Tyne and Wear HER(160): Ryhope Cave - Details
Religious Ritual and Funerary
In the 1860s bones of a minimum of 7 skeletons (5 males, 1 female, 1 child) were recovered from a cave in the Permian limestone on the north side of the "glen" between Ryhope and Tunstall. The cave was described as a narrow passage c. 2 feet high x 3 feet wide, descending and widening slightly as it went into the rock. Originally it would have been c. 25 feet above the foot of the glen, but by the mid-19th century it was level with colliery spoil which had filled up the valley bottom. Other finds were the bones of dog, rabbit, goat, sheep, ox, pig, birds and fish, shells, and traces of charcoal. Other human bones were removed before the finds could be recorded. Four trial pits in 1975 proved the cave (and others adjacent) to be sterile, and showed it had been completely cleared before and during the Second World War when it was used as an air raid shelter. The National Coal Board then used it for a time as a tip for colliery rubbish.
<< HER 160 >> J.W. Kirkby & G.S. Brady, 1867, On Human and other Remains found in a Cavern near the Ryhope Colliery, Transactions Natural History Society of Northumberland and Durham Vol. I (for 1865-67), pp. 148-151 T.C. Squance, 1913, Remarks on two Pre-Historic Skulls, one found in a grave at Ryhope, Antiquities of Sunderland Vol. XIV, pp. 12-16 T.C. Squance, 1913, Ryhope, near Sunderland,Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, 3, V (1911-12), pp. 242-3 Ordnance Survey archaeological record card, JHO, 1952, Possible Neolithic inhabited cave A.F. Harding, 1976, Ryhope 1975, Department of Environment Archaeological Excavations p. 48 R. Miket, 1984, The Prehistory of Tyne and Wear, p. 72, no. 11 A.F. Harding, 1979, Trial Excavations at Ryhope Caves Tyne and Wear, 1975, Council British Archaeology, Archaeological Newsbulletin Series 2, no. 8, Sept. 1979, pp. 18-19