Cave reindeer is Britain's oldest known rock art
A REINDEER engraved on the wall of a Gower cave has been confirmed as the oldest known rock art in Britain.
The image was created at least 14,000 years ago, an expert from Bristol University has said.
The exact location of the cave containing the precious prehistoric artwork is being kept secret in a bid to preserve it.
Dr George Nash, from Bristol University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, found the engraving while exploring the cave in September 2010.
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He said uranium dating showed it was the oldest rock art in the British Isles, if not north-western Europe.
The minimum date is around 12,500 BC or 14,500 BP (Before Present, which is terminology used by academics), with a plus or minus of 560 years.
Dr Nash said: "The earlier date is comparable with uranium-series dating of flowstone that covers engraved figures within Church Hole Cave at Creswell along the Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire border.
"However, the new minimum date of 14,505 plus or minus 560 years BP makes the engraved reindeer in south Wales the oldest rock art in the British Isles, if not north-western Europe."
The reindeer was engraved over a mineral deposit known as a speleothem, and carved using a sharp-pointed tool by an artist using his or her right hand.
At the time it was carved, the cave would have looked-out over a vast grassy plain where the Bristol Channel know lies — what would one-day become the channel was just a river far in the distance.
Experts from the National Museum of Wales have been involved in the art project, while Wales heritage group Cadw provided a grant.
The limestone cliffs along the Gower coast are known for their archaeological importance.
Another Gower cave, Goat's Hole, was home to the Red Lady of Paviland — actually the remains of a young male — which is the earliest formal human burial to have been found in western Europe at some 29,000 years old.