Digitising Yorkshire’s savannah past

Media captionArchaeologists will turn Victoria Cave and its ancient bone collection into a digital museum

Ancient bones from a North Yorkshire cave, including the remains of rhinos, bears and hyenas, are to go on display in a “virtual museum” more than a century after they were excavated.

Some of the bones, found in Victoria Cave in the dales, date back more than one hundred thousand years.

At that time, such beasts were common in northern England.

A team of archaeologists from the organisation DigVentures has set out digitise the site’s unique collection.

The cave was discovered in 1837 when a man noticed his dog disappear through an opening in the hill, and reappear through another.

When they excavated, the Victorian explorers found objects that revealed the area’s ancient history – from skulls of extinct rhinos and elephants, to more recent Romano-British artefacts.

Now, with the help of the local farmer and archaeology enthusiast, Tom Lord, who’s been looking after that collection for forty years, the archaeologists have made 3D scans of every item, and of the cave itself.

They’ll use these to place each object, digitally, in the same spot where it was unearthed.

The team says this will give visitors “a museum in their pocket”, in the form of their smartphone.

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Image caption

The team made a 3D scan of the inside of the cave for their digital museum

And they hope the same approach will bring other ancient British sites back to virtual life.

Tom Lord told BBC News: “I live within sight almost of Victoria Cave, and it’s just a place of fascination and wonder.

“It’s just starting to reveal its secrets.

“As a child, I saw this collection in cabinets. And now, with new digital technology, we can put this out on the web and everyone can see it.”

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