Spirit Cave

Spirit Cave

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.


Click and drag to explore Spirit Cave.

Touch here for the HMD version.

Click here to see the location of Grimes Point in Google Maps.

  • Pingback:Lovelock Cave Series: Inconsistencies Found in Smithsonian's "Narrative" — mystery stream | mystery stream
    Posted at 00:03h, 06 August Reply

    […] found and call him “Spirit Man Mummy” with mass spectrometry showing him to be from 10,600 BP (before present). This use of tule, reeds and duck decoys would make sense in a lake area, but […]

  • Debby Hardy
    Posted at 14:15h, 03 March Reply

    This makes Kennewick Man,Spirit Cave Man,and Anzik Boy all Native American genotype matches despite “unique” or “European” skull features, all proving the length of time NA have occupied the Americas and how deeply this is their land. They all seem once again to be Clovis peoples. The non native American features found in their skeletons could be related to some genetic expression variables to this finding(link below). Since humans have been migrating,and falling in love with the boy/girl next door for millineums,it is not surprising that handfuls of genetic markers for everything from Neanderthal to European show up in otherwise predominate genotypes for any population. I think scientists have got to bite the bullet and accept the first people’s right to have their ancient ancestors treated in any way they deem fit. Perhaps offering STEM scholarships and opportunities may change anthropogenic opportunities within the tribes in the future,with some kind of understanding of and methods for accommodating scientific and spiritual needs advancing the respect for all Native Americans, modern and ancient,that they deserve. Link to Siberian dna findings: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/science/two-surprises-in-dna-of-boy-found-buried-in-siberia.html

  • Mark Diaz
    Posted at 00:09h, 03 December Reply

    Very interesting to see the cave and learn that it was a wetlands area in the past. I wonder if genetic testing included comparisons to Asian or Inuit DNA. Thanks for posting this.

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