The significance of today’s Object of the Week was not understood by those who found it.

WHEN limestone quarrymen discovered Kirkdale cave in July 1821, they had no idea of the importance of the collections of old bones they found there.

The quarrymen had been finding odd bones in the cave, in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, for some time and not really thinking anything of it, discarding them into the beck below.

But when local naturalist John Gibson visited, he realised that the bones didn’t belong to cattle.

Forty metres above the riverbed, a narrow entrance was revealed which led to a cave network.

On closer inspection this was revealed to be littered with animal bones and teeth.

The news of the find was heard by Reverend William Buckland, a pioneer in the world of geology and palaeontology.

Rev Buckland came to examine the finds and discovered that the cave contained the disarticulated bones of hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant, bison, giant deer and hyena, many with signs of having been gnawed.

The Northern Echo: This rhinoceros bone was among the findsThis rhinoceros bone was among the finds

At first it was thought that the bones had been carried by flood water, possibly from The Great Flood as described in The Bible.

Buckland believed that the cave had been a hyena’s den and that the remains had been dragged there by them.

Many of these species were not known to have lived this far north up to this point. It is now known that the bones date from the Ice Age.

The finds, now within Whitby Museum, were amongst the first items to be collected by the newly formed Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society.

The society was founded in 1823 by a group of leading Whitby citizens led by the Rev George Young, the author of the classic 19th century History of Whitby and minister at the Presbyterian Church.

The chief object of the society was to set up and maintain a museum, specialising in fossils, since “Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities”.

Ever since, Whitby Museum has been run for the people of Whitby by the people of Whitby.