The cave was discovered in 1889 by workmen who were quarrying for road metal, as had been done for several years prior. The workmen cleared and dug through the base of the hill, which led to the discovery of the entrance to the cave. Large amounts of cockle shells were discovered when the cave was opened. The cave was most likely closed by a landslide that occurred before European settlement. The cave showed evidence of previous fires by the amount of charcoal found on the roof.
One artefact found in the cave is a wooden ama, which is also known as an outrigger canoe. It was found in 1889, in the same year as the cave's discovery. Other artefacts discovered include a carved paddle, a canoe bailer, a wooden carving of a dog, fragments of a fishing net, a number of greenstone axe, an amount of black hair and bones of fish and moa, which were found in another cave inside the main one. These artefacts have helped researchers learn about Māori culture. Due to the many artefacts found in the cave, it is considered to be one of the greatest archeological finds in New Zealand.
- McFadgen, Bruce (2013). Hostile Shores Catastrophic Events in Prehistoric New Zealand and Their Impact on Maori Coastal Communities. New York: Auckland University Press. p. no page, below fig9.6. ISBN 9781869406738. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Jacomb, Chris; Brown, Helen. "Moncks Cave". Heritage New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage NZ. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- "Maori Relics — Discovery at Sumner". Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (249). The Argus. 3 October 1889. p. 154. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Ancient outrigger, Moncks Cave". Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Jacomb, Chris (December 2008). "The chronology of Moncks Cave, Canterbury, New Zealand". Records of the Canterbury Museum. 22: 45–56. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
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