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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Dawkins   27 August 1871

Iscoed Park. | Whitchurch. | Shropshire.

27 August 1871

Dear Mr. Darwin,

I write to tell you of the success which I have had in following up the clue offered by the bones that you sent me from Rhagatt two years ago.1 Last week we dug out two new caves near the old one which has furnished the platycnemic men, and found traces of the same peculiar race in each.2 One had been used as a sepulcre and contained corpses buried in the sitting posture, fragments of coarse ware, flint chips and a most beautiful polished implement of greenstone. The last stamps the neolithic age of the whole series, and renders certain, what in my account I was obliged to leave doubtful.3 All three caves are close to the ridge of limestone from the cracks in which Miss Lloyd obtained the animal-bones.4 So far as I know these three cases are the only ones on record of a Neolithic interment in caves in Britain, while that in the cave at Cefn makes a 4th..5

A like flattening of the tibia I observed in a collection of bones made from a cave near Oban, by Prof. Turner of Edinburgh.6 I fully believe that this character will turn out to be widely distributed among bones from tumuli, and that taken in connection with cranial form, it will show that the same race spread over Britain and North France during the Neolithic age.

I write this because I thought that you would like to know to what sort of result your clue is leading.

Next week we recommence the Yorkshire Caves7 and I hope to send you a good account of our work. We are certain to get some traces of the state of things during the blank which separates the departure of the Roman legions from the conquest by the Angles.


In 1869, CD had sent Dawkins a box of animal bones discovered on the Rhagatt estate, Perthichwareu, Wales, by Gertrude Jane Mary Lloyd; see letter from W. B. Dawkins, 8 February 1871 and n. 1.
The excavations, undertaken by Gertrude Lloyd, are described in Dawkins 1871b, p. 389, and Dawkins 1874, pp. 150–8; see also Correspondence vol. 18, Supplement, letter from W. B. Dawkins, 31 July 1869, and Peter Lucas 2007). Dawkins 1871b describes them as being undertaken by ‘Mr. Lloyd of Rhagatt’, but this is an error; Gertrude Lloyd was the childless widow of John Lloyd, who had died in 1865 (County families 1866). Platycnemia: flattening of the tibia (OED).
Dawkins had been able to assign only a tentative Neolithic date to the original discoveries at Rhagatt (Dawkins and Busk 1870b, pp. 442–5), but argued that the association of human remains with pottery and flint implements in the excavation of August 1871 was clear dating evidence (Dawkins 1871b).
Mary Charlotte Lloyd, sister-in-law to Gertrude Lloyd, had been instrumental in passing the first box of animal bones from Perthichwareu on to Dawkins through CD (see n. 1, above, and Correspondence vol. 17, letter to W. B. Dawkins, 19 July [1869]).
Dawkins described Neolithic burials discovered in a cave at Cefn, Denbighshire, in 1869 in Dawkins and Busk 1870b, Dawkins 1871b, and Dawkins 1874.
William Turner.
Dawkins refers to excavations in caves in Settle, Yorkshire (see Dawkins 1871a and 1871b).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

County families: The county families of the United Kingdom; or, royal manual of the titled & untitled aristocracy of Great Britain & Ireland. By Edward Walford. London: Robert Hardwicke; Chatto & Windus. 1860–93. Walford’s county families of the United Kingdom or royal manual of the titled and untitled aristocracy of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. London: Chatto & Windus; Spottiswoode & Co. 1894–1920.

Lucas, Peter. 2007. Charles Darwin, ‘little Dawkins’ and the platycnemic Yale men: introducing a bioarchaeological tale of the descent of man. Archives of Natural History 34: 318–45.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Describes the successful excavation of caves containing interred remains of Neolithic man.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Boyd Dawkins
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Whitchurch, Salop
Source of text
DAR 162: 127
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7918,” accessed on 14 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19