Sculptor's Cave – Duffus, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
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Sculptor's Cave

Duffus, Scotland

A beachside cave filled with Bronze Age metalwork, pottery, and human remains. 

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Sculptor’s Cave is located on a beach of the Moray Firth, near Covesea. Lying below the beachside cliffs, the cave is accessible via two separate passages. There is evidence that this cave was an important place of ritual practice in the past. Bronze Age artifacts and clay pottery have been found within the cave and more disturbingly, a large number of human remains, predominantly those of children.

The cave derives its name from the Pictish carvings that decorate the walls around its entrance and date to roughly 600-800 CE. Sculptor’s Cave was first excavated in 1928-30 by Sylvia Benton, then again in 1979 by Ian and Alexandra Shepherd. These excavations yielded significant collections of Late Bronze Age metalwork, Roman Iron Age artifacts, and human bone.

It has been suggested, from fragments of skulls found closer to the entrance to the caves, that severed heads would have been displayed to those initially entering. It is proposed that this site situated at the junction between land and sea, could have been seen as a passage to the underworld, where the living could transition to the dead, or perhaps children could transition to adults. It may have also been seen as a point where visitors could communicate with gods, or spirits of relatives past.

The cave delves 20 meters into the surrounding cliffs. Those with more eagle eyes (possibly assisted by a higher-powered torch) will be able to see remnants of carvings on the walls of the cave. These date back to the 6th century CE., and include a fish, a flower, and various symbolic shapes.

Know Before You Go

There is parking at the road side slightly along the coast from the cave. It then takes a short walk down an access road then along the sea front to reach the cave, which is in an obvious position at the base of the cliffs. Listen to the waves lapping the beach, as you venture within. The caves are easy to navigate however its best to bring a torch and pair of more sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also check the tide times before visiting as high tide can make access difficult.

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