ON THE side of a hill in a village near St Asaph, archaeologists are preparing to dig up a small cave which could hold clues to how humans came into existence.

While it might seem an unlikely location, the cave at Ffynnon Beuno, a five-acre smallholding in Tremeirchion, was first excavated in 1883 and found to contain Ice Age flint tools and the bones of woolly rhino, mammoth and hyena.

In fact there are so many objects underneath the site - which was also the childhood home of 19th century explorer Henry Morton Stanley - that digs typically make discoveries from as long as 40,000 years ago.

However a team of experts and students from the University of Edinburgh are hoping to reveal something in particular.

Ffynnon Beuno Cave, which is dated 350 million years old, lasted two Ice Ages when the moving of glaciers scraped heaps of earth into the cave to remain there.

Later this month Dr Rob Dinnis, lecturer at the university, will lead a three-week dig in search of evidence related to Neanderthals before their extinction in 42,000 BP, and the earliest Homo sapiens in 37,000 BP.

Dr Dinnis, whose research includes stone tool technology in the European Palaeolithic period, said the Fynnon Beuno Cave "is of huge and international importance".

"There is still much we don’t know about how Homo sapiens came to replace Neanderthals," he said. "The answers lie at sites such as Ffynnon Beuno, on the northernmost fringes of the Ice Age world, home to what may have been some of the very last Neanderthals.”

A planning application had to be approved by Natural Resources Wales for the dig to go ahead.

The archaeologists will also sift through a 130-year-old soil heap near the cave which was made during the Victorian excavations.

Jane Marsh, who bought the smallholding in 2013 and now manages glamping pitches there, said: “Items are found here every time because there are so many. The cave is filled with a solid bed of earth which the team will carefully retrieve and sift through.

"They will also work through the Victorian soil heap for the first time, because research back then was less resourceful than it is now, so there could be items that we chucked away.

“We’ll have to see whether the team can find what they really want.”

The project starts on June 26, when the team will hold free daily tours, except Mondays and Tuesdays.

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