Hundreds of ‘witch marks’ in a hidden cavern at Creswell Crags will now be seen by the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with Sheffield Hallam University.

These ‘witch marks’, also known as protection marks or apotropaic marks, were scribed into walls and ceilings of the caves, over dark holes and large crevices hundreds of years ago.

It is thought to be the largest collection of these marks within the UK but they are largely found in a cavern which is unsafe for the public to enter.

Now 3D scanning and animation technology has opened up a new way to see the witch marks, thanks to Sheffield Hallam.

Jeremy Lee, principal lecturer in the University’s Department of Media Arts and Communications, said: “I work with new and emerging digital technologies to enable new ways of seeing, creating and experiencing art works.

“The witch mark cave has given me an excellent opportunity to utilise these technologies to create this interactive 3D copy of the cave.

“This will render the caves accessible to a broad and distanced audience, whilst enabling a detailed viewing and analysis of the marks inside.”

The hidden cavern is covered with scratches and marks, but the technology captures them accurately using LIDAR scanning, more commonly used to document crime scenes and in surveying, and photogrammetry, which is also used in film and gaming to build 3D models.

Visitors will be able to explore every corner of the cave and examine every mark, as never before. In addition, researchers will gain better, safer access to the marks to aid in finally unlocking the secrets of the cave.

Paul Baker, Director of Creswell Crags said: “We may never know what the makers of these marks were seeking protection from or the fear they experienced but the marks are extremely numerous and the concentration in this chamber suggests that this was a significant place.”

Ritualistic protection marks are most commonly found in historic churches and houses, near the entrance points, particularly doorways, windows and fireplaces to protect the inhabitants from evil spirits.

The number and variety of witch mark designs found in the cavern is unprecedented. Among the most common found are the double VV engravings which are believed to make reference to Mary, Virgin of Virgins and similarly PM is Pace Maria.

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