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Spaces: an unexpectedly cavernous basement under our anthropological collections

February 15, 2012

The Logan Museum of Anthropology sits atop a decommissioned cave.

Truth be told, it’s not a real cave—it’s a replica of various cave excavations in France that date back to the Magdalenian Period of the upper Paleolithic—approximately 12,000 years ago.


In the 1920’s, anthropology professor George Collie (class of 1881) and his student Alonzo Pond’18 excavated multiple cave sites in France, acquiring thousands of Paleolithic artifacts.

“It was the cutting edge of stone age research,” says Adjunct Professor Bill Green, the James E. Lockwood, Jr. Director of the Logan Museum.

In 1930, the Logan Museum opened the cave exhibit in its lower level. It is a short, low-ceilinged stone corridor, winding back to a hollow turnaround ringed by plaster stalactites and stalagmites. It features cave paintings of buffalo and other animals, a life-size diorama of a cave dwelling, and artifacts brought over from France by Collie and his colleagues.

cave painting 

The cave was an active part of the museum from 1930 up to the 1980’s, when the confined area was deemed unsafe due to poor ventilation and the lack of an emergency exit.

When Green arrived at Beloit College ten years ago, the cave was sometimes used for Halloween parties and other gatherings. Today it is empty and unused most of the time.

Redesigning the cave up to current safety standards would cost about $300,000. “That’s what we call a naming opportunity,” says Green. “If you want the cave named after you, just cover that cost.”

cave entrance