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Perwick Cave Great Auk Bone

Date made: Middle Iron Age

Description: This small bone is from the now-extinct bird, the Great Auk and was found during excavations of an Iron Age site at Perwick Cave, near Port St Mary. Flightless Great Auks became extinct in the mid-1800s due to the high demand for their down and the relative ease of hunting them.

The excavations at Perwick Cave in 1969 uncovered the remains of a habitation site dating to around AD 70. There were traces of cooked food and cooking fires, along with bones of fifteen species of bird (including the Great Auk), shellfish, a seal, a pony and a human burial.

The reasons for the remains being in the cave are unclear. If the site was purely a domestic place, then the Iron Age people could have just thrown their rubbish into the nearby sea rather than let it accumulate in the cave. There is a possibility that the deposits at Perwick are the result of ritual activity instead. Whatever the reason, the remains are proof that the Great Auk once occupied the Manx coastline.

Materials: Bone

Date found: 1969

Object name: animal remains

Collection: Archaeology Collection

ID number: 1982-0211


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