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Lemon Grove Mummies
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Lemon Grove Mummy
Age 15 years old and 1 year old
Sex Female
Status hunter gatherers
Culture Mexican Indian
Date(s) 1040 - 1260
Site Caves of Chihuahua, Mexico
Current Location
Location Museum of Man, San Diego, California
Catalog #

In 1966, two California teenagers became fascinated with mummies and archaeology. They wanted to make a find for themselves and had heard that the prehistoric tribes of northern Mexico had a tradition of burying their dead in caves. The cool, dry air would then naturally mummify the bodies. The pair spent over a month exploring the caves of Chihuahua, Mexico before finding two mummified bodies in a cave. One body was that of a young woman, the other of an infant. The teenagers illegally removed the bodies from the cave and smuggled them across the border to Lemon Grove, California. They could not display their finds or turn the bodies over to a museum due to the illegal acquisition. At that point, they were drafted into the US Army and they asked a friend if they could store the box in her garage. She agreed, and there the mummies sat for 14 years.

In 1980, while cleaning out her garage, a woman found the hidden mummies, and she immediately contacted the authorities. When the examination of the bodies was completed, it concluded that the remains had been dead for centuries, not decades. Carbon dating examination confirmed that the mummies dated between AD 1040 and AD 1260. 

The police tracked down the two men who had placed the box in the garage as teens and questioned them to determine the background of the discovery. It was decided to donate the mummies to the San Diego Museum of Man. This was only possible because the Mexican government decided to grant the US custody of the mummies despite their dicey acquisition.


The Lemon Grove mummies were extremely well preserved. Hair still clung to the head of the 15 year old and also the ears and nose of the infant remained intact. The mummification process was carried out naturally by the desert air which dehydrated the bodies, in addition to restricting bacteria from invading the flesh and decomposing it.


The elder was judged to be about 15 years old, and the infant was about 1 year old. A CT scan revealed a dislocated shoulder in the young woman, as well as an ossified hematoma on the back of the head, indicating blunt force trauma, and a dislocated hip, similar to injuries that are today caused by high speed impact such as auto accidents. Speculation suggests that the young woman died of injuries after a long fall in rough terrain. The scan also revealed that she was pregnant - about 30 weeks gestation at the time of her death. The fetus was all ready head down, indicating birth would have been imminent.

External Links


Deem, J. M. (n.d.). Mummy Tombs. Retrieved from Lemon Grove Girl: Featured Mummies Around the World @ Mummy Tombs:

Sullivan, K. (2016, November 7). Ancient Origins. Retrieved from The Lemon Grove Mummies: Ancient Corpses from Mexican Cave found in California Garage: