Underwater cave excavation in Gibraltar

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details


Development of techniques for excavation of deposits in an underwater cave mouth some 20 m beneath present sea level. The site would have been available for human occupation during periods of lowered sea level more than 12,000 years ago, and the orientation of the cave and superficial indications suggested the likelihood that terrestrial deposits accumulated in the cave entrance would have been protected from being washed away when sea level rose and flooded the cave and its surroundings.

Layman's description

Excavation of a submerged cave entrance now 20 m below sea level, but which would have been available for human use when sea level was lower than present.

Key findings

A series of marine deposits were excavated in the upper levels as expected, but rockfalls impeded access to lower and potentially terrestrial deposits. Further work would require more expensive technology to remove rockfalls and could not be carried out with the available budget of this project. An unexpected side-effect of the work was the identification and dating of a tsunami deposit, which could be related to the AD 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The work also contributed to experience with and development of techniques for exploration of submerged landscape archaeology using mixed gas technologies and re-breather equipment,, and helped to strengthen the relationship between the University Department of Archaeology and the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, a charitable organization dedicated to public outreach.
Effective start/end date1/09/0731/10/08


  • AHRC: £118,433.00