KENT’S CAVERN, or Kent’s Hole, the largest of English bone caves, famous as affording evidence of the existence of Man in Devon (England) contemporaneously with animals now extinct or no longer indigenous. It is about a mile east of Torquay harbour and is of a sinuous nature, running deeply into a hill of Devonian limestone. Although long known locally, it was not until 1825 that it was scientifically examined by Rev. J. McEnery, who found worked flints in intimate association with the bones of extinct mammals. He recognized the fact that they proved the existence of man in Devonshire while those animals were alive, but the idea was too novel to be accepted by his contemporaries. His discoveries were afterwards verified by Godwin Austen, and ultimately by the Committee of the British Association, whose explorations were carried on under the guidance of Wm. Pengelly from 1865 to 1880. There are four distinct strata in the cave. (1) The surface is composed of dark earth and contains medieval remains, Roman pottery and articles which prove that it was in use during the Iron, Bronze and Neolithic Ages. (2) Below this is a stalagmite floor, varying in thickness from 1 to 3 ft., and covering (3) the red earth which contained bones of the hyaena, lion, mammoth, rhinoceros and other animals, in association with flint implements and an engraved antler, which proved man to have been an inhabitant of the cavern during its deposition. Above this and below the stalagmite there is in one part of the cave a black band from 2 to 6 in. thick, formed of soil like No. 2, containing charcoal, numerous flint implements, and the bones and teeth of animals, the latter occasionally perforated as if used for ornament. (4) Filling the bottom of the cave was a hard breccia, with the remains of bears and flint implements, the latter in the main ruder than those found above; in some places it was no less than 12 ft. thick. The most remarkable animal remains found in Kent’s Cavern are those of the Sabre-toothed tiger, Machairodus latidens of Sir Richard Owen. While the value of McEnery’s discoveries was in dispute the exploration of the cave of Brixham near Torquay in 1858 proved that man was coeval with the extinct mammalia, and in the following year additional proof was offered by the implements that were found in Wookey Hole, Somerset. Similar remains have been met with in the caves of Wales, and in England as far north as Derbyshire (Cresswell), proving that over the whole of southern and middle England men, in precisely the same stage of rude civilization, hunted the rhinoceros, the mammoth and other extinct animals.
See Sir John Evans, Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain (London, 1897); Lord Avebury’s Prehistoric Times (1900); W. Pengelly, Address to the British Association (1883) and Life of him by his daughter (1897); Godwin Austen, Proc. Geo. Soc. London, 111. 286; Pengelly, “Literature of Kent’s Cavern” in Trans. Devonshire Association (1868); William Boyd Dawkins, Cave-hunting and Early Man in Britain.