The history of Elbolton Cave, near Grassington

This display was put together by Craven Museum, one of our special guests for the evening. You can see more images relating to Elbolton Cave on their Collection Stories webpage.

Elbolton Cave, otherwise known as ‘Navvy Noodle Hole’, is near Thorpe outside Grassington. Excavations of the cave have found human remains from the Early Neolithic Period, along with animal bones, pottery and worked bone pins.

The cave has a narrow entrance with a drop of around 6 metres. It is found at the base of a limestone scar and is part of the ‘Cracoe Reef Knoll’ series.

The cave was first excavated by Reverend E. Jones and members of the Craven Naturalists Society, 1889-1891. It was then excavated again by Arthur Raistrick and Mary Kitson-Clark in 1920.

Arthur Raistrick at the entrance to Elbolton Cave, 1920 © Skipton Town Hall

Excavations and human remains

Reports show that at least 11 inhumation burials and one cremation burial were found, along with three crouched-burials. These were all in the upper layers of the cave floor.

The crouched burial discovery was unusual, as there is evidence that the bodies were placed in an upright sitting posture with the knees close to the skull. Radiocarbon dating results in 2022 show that these skulls date to the range of 3947 to 3764 BC, placing them in the Early Neolithic range.

Further cave finds

Alongside human remains, other finds in the cave such as worked bone pins and patterned pottery show signs of human activity, mainly from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Animal remains were also discovered in the cave, including artic foxes, reindeers, and cows. Brown bear bones have also been found, but below the level of human remains. This suggests they occupied the cave before people.

Two brown bear claws found in Elbolton Cave © Skipton Town Hall

“The fragments of pottery are interesting in character. They are all Neolithic and crude, seemingly made from the clay found in the cave, and formed into circular vessels

Reverend E. Jones quoted from the Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society, 1889

Reverend E Jones © Skipton Town Hall