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Remains of Forbes Quarry Cave (site of first Neanderthal skull find)

Ref: HLCGFP4/006

Forbes’ Quarry is located on the northern face of the Rock of Gibraltar. It borrows its name from an 18 th Century military installation located directly above the cave and known as Forbes’ Battery.

The area was extensively quarried during the late 19th Century to supply stone for reshaping the new Line Wall and extension of the South Mole. In the course of the quarrying, a limestone cave was found when much of the vegetated slope at the cavern’s base was removed. During the course of this activity, however, the cave was almost totally destroyed.

However, the removal of the cave material also inadvertently helped Captain Edmund Flint find the skull of an adult female Neanderthal in 1848. However, the destruction caused by the quarrying activities left very little evidence for future research.

Captain Flint presented his find to the society on the 3 rd March 1848. This was only the second Neanderthal fossil ever found. The Forbes’ Quarry skull attracted the attention of prominent scientists in Great Britain when it was presented at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in September 1864. Charles Darwin had long been curious about the skull, but was too ill to attend the meeting, so geologist Charles Lyell and anthropologist Hugh Falconer arranged to bring the skull to his residence so he could examine it. In a letter, Darwin described the skull as ‘wonderful’.

During WWII a number of pillboxes covering the approaches to the cave were built. Access to the cave is now via a steel staircase raised to the roof of the exterior pillbox.

Gibraltar 1, the specimen name of a Neanderthal skull found at Forbes' Quarry by Captain Flint in 1848.

orbe's Quarry WWII pillbox and access to cave.

Forbe's Quarry Cave.

Remains of Forbes Quarry Cave (site of first Neanderthal skull find) Image