Ideas and Evidence in Science: The Kirkdale Cave

The challenge for your pupils!

In 1821 quarrymen in Kirby Moorside, North Yorkshire, uncovered a cave called the Kirkdale Cave.  


This cave contained a number of bones, some of which were fossilised.  They included the bones of animals not usually found in this country.

The Yorkshire Museum is currently researching the Kirkdale Cave, and needs to know how the bones got into the cave. 

Can your pupils help the museum decide how the bones got inside the cave?

Five theories have been suggested - your pupils will use key pieces of evidence provided by the museum – will they be enough to help them decide if their theory is correct?

Theory 1: Caveman Theory

  • A group of cavemen lived in the cave around 100,000 years ago
  • They hunted animals to feed on and regularly brought their kill back to the cave to feast on
  • When they had finished eating they threw the bones that were left to the cave floor
  • As time passed, the bones became buried in cave earth.

Theory 2: Hyena’s Den Theory

  • The cave was once home to a pack of hyena, who hunted a variety of animals and dragged their kill back to the cave
  • Once in the cave, the hyenas would devour their kill, leaving the remaining bones to be covered in cave earth.

Theory 3: Elephants’ Graveyard Theory

  • Elderly elephants are known to find a special place to go and die
  • It is thought that elephants used Kirkdale Cave as a ‘graveyard’
  • They would go there to die, leaving their bodies to be buried in cave earth.

Theory 4: The Great Flood Theory

  • The bible says that when ‘terrible floods’ came, Noah collected up a pair of each type of animal
  • He put the pairs of animals on his Ark
  • The animals that weren’t saved were washed away by the flood waters
  • Some of their bodies were deposited in Kirkdale Cave.

Theory 5: Mini-earthquake Theory

  • Around 100,000 years ago Britain’s landscape and climate was similar to that of the African Savannah
  • A variety of animals roamed the plains
  • One day a mini earthquake affected the area surrounding the cave, causing the land above the cave to collapse – taking any animals that were on the land with it!
  • The animals were buried
  • Thousands of years later sediments from river water helped the cave to ‘reform’.

A PowerPoint show of these theories can be downloaded - see Worksheets link below.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Yorkshire Museum and Gardens | 
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