In September 2015, Joint Mitnor, a nationally important cave in Buckfastleigh, Devon, was broken into by thieves who stole artefacts and caused serious damage to a 125,000-year-old interglacial bone deposit.
The cave, which has been managed by the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust for over 50 years, has an extensive history of archaeological research and over 4,000 bones of animals such as hyenas, bison and straight-tusked elephants have been found in the cave.
Alan Finch, secretary of the Trust said: “The break-in and theft of the bones was a huge blow not only to members of the Trust but the scientific community as a whole. Over the past two years we’ve been working tirelessly to resolve the current situation. Working with the Natural History Museum in London we’ve been able to source some more original finds from the cave as well as working with experts from across the country to reconstruct the damaged area”.
A lengthy restoration was undertaken by experts from across the country, combining innovative reconstruction of the lost bones with scanning and 3-D printing, and on Saturday 12th August 2017 the cave was formally re-opened by Professor Patrick Boylan.
Sheila Phillips, Education Officer for the Trust said: “It’s fantastic news that we can now once again open the cave to the public. People can experience the thrill of seeing ancient animal bones, still in their place of discovery; animals that include elephant, bison, wolves and hyenas.
The Trust runs guided walks, led by their volunteers every Wednesday and Thursday throughout August, when the cave will be open to the public.
Correspondent: Graham Mullan