Gower cave reindeer carving is Britain's oldest rock art

image captionThe engraving may be the oldest rock art in north-western Europe

A reindeer engraved on the wall of a cave in south Wales has been confirmed as the oldest known rock art in Britain.

The image in Cathole Cave on Gower, south Wales was created at least 14,000 years ago, said Bristol University.

Archaeologist Dr George Nash found the engraving while exploring a rear section of the cave in September 2010.

He said uranium dating showed it was the oldest rock art in the British Isles, if not north-western Europe.

The reindeer was engraved over a mineral deposit known as a speleothem, carved using a sharp-pointed tool, probably made of flint, by an artist using his or her right hand.

The animal's elongated torso has been infilled with irregular-spaced vertical and diagonal lines, whilst the legs and stylised antlers comprise simple lines.

Red Lady of Paviland

The minimum date is around 12,500 BC or 14,500 BP (years before present, which is terminology used by archaelogists), with a plus or minus of 560 years.

"The earlier date is comparable with uranium-series dating of flowstone that covers engraved figures within Church Hole Cave at Creswell along the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border," said Dr Nash, from Bristol University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

"However, the new minimum date of 14,505 plus or minus 560 years BP makes the engraved reindeer in south Wales the oldest rock art in the British Isles, if not north-western Europe."

The limestone cliffs along the Gower coast are known for their archaeological importance.

The Red Lady of Paviland, actually the remains of a young man, is the earliest formal human burial to have been found in western Europe, around 29,000 years old.

It was discovered at Goat's Hole Cave at Paviland on Gower in 1823 by William Buckland, then a geology professor at Oxford University.

Earlier in June, a team from Bristol University confirmed that cave art discovered in El Castillo, Spain, was the oldest in Europe at more than 40,000 years old.

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