Archaeologists discover a unique mummy in Nevada that is the oldest in America.
America's Oldest Mummy Dated 10,600 Years Old
The earliest human occupation of the Great Basin was the Paleo- Indians some 12,000-10,000 BCE. They were believed to be living there for thousands of years and sometimes referred to as the "Desert Archaic" people. The indigenous peoples were nomadic hunter-gathers and lived in earthen willow and sagebrush huts in small villages. The Great Basin covered Nevada, Utah, southern Oregon, Idaho, southwest corner of Montana, western Wyoming, and a small portion of Arizona.
1940 the husband-wife team of Sydney and Georgia Wheeler, working for the Nevada State Parks Commission, discovered Spirit Cave and a mummy, called the Spirit Cave Mummy, along with over sixty artifacts setting the archaeology community on fire. The Wheelers barely found the cave opening; upon entering, they found two bodies. One body was wrapped deeper than the other and partially mummified. (only the head and right shoulder were mummified). The mummies were covered in a tule matting. At the time, along with the artifacts, they were believed to be 1500-2000 years old. But the Wheelers thought they were much older. The discoveries were deposited in a Nevada storage facility in Carson City for the next fifty-four years.
In 1966, the University of California Riverside anthropologist Ervi Taylor was finally able to examine the artifacts using a spectrometer. When the results were analyzed, they went wild. They were determined to be 9500-10,600 years old. The results were later published in the Nevada Historical Quarterly.
By now, the Paiute-Shoshone Tribe made their claim of cultural affiliation. Their request was made under the National American Grave Protection Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The legal proceedings would take twenty years to settle. In 2006, the U.S. District Court of Nevada ruled the Bureau of Land Management erred in dismissing evidence without explanation and ordered the matter back to the BLM. Finally, in 2015, by agreement with the tribe, DNA analysis would be done on the remains. The results showed he remains were similar o the north and south Ameican indigenous groups.
On November 22, 2016, the remains were returned to the tribe and buried by them in a religious ceremony.
In 1997, the Society for American Archaeologists awarded the Crabtree Award posthumously to Sydney M. and Georgia Wheeler Felts for their contributions to archaeology. Sidney and Georgia spent many years searching various archaeology sites, and with the discovery of Spirit Cave Man, it turned out to be their most significant contribution to science.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 28, 2020:
Ankita, thanks for your visit. Glad you enjoyed the article.
Ankita B on September 27, 2020:
A very interesting and well structured article. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 27, 2020:
Rosina, thanks for reading. I'm so glad you found it interesting.
Rosina S Khan on September 27, 2020:
The Wheelers do deserve the award for their greatest contributions to archaeology in discovering the oldest Mummy in America. Really an interesting account and thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. Thank you, Fran, for another wonderful article.