Gibraltar – cradle of history

By: roughseasinthemed

Jan 04 2013

Tags: , , , ,

Category: archaeology, Gibraltar, History, Photography


Focal Length:5.8mm
Shutter:1/0 sec

Wandering across the runway (as you do) from the frontier, or even from Eroski, the first thing to strike you is this strange monument.

Needless to state there isn’t anything to tell you what it is meant to symbolise. And why would Gibraltar be the cradle of history?

In fact it is one of the longest inhabited places in Europe, with neanderthal remains being found in various locations on the Rock.

Some years ago, I went to an excellent lecture (free and just over the road in the extremely comfortable John Mackintosh Hall) by Professor Clive Finlayson, the director of the Gibraltar Museum.

During the lecture he pointed out that a neanderthal skull had been found in Gibraltar before the one found in Germany in 1856.

The Gibraltar skull was discovered in 1848 by a military officer, Edmund Flint, on the north face of the Rock somewhere around Forbes Quarry. But no-one was aware of the significance of it, describing it merely as ‘an ancient skull’. So Gibraltar missed out on giving its name to the precursor of homo sapiens.

There was nowhere to keep the skull in Gibraltar so it went to London and is now in the Natural History Museum. Our local museum merely has a replica. Generally regarded to be the first neanderthal skull discovered, I was puzzled to read conflicting references to one found slightly earlier in Belgium (1829 at Engis). Who knows? But the Gibraltar 1 skull seems to be regarded as the first one to be found and Gib’s important position in neanderthal history is internationally recognised.

The skull is estimated to be around 100,000 years old but neanderthals continued to live on Gibraltar and in some of the sea caves up to 24,000 to 28,000 years ago according to radio carbon dating.

In the twentieth century another skull was found – Gibraltar – this time of a four-year-old girl, and appropriately, discovered by a woman, Dorothy Garrod, the first female professor at both the university of Cambridge and of Oxford. This skull is believed to be around 30 – 50,000 years old.

While the neanderthals were still living in Gibraltar and southern Spain, homo sapiens had already arrived in Europe more than 40,000 years ago. Speculation is that Gibraltar was the last place where neanderthals lived before their species died out.

Excavations continue in the sea caves on the south-eastern side of Gibraltar (accessible only from the water), specifically Vanguard and Gorham’s Cave, which are a rich source of neanderthal and later finds.

Back to the photo – looking at it, the skull is on the top left.

A couple of easy ie wiki links:

and this one has an interesting reconstruction of the child’s skull at the bottom of the page


13 comments on “Gibraltar – cradle of history”

  1. Once again you have given me an interesting read as well as just as interesting links. Thank you. πŸ™‚ You know I love this history stuff.


    • I’d forgotten about your son’s interest in archaeology! Gibraltar is full of amazing history and this particular part is totally unknown outside specialist academic circles.


  2. LOL, sorry, just had to laugh at the grey πŸ™‚

    It does seem odd to put up a monument without any information attached.
    I think the information you’ve provided should be added on a nearby plaque.
    That is another +point towards your Tourist officer job, that Gib so obviously needs.

    Those are very interesting links you’ve added too.


    • I knew it would be grey! It could have possibly been beige, but I figured grey was an easy prediction. Although it is maybe slightly blue grey on the outside? πŸ˜€

      I haven’t even started on the other symbols there! I wanted to write about the skull as it is so fascinating.

      Tourism jefa (boss) please πŸ™‚


  3. i agree – there is definitely a vacancy in the tourism department, and you could fill it! Gibraltar is becoming ever more fascinating. thanks for this.
    but this grey is too funny. beige, or a light taupe or tan would have made so much more sense. possibly even M with the presence of that round yellow thingy near the bottom right. and now i really must run! πŸ˜€


    • Lol! I’ll mention that to the right hon Garcia in charge of tourism.

      Gib actually fascinates me. The history is amazing for such a tiny place.

      Beige/taupe would have been nice, but I so knew it would be the new M colour, ie grey πŸ˜€

      Perhaps we should have a competition for predicting what colour DT will choose? πŸ˜€


  4. I’m still back tracking through posts from my holiday break. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this one. Fascinating. I love the speculation, and likelihood that Gib was the last place neanderthals lived. Both links are very interesting, particularly the reconstruction of Devil’s Tower Child.


    • I was amazed when I went to the lecture to realise how significant Gib was in terms of neanderthals. Or even Gibraltarian man/woman/child?!

      Might do a bit more research on this one.


  5. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep the original skull in Gibraltar where it really belongs and have the replica in London…What’s all that about? Had it been the other way around, (The original found in UK) London would raise hell about it.


    • I suppose more people visit museums in London than they do in Gib. Personally I think if it is in the UK it should be in the BM (my fave in London). It’s the Elgin Marbles syndrome. These things happen. I’m too tired to get worked up as I doubt I could tell the difference between a replica and the original. I do get mildly annoyed about reconstruction though.


Thanks for visiting and if you leave a comment, I usually reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: