02:19 GMT06 December 2020
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    Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire is being considered for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site, putting it on a par with Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef.

    Scientists say carvings found on the wall of caves in the limestone gorge are almost certainly "witch marks" which were commonly used to guard against evil spirits.

    "Even 200 years ago, the English countryside was a very different place, death and disease were everyday companions and evil forces could readily be imagined in the dark," said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England.

    The caves at Creswell Crags are believed to have been first inhabited 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age.

    ​But the marks, which were found in September by Hayley Clark and Ed Waters from a group called Subterranea Britannica, have been described as one of the most significant discoveries in British history.

    The "protective marks" are believed to have been carved in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Known as apotropaic marks — from the Greek word apotrepein meaning "to turn away" — they have traditionally been found in churches and houses all over Europe, especially near doorways, windows and fireplaces.

    ​Most are diagonal lines, boxes and mazes which were designed to capture evil spirits.

    But some are double V V engravings, believed to refer to protection by the Virgin Mary (also known as the Virgin of Virgins).

    A collection of 57 witch marks in Somerset was believed to be the biggest until now.


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