University of Bristol Spelæological Society

Travels Beneath the Earth

Celebrating the UBSS Centenary

Elaine in Clearwater Cave, Mulu

In 2019, The University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS), one of the oldest caving clubs in the country, celebrates 100 years of cave and archaeological exploration and research. On the 9th/10th November, to mark the occasion, the society is hosting a weekend of presentations and fieldtrips celebrating its past, present and future.

UBSS member Professor Rick Schulting from the University of Oxford, will give the keynote lecture as part of a day of talks on 9th November, entitled: The darker angels of our nature: a butchered prehistoric human bone assemblage from Charterhouse Warren, Somerset. This will tell the story of the butchered Bronze Age remains of over 40 men, women and children recovered from the cave at Charterhouse Warren in the 1970s and 1980s.

Rick says: “Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature reflects on the decline in violence over the course of human history. The site of Charterhouse Warren in Somerset reveals the darker side of our nature. Excavated in the 1970s, and dating to the Early Bronze Age, ca. 2200 BC, the scattered remains of at least 40 men, women and children were found in a 20m-deep pit. This largely unknown assemblage is striking for the sheer number of cutmarks indicating dismemberment, alongside perimortem fracturing of long bones and injuries to skulls. While evidence for violence is not unknown in British prehistory, nothing on this scale has been found, and the site joins a small number of Continental Neolithic and Bronze Age sites showing extreme violence and postmortem processing of human remains. This presentation provides an overview of the new research being undertaken on the assemblage, documenting and characterising the extent of the injuries, investigating who these victims were, and understanding the site’s place in the wider context of the European Early Bronze Age.”

There will be other talks on archaeology, history, exploration, speleogenesis and palaeoclimate research. Poster presentations are welcome from students, members and friends on research, both speleological and archaeological and on exploration topics. There will also the an opportunity to take part in a variety of field trips on Sunday 10th November in Bristol and on Mendip.

The Symposium is free to attend, although donations towards our costs are welcome. It is open to everyone, UBSS members, Bristol Alumni and all with an interest in the Society and its work. The event is being organised by a committee of UBSS alumni members including Andy Farrant (Bsc 1991, PhD 1995), Gina Moseley (PhD 2010), David Richards (BSc 1988, PhD 1995) and Linda Wilson (LLB 1982).


School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road,Bristol, BS8 1SS


Saturday 9th November 2019. There will also be a series of field trips on Mendip on Sunday 10th November.

How to Book

For all enquiries, to pre-register a place or to book a poster slot, please email the organisers.

Where to Park

For those travelling from outside Bristol, on-street parking is both in limited supply and time-limited but there are two multi-story car parks very close by at Berkley Place and Trenchard Street. Both cost £12 for over 4 hours.


A booklet containing abstracts of the talks can be downloaded from here.

During the Drinks Reception we will be launching The Caves of Mid-West Ireland. Copies will available at a special launch price.

Sunday Field Trips

Places on all trips are limited to symposium attendees only. Unless otherwise stated, all trips are for experienced cavers only, who must bring their own equipment.

To reserve your place on a trip, please email Linda Wilson. Places will be allocated on a "first come first served" basis.

Shute Shelve Cavern: History, Geology and Cryogenic Calcite

Led by Alan Gray and Gina Moseley. Places limited to 10. Start time 10:00. Meet in the car park behind the large boulders on the Axbridge bypass.

Aveline's Hole: Archaeology and History

Led by Graham Mullan. Places limited to 10. Start time 11.00. Meet in the small car park just up-combe from the cave entrance.

Non-cavers welcome, but please wear sensible footwear and bring your own torch.

G.B. Cavern: Geology, Geomorphology and Hydrology

Led by Dr Andy Farrant. Start Time 10.30am. This field trip will examine the geology, geomorphology and hydrology of what is one of the finest, and most intensively studied caves in the country. Much of the research in the cave has been done by UBSS members over the past 50 years. Numbers are limited to 5 in the first instance, but if there is sufficient demand, a second trip can be run on the same day. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. This will be a 2-2.5 hour caving trip. Full caving clothing including helmet, boots and lights will be required for this trip. A CCC permit is also required which can be arranged on the day. No novices (minimum experience of four caving trips required) and no carbide. Participants aged 16 and 17 will need to bring a signed parental consent form as well as signing a permit.

Grebe Swallet: History and Geology

Led by Chris Binding. Start time 11.00am. This field trip will look at the history and geology of this unusual cave/lead mine including the historic signatures left in the mud by members of the Young and Clark families in 1753. Numbers limited to 3 in the first instance but If there is sufficient demand, a second trip can be run at 2.30pm.

Upcoming Events

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