Basketmaker Culture

From "The Tracks We Followed" by Norma Gene Young as told by Wm. E. "Uncle Bill" Baker, in late 1933.

During the last few years, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, has yielded considerable archaeological information through recent research work. The most important discovery was the finding of a mummy in Basketmakers Cave #1. [Ed. Note: The term "mummy" used here is to indicate a dried body, not a mummy as prepared for burial by the ancient Egyptians.]

The mummy was located May 13, 1933 by a party who were making an inspection of the cave. The cave was discovered by Wm. E. Baker and associates in June, 1928. Following the discovery, considerable excavation was done by various parties.

Many artifacts have been found, all of which were covered to the depth of about 18 inches to two feet below the surface of the cave. Some of these items: corn on the cob resembling popcorn of today; pieces of small cord made of two-strand material and many knots, some of yucca plant leaves, some of grasses and some of corn husks. There were also bags filled with pumpkin seeds and various other artifacts. An investigation by qualified archaeologists of the material taken from the cave indicates that it was used by Basketmakers Cultures #2, found before this date in Northeast Arizona and Northwest New Mexico and other places of the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains. Scientists, by careful research, have placed the age of Basketmakers #2 culture at 1500 to 200 B.C. [Note: Ages and interpretations were those in existence at the time this story was originally written in 1933. Science now further pinpoints the culture at 500 B.C.]

The habitations have been found in caves of mountains beneath ruins of Cliff Dwellers many hundreds of years old, which prove that they anti-date the Cliff Dwellers' ruins. Recently I made a careful examination of the mummy to see if there is proper evidence to associate it with the Basketmakers who had once occupied the cave, and I made four observations which could be evidence that it was associated with that culture.

First, two-strand cord made of fiber yucca plant upon which several shell beads were attached was found around the neck of the mummy, a portion of which was still intact in folds of the neck skin. Second, on the outer side of the left leg were the remains of six kernels of corn typical of corn found in the cave.. The kernels appeared to have been pressed into the flesh by the weight of over-lying material. The upper portions of the kernels had been eaten off by rodents.

Third, the back of the skull was not deformed. Prior excavations of Basketmakers caves had indicated that flattening of the back of the skull by placing infants on a board did not begin until after the Basketmakers culture. Fourth, Dr. Durzey and Dr. Kidder in the excavations of Basketmakers culture in northeast Arizona found burials where the head had been drawn down and the leg doubled up, and the hand tied firmly to the leg. This mummy had the right hand drawn down along the abdomen, resting firmly against the inner side of the left thigh. Opposite the wrist of the right hand on the outer side of the left leg was a portion of two-strand twine made of yucca plant fiber embedded in the flesh.

From these facts we feel safe in saying that evidence strongly indicates that this mummy belonged to the Basketmakers of that age. The mummy was found on it's right side, head toward the south facing the East, under a flat rock which had evidently been placed there at the time of the burial. This rock was Dakota Sandstone, while rock in the roof of the cave above the body is Purgatoire, this removing the thought that rock might have fallen from the roof of the cave.

One ear of corn, several corn cobs, and some wooden implements were found in association with the mummy. The mummy is that of a child, age undetermined. Measurement of the body in its withered condition from the top of the head to the bottom of the heel is 38-1/2 inches. Length from the bottom of the chin to the top of the forehead is 5-1/2 inches. Length of the foot is 4 inches and the weight is 3-1/2 pounds. The broad face and forehead of the mummy are quite noticeable. There is a full head of hair which reaches as low as the shoulders. The color of the hair at present is dark brown, possibly faded somewhat through the ages.