The Scladina Cave is located in the village of Sclayn (City of Andenne, Province of Namur), along the south bank of the Meuse River, between Andenne and Namur.
Scladina is famous for the discovery of numerous archaeological assemblages as well as the remains of a ca. 8-year-old Neanderthal child. The Cave has been under scientific excavation since 1978 by professional archaeologists from the University of Liège and the Scladina Cave Archaeological Centre (SCAC).
The museum has been recently moved (March, 2020) to the “Phare”, a cultural building located in the city centre of Andenne, associating the municipal library, the touristic office and the Museum of Ceramic.
The first excavation campaigns led by the Department of Prehistory of the University of Liège (1978) revealed an important sedimentary sequence covering part of the Middle Pleistocene up to the Holocene. The sequence delivers a very abundant palaeontological documentation that allows the study of the evolution of the animal species through a long-time scale. Distributed throughout this sequence, a dozen of archaeological assemblages has been identified, among which two are numerically important and have been intensively investigated since the 1980’s: the one located in the upper part of the sedimentary sequence (assemblage 1A), already identified by the local people, and the other embedded deeper in the cave infilling (assemblage 5), discovered by the University of Liège and untouched until then.
At present, the excavations are carried out by the nonprofit organization Archeologie Andennaise in conjunction with the University of Liege, with support from the City of Andenne, the Service public de Wallonie and the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles.
The assemblage 1A is dated to the Late Middle Palaeolithic, between 44 ky calBP and 42 ky calBP. It constitutes up to now one of the youngest typically Mousterian occupations in North-western Europe. Archaeological evidence shows the exploitation of local and non-local lithic raw material, the use of bones as fuel, the importation of a non-local mineral black pigment, and the distribution of the settlement on two separated areas.
The assemblage 5 delivered the richest occupation, a least dated back to the Weichselian Early Glacial. A large diversity of game has been exploited from small prey (Hare) to larger animals such as equids, bovids and ursids. Moreover, at least 6 Chamois have been brought complete to the site and highly exploited. Archaeological and zooarchaeological evidence also indicates a complex behaviour combining the transport of raw material from across the Meuse River, sometimes over a long-distance, and the exploitation of local resources to produce stone and bone tools at the cave.
In 1993, the right fragment of a juvenile Neanderthal jaw was discovered during the field school excavation in the sedimentary complex 4A, dated to the Weichselian Early Glacial. Since then, 19 teeth and bone fragments belonging to the same individual have been unearthed, spread on a large surface.
In Belgium, it constitutes the on-field discovery of the most significant assemblage of Neanderthal remains since that in Spy Cave, in 1886. For the first time in Belgium, a Neanderthal remain assemblage was apprehended in its stratigraphic, chronological and paleoenvironmental context. These remains have been extensively studied and published in a detailed monograph in 2014.
In 2017 and 2018, new on-field discoveries, collection reassessment and new radiocarbon dating programmes allowed to stratigraphically associate some Upper Palaeolithic stone tools with a bone retoucher dated between 41.5 and 38.5 ky calBP within the uppermost half of T-RO unit. These dates are the oldest obtained for the regional Early Upper Palaeolithic and partially overlap with the dating of the latest Middle Palaeolithic settlements and Neanderthal individuals, raising questions upon the dynamic of the replacement of Neanderthal populations by Anatomically Modern Humans in North-western Europe.
A visible permanent excavation
Scladina has been under a permanent excavation since the mid-1980s. A team is full-time devoted to the project, managing all the different aspects, from science (excavation, preservation of the collection, studies and publication) to cultural mediation (exhibitions, guided tours, etc.).
The presence at the same place of the researchers and the public make interesting encounters possible, crossing the borders between science and tourism inside the archaeological site itself. A successful experience that is highly appreciated by the school groups.
More than the guided tours, the public (small groups/individuals) have access to the Scladina Cave 2.0 experience, a discovery of the cave in augmented reality (AR experience).
THE EMA (ESPACE MUSEAL ANDENNAIS)
Located in the heart of Andenne, 7 km from the cave itself, the Scladina Cave Museum is a part of a new cultural infrastructure build above a swimming pool “Art Deco” (1930’s), which has been newly restored (in 2019) and used as the Municipal Library.
Other facilities have taken place in this new building such as the Touristic Office, a Panoramic terrace and the Museum of Ceramic, which constitutes with Scladina the EMA (espace muséal andennais).
Around 400m² are dedicated to the research and the discoveries made in Scladina with a special focus on the Scladina Child, whose original remains will be presented. Opening March 2020.