Njoro River Cave

Useful Information

Location: Sigotich village,
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: H. V. Merrick, M. C. Monaghan (1984) The Date of the Cremated Burials in Njoro River Cave, Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 19:1, 7-11. online DOI pdf
Mary Douglas Leakey, Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey (1950): Excavations at the Njoro River Cave: stone age cremated burials in Kenya Colony, Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1950. Pp. VI+78. 14 plates, text figure and map. 12/6.
A. J. Arkell (1951): African Affairs Volume 50, Issue 199, April 1951, Pages 166–167. Tanganyika Notes and Records. No. 29. Dar-es-Salaam. July 1950. Pp. 110. Illustrated. 7/6. DOI pdf
Address: Njoro River Cave.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1938 first excavated by Mary D. Leakey and Louis S. B. Leakey.
1950 first use of radiocarbon dating in East Africa.


Njoro River Cave is an important place for Kenyan archaeology and C14 dating, but it is not really a tourist location. We were actually not convinced if we should list it. However, it is listed by various tourist websites, and we thought we should list it to rectify some details.

As the name suggests, Njoro River Cave is located on the banks of the Njoro River in the central East African Rift Valley on the Mau Escarpment. The small shelter was created by the erosion of the river. 3350 to 3050 years ago, during the Elmentaitan Neolithic period which belongs to the Pastoral Neolithic, this place was used for cremation.

The cave was first excavated in 1938 by Mary D. Leakey and her husband Dr. Louis S. B. Leakey. They found the remains of at least 78 individuals and a wide range of grave goods including obsidian artefacts. There were stone bowls, grindstones, pestle rubbers, stone beads, and bone and ivory pendants. Organic materials including seed beads, a wooden vessel, gourd fragments and bits of leather and basketry.

In 1950 they finally used the organic material for dating with the newly discovered radiocarbon dating. The Innovative dating method was proposed by Willard Libby in 1946. This was the first radiocarbon dating in East Africa, and became thus a part of science history.

The cave is located in a steep-sided valley near Lake Nakuru. It is an erosional cave created by the river. However, the valley has about half a dozen caves, and we were not able to get the location of this cave. That's a problem all sites we visited had. And those who specify coordinates are all wrong. Even the Wikipedia page give coordinates which are in the middle of a lake. Google currently lists three caves along the river, OpenStreetMap does not list anything. We are actually not unhappy with this situation. Such archaeological sites in Europe would be well protected and not excavated parts massively gated. Here the sites are unmaintained and subject to vandalism. We suggest to avoid this cave and visit caves which are easier to access.