Prehistoric Sites in Somerset

Somerset is a county in Southwest England well known for its prehistoric landscape. The stunning landscape is composed of rolling hills, large flat expanses of land and an extensive coastline. Here we list six prehistoric sites that are worth a visit.


Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge formed by meltwater floods during the periglacial periods which have occurred over the last 1.2 million years. The gorge is almost 400 feet deep and three miles long. This is England's largest gorge and it consists of crags, pinnacles and caves. The most popular caves known as Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave, were produced by the activity of an underground river called Cheddar Yeo River which emerges in the lower part of Gough's Cave. The caves contain stalagmites and stalactites which can be visited by the general public. Cheddar Gorge is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest known as Cheddar Complex. The gorge is also known for the discovery of Britain's oldest complete human skeleton in one of its caves. The "Cheddar Man" was found in Gough's Cave and it's estimated to be 9,000 years old.


Burrington Combe is a Carboniferous limestone gorge on the north side of the Mendip Hills. The exact mechanism by which the gorge was formed is unknown, but it's believed that the gorge was cut into the limestone by streams flowing from Black Down. The combe contains several caves which have been occupied by humans for over 10,000 years. The most popular cave in the area is Aveline's Hole. A popular attraction in the combe is a rock formation known as Rock of Ages. It was named after a hymn. Legend has it that Augustus Montague Toplady was inspired to write the hymn "Rock of Ages" while sheltering under these rocks during a thunderstorm in the 18th century. Recent scholars have disputed this claim.


Aveline's Hole is a cave at Burrington Combe in the limestone of the Mendip Hills. It's the earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain. The cave was rediscovered in 1797 by two men digging for a rabbit. Over thousands of years, the streams flowing over the impermeable sandstone of Black Down and onto the permeable limestone rocks of Burrington Combe, slowly dissolved the limestone, which created the cave. The cave was excavated in 1860 revealing the largest assemblage of Mesolithic human remains found in Britain. The human bone fragments have been confirmed to be between 10,200 and 10,400 years old. A series of inscribed crosses found on the wall are also believed to date from the early Mesolithic period just after the Ice Age.


Ebbor Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, consisting of a steep-sided ravine cut into 350 million year old Carboniferous Limestone of the Dinantian. The lowest part of the gorge is formed in the Namurian Quartzitic Sandstone Group. The gorge was cut into the Clifton Down Limestone by meltwater in the Pleistocene period. It's believed that this watercourse became diverted underground and now emerges at Wookey Hole Caves to form the River Axe. Various caves within the gorge were inhabited by Neolithic people. Bridged Pot Shelter and Gully Cave provided some of the best Late Devensian small mammal assemblages known from Britain.


Sand Point is a limestone peninsula stretching out from Middle Hope into the sea of the Bristol Channel, along the North Somerset coast. Middle Hope is a sequence of exposed carboniferous limestone which includes thick volcanic tuffs and lavas.  This area was once a shallow tropical sea with periodic volcanic events (at this time the UK was situated near the equator). The site contains unique geological features, including a Pleistocene-aged fossil cliff and shore platforms. The raised beach of wave-cut platforms has been created by changes in sea levels of the Bristol Channel since the Quaternary period, about 350 million years ago.


Brean Down is a promontory off the coast of Somerset into the Bristol Channel. It's a continuation of the Mendip Hills which are the most southerly Carboniferous Limestone upland in Britain. The cliffs on the north and south faces are rich in fossils, including corals, seashells, among others. Thirteen different layers of rock have been identified in the sand cliff on the south side, the lowest five dating to the millennia of the last glaciation. Extinct creatures such as mammoths and woolly rhinos has been uncovered in Brean Down. Human occupation dates back to the late Bronze Age. A round barrow known as Potter's Mound can be seen on the top of the first high point after the concrete steps. Remains of a human skeleton were found when the barrow was excavated. Evidence suggests that the skeleton was of an important person in the Bronze Age. There used to be an Iron Age hillfort on the east side. Its banks and ditches can still be seen nowadays. At the seaward end is Brean Down Fort which was built between 1864 and 1871 by the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. The fort is now a ruin.

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