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Markings in Creswell Crags
Friday 15 February 2019

An article on bbc.co.uk - Creswell Crags: 'Witches' marks' found in cave network - reports on the discovery of numerous "witches' marks" believed to be from the 17th and 18th Centuries at Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags
Apotropaic marks scribed into the cave surface. Image: Creswell Crags.

They were discovered at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, and are believed to be the biggest concentration of protective marks found in British caves. The "apotropaic" marks were scribed into the cave surface as they were thought to keep evil spirits coming from the underworld. Originally thought to be graffiti, they have now been reclassified.

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The discovery was made by Hayley Clark and Ed Waters from Subterranea Britannica, a charity whose members have a passion for underground space, during a cave tour. Before then the marks had always been noticed, but dismissed as graffiti from before the caves were barred.

Creswell Crags
Members of the Subterranea Britannica group made the discovery. Image: Creswell Crags.

Protection marks are most commonly found in medieval churches and houses, near the entrance points, particularly doorways, windows and fireplaces. Creswell Crags said it was thought that the largest quantity of "witches' marks" in British caves were the 57 found in a Somerset cave, but there are hundreds in one cave alone at Creswell. They include the double V, which is believed to mean Virgin of Virgins, while PM is thought to reference Pace Maria. Diagonal lines, boxes and mazes are thought to be symbols for capturing or trapping evil.

Editor's note:
Always interesting to see the continued use of a space for particular reasons. Creswell Crags - protective marks from the 17th and 18th Centuries preceded by petroglyphs and mobile artefacts from the Upper Palaeolithic. During the Upper Palaeolithic, much of Britain and Ireland was covered by a thick blanket of ice, in places up to 2 km in thickness and it was considered that during this time there was little in the way of a human presence south of the ice margin. The Creswell Crags discovery was, however, to change this and ignite a new approach for the peopling of the British Isles during this harsh climatic period within our distant past.

Read more:
British Isles Prehistory Archive

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