Spirit Cave is found high up in the desert hills north of Grimes Point, some 75 miles east of Reno. Millennia ago the cave looked out over a rich wetland, a remnant of prehistoric Lake Lahontan. If you rotate the view to face up to the cave’s ceiling, you will note that it is composed of tufa deposits, indicating that the cave was long ago submerged beneath the lake. During excavations in 1940 cultural artifacts and human remains were discovered. One set of remains came to be known as the Spirit Cave Mummy.
When first discovered the mummy was believed to be 1500 to 2000 years old. But in 1994 mass spectrometry determined that the remains were approximately 10,600 years old, older than any other North American mummy yet discovered. There were originally some indications that the remains may not have had a genetic linkage to current populations of Native Americans, causing years of litigation regarding the applicability of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). However DNA sequencing finally determined that the Spirit Cave Man is most closely linked to contemporary tribal communities. The remains were turned over to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe on November 22, 2016. See more here, here, and here.
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