that other predators were also attracted.

In Gorham's these included Spotted Hyenas, Leopards, Lions and Wolves!
So what happened to the Neanderthals of Gorham's Cave? Recent research has shown that they survived in this paradise until 31 thousand years ago, nearly 10 thousand years after they had disappeared across much of Europe. The cold of the last glaciation eventually caught up with them and their resource base dwindled. The Neanderthals became an extinct form of human.
Some time later the levels at Gorham's, representing the period around 29 thousand years ago, record the arrival of our direct ancestors, the first Modern Humans or Cromagnons. Among the artefacts excavated from this time are beautifully shaped flint arrowheads, perforated deer teeth used as necklaces, and rock art - representations of the animals found around the caves.
The final episode of the many represented at Gorham's is the historical period between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC when the site was visited by Phoenicians who worshipped their gods there. A rich collection of artefacts left as offerings have been excavated and a representative sample is displayed, along with the prehistoric material, in the Gibraltar Museum. Gorham's Cave is one of Gibraltar's main heritage assets. Research at this site will continue for many years and its findings will help us better understand the lives of those humans that lived on the Rock thousands of years ago.


Mediterania: The second wave hits the upper deck

The Gibraltar Museum begins its autumn calendar of events this month with the second wave of Mediterrania exhibitions. These hit the Upper deck vaults at Casemates on Thursday 18th September. The first wave of Mediterranean themed exhibitions was presented by the Gibraltar Museum in January 2003.
The Mediterrania exhibitions are of a thematic nature, and aim to show both the unity and diversity of the Mediterranean and the variety of points of view within this large cultural and historic region, to promote awareness of the cultural diversity within the Mediterranean and to raise citizen's awareness of their maritime heritage as a medium of communication and exchange.
The exhibitions are part of a three-year project inscribed to the European Commission Culture 2002 Programme and is led by the Museo Marítim de Barcelona. The Gibraltar Museum, the Museé National de la Marine (France), the Hellenic Maritime Museum (Greece), Comunne de Venezia (Italy), the Arsenal di Palermo - Museo del Mare (Palermo, Italy) and UNESCO are all partners in this project.

The second wave of Mediterrania exhibitions, which is presented in Gibraltar through the Association of Mediterranean Maritime Museums, is made up of the following three themes:

Sea of Babel
This first exhibition examines the origins of languages and cultures on the shores of the Mediterranean and how they have contributed to the development of the Mediterranean region as it is today.
Everlasting Sea
How throughout time the Medite-rranean has been an important source of food and income for many. Even today, many families depend on it for their livelihood and the Mediterranean is an important pillar of many Mediterranean economies. It also exerts an important influence on the lifestyles of those who live on its shores.
Sea of religions
The Mediterranean is home to a multitude of religions and faiths. It has seen the development of the three largest monotheist religions - Islam, Judaism and Christianity. This exhibition will examine their birth and development and take a look at their interwoven histories.
The Hon. Keith Azopardi, Minister responsible for Heritage, will officially open the Mediterrania exhibitions on Wednesday 17th September 2003. Mediterrania will be open to the general public at the Casemates Museum Upper Deck Vaults from Thursday 18th September 2003 through to Friday 17th October 2003.

Opening Times:
Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, and on Saturdays 10am to 2pm. Entrance is FREE. For further information, please contact the Gibraltar Museum's Media & Public Relations Officer on Telephone 74289. Alternatively email with "Med" in the title.

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