Creswell Crags is home to more than 20 caves and rock shelters, which have yielded rich deposits of archaeological and palaeontological material.
The earliest material found in the caves is from the last interglacial, a warm period 125,000 years ago, during which hippopotamus, narrow-nosed rhinoceros and spotted hyaenas were present in the landscape. Later, during the middle of the last glacial period (55,000 to 40,000 years ago), cold adapted animals were present, such as woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and reindeer, alongside hyaenas again. Hyaenas are an important part of the Creswell Crags story; they denned in the caves, as evidenced by remains of the hyaenas and their prey.
No humans were present in Creswell Crags, nor in wider Britain, during the last interglacial. However, the last glacial period saw two human species. Around 55,000 to 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals inhabited the area, leaving behind large numbers of their stone tools. Later, there were multiple visits by early modern humans, as evidenced through their stone and bone tools. They also left behind evidence of their diet: mountain hare and wild horse, dated to around 15,000 to 13,600 years ago.