The People of Gibraltar
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 7

Gorham’s Cave Complex

The caption to this photograph adapted from the World Heritage nomination document is not that easy to interpret – Bennett’s and Gorham’s are easily identifiable. However, Vanguard has a double-arched entrance which means that the one after it must be Hyena Cave -which unfortunately is often referred to in the plural in certain lists. As regards the rest I suspect that at least one of them is Boat Hoist Cave – another one that is sometimes referred to in the plural.

Whichever ones are which the caves of this complex form perhaps the most important ones within Gibraltar’s 2016 World Heritage site and are, of course, all listed and scheduled in the 2018 - Heritage and Antiquities Act.

World Heritage site in dark green, Buffer Zone, light green        (2015 - World Heritage nomination document – detail)

Bennett’s Cave - The most southerly of four caves that show evidence of Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal occupation. 

Bennett’s Cave   (2015 - World Heritage nomination document – detail)

Gorham’s Cave - A few meters to the north of Bennetts Cave this one was discovered by Captain Gorham in 1907 although it was not until the 1950s that its significance, as a site of Neanderthal occupation was realized when early excavations revealed Mousterian stone tools, along with a wide range of animal bones. 

1951/1954 - Early excavations at Gorham’s Cave by the British archaeologist John D’arcy Waechter

In 1989, the Gibraltar Museum teamed up with the British Museum and the Natural History in London to form the Gibraltar Caves Project which have ensured that these excavations in have continued until today and will do so in the future.

Its 18-metre deep archaeological sequence covers a period that extends from about 55 000 years ago to approximately the 3rd century BC, a sequence that is dominated by Neanderthal activity to around 28 000 years ago. Gorham’s Cave complex is in fact the last recorded place of Neanderthal occupation in the world.

Neanderthal art in Gorham’s Cave (With acknowledgements and thanks to Stewart Finlayson)

Gorham’s Cave was later occupied by early modern humans between 20 000 and 13 0000 years ago as revealed by Palaeolithic excavation sequences rich in fossils, stone tools and other evidence which is being put together by the Gibraltar Museum. 

The top level of Gorham’s Cave was also used by Phoenicians and Carthaginians between the 9th and 3rd centuries BC by which time the Rock may have become a coastal shrine where mariners would leave offerings after arrival at one of the Pillars of Hercules, perhaps still considered by many as the end of the known world.

Vanguard Cave - A sister cave to Gorham’s it lies a shortish distance towards the distance towards north of Gorham’s. Its 17-metre archaeological sequence is only slightly lower than that of Gorham’s and is currently subject of more or less continuous research. 

Vanguards Cave   (2015 - World Heritage nomination document – detail)

Like Gorham’s the cave was also occupied by the Neanderthals but the archaeological sequence seems to be entirely Neanderthal as there is no record of later occupation. Recent digs, however, have produced the first evidence anywhere that the Neanderthals predilection for marine foods, including fish and shellfish as well as seals, dolphins. 

All of which suggest that Vanguard Cave could end up being of major world importance as a unique site revealing Neanderthal behaviour in increasingly intimate detail. 

Anderson’s Beach - later known as Governor’s Beach - From the left - Bennett’s, Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves

The beach in from of the Gorham’s Cave Complex was formed by spoil from tunnelling in the 1950s which was dumped at the base of the cliffs where the caves are found. The result was the creation of artificial beach known originally as Anderson’s Beach and then as Governor’s Beach.

Hyena (Hyaena) Caves - A cave or caves with a several openings to the north of Vanguard Cave. Despite its inclusion as part of the Gorham’s Cave Complex in the World Heritage nomination, the cave is hardly given a mention -other than that it has potential for further Middle Palaeolithic findings. Nor can I find any further information about it elsewhere.

(2015 - World Heritage nomination document – adapted)

Nevertheless, as excavations elsewhere have shown that many of the sea and other caves of Gibraltar were once occupied intermittently by both hominids and hyenas, I can only surmise that the name given to these caves is the result of higher than usual findings in them of bones of these somewhat unpleasant animals. 

Gunn’s Cave
Located within the World Heritage site but not earmarked as having any further potential.

Harley Street Fissure
During the course of WWII a large series of underground tunnels were built somewhat to the north of Beefsteak Cave. The project included the construction of an underground Hospital named after one of Gibraltar’s Governors who was known to his friends as John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker. Locals and colleagues preferred the much manageable Viscount Gort hence the hospital was christened Gort’s Hospital.

Viscount Gort (Reginald Grenville Eves)

The Viscount was still in office when another cave was used to build a Hospital - Monkey's Cave Convalescent Hospital - but on this occasion the powers that be opted to name it after the cave into which it was built rather than the Governor. Gort’s Hospital was built close to the old British Military Hospital and was touted as being better equipped than its above ground rival - perhaps not all that surprising as most of its equipment was supplied by the Americans.

The British Military Hospital - Perhaps not as modern but still pretty imposing (1914 - Luisa Hooke)

Other service tunnels nearby were connected to the hospital by an underground passageway known - inevitably - as Harley Street. 

Although difficult to determine with precision, the site of Harley Street Fissure on an undated and unattributed plan shown suggests that it is more or less where one would expect close to this wartime tunnel complex.

(Adapted from the unattributed plan showing the location of 76 Gibraltar caves - detail)

The five caves shown on the plan are from north to south - left to right:

A - McNeil’s Cave
B - Harley Street Fissure
C - Sapper’s Bog Cave - or Sappers Bog Scorpion Cave 
D - Genista 3
E – Beefsteak Cave

Although I cannot find any further information to confirm I would suggest that McNeil’s Cave and Sapper’s Bog Cave were also discovered during the tunnelling work that revealed the Harley Street Fissure.

2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Introduction
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 1 - All’s Well - Beefsteak
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 2 - Blackstrap - Buena Vista
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 3 - Cave S - Coptic
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 4 - Devil’s Fall - Devil’s Tower
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 5 - Europa Pass - Forbes’ Quarry
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 6 - Genista - George’s Bottom
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 7 - Gorham’s - Harley Street
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 8 - Holy Boys - Ibex
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 9 - Judge’s Cave - Martin’s Cave
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 10 - Monkey’s - O’Hara’s
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 11 - Poca Roca - Ragged Staff
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 12 - Spur Road - St Michael’s -
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 13 - Star Chamber - Viney Quarry