Spirit Cave Man
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Spirit Cave MAn
Age 40's
Sex Male
Status Unknown
Height 157.48cm
Culture paleo-Indian
Date(s) 9,400 years old/7420 BC
Site Spirit Cave
Current Location
Location Nevada State Museum
Catalog # none
This mummy was discovered in Spirit Cave located in Fallon, Nevada (Sullivan, 2016). The naturally preserved body was first discovered in 1940. While exploring a cave, archaeologists Sydney and Georgia Wheeler found two bodies wrapped in matts along with 67 artifacts including knives, animal bones, and baskets. The first body was in a poor state of preservation but the second, buried slightly deeper, was very well preserved.


The mummy was found lying on its side, wrapped in a skin robe and sewn into two mats woven of a marsh plant called tule. Anthropologists have come to the conclusion that the very dry environment of the cave and the protection of the mats allowed the body to be so well preserved.


The heat of the cave helped to keep the body dry and intact -- the head was completely intact and still had hair(Sullivan, 2016), the man was aged 45-55 and stood 5 feet 2 inches tall.

Facial reconstruction of the Spirit Cave Man

Discovered during salvage excavations in advance of a guano-mining project, the mummy was found dressed in a twisted skin robe with leather moccasins on its feet and a twined mat sewn around its head and shoulders. A similar mat was wrapped around the lower portion of the body and bound under the feet. Skin remained on the back and shoulders as well as a small tuft of straight dark hair, which changed to reddish-brown when exposed to light and air.

In 1994 researchers tested 17 samples including hair, bones, textiles, and wood. A secondary examination verified the results: the mummy was buried some 9,400 years ago - plus or minus 25 years..


The Spirit Cave man was believed to be in his 40's and is 5 feet 2 inches tall. He had a fractured skull and suffered from abscesses in his teeth. According to Gentry Steele of Texas A&M University, the man was believed to have died from complications due to the skull fracture or infection from the abscessed teeth. This mummy differs slightly from modern American Indians genetically in that he has a long cranium and long small face. Based on his skull features, some anthropologists theorized that Spirit Cave Man may represent a population not related to any modern tribe.


Spirit Cave Mummy the oldest mummy unearthed in North America.


Asher, L. J. (September/October 1996). Oldest North American Mummy. Newsbriefs, 49(5), 1-1.

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