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In the 1960's a group of artifact hunters explored a cave located a few miles from Chinati Peak in western Presidio County and made a remarkable discovery. Using flashlights, the men climbed through the cave entrance into a large rock shelter filled with ancient Native American artifacts. On the floor of the cave lay a considerable amount of very old camp refuge and bedding material along with quite a number of metates, sandals, baskets, and netting that had been woven from sotol and ocotilla fibre. Also, various projectile points including two still connected to shafts were found. Some were atlatl points giving a hint of the antiquity of the discovery. Digging through the scattered refuge of small corncobs, squash rinds, cactus seeds, pinion nuts, and mesquite beans, they unearthed stone knives and hide scrapers. The interior of the cave appeared to have been occupied by humans for a long period of time. The sooty, heavily blackened ceiling of the cavern indicated the existence of countless campfires along with large number of burned hearthstones on the floor inside and near the entrance the cave.

Excited by their discovery, the men set up a screen and began sifting through the dusty debris. Some forty feet from the front of the cave came their greatest find. In a heap of rubbage they discovered an extremely old, remarkably well preserved human skeleton. It apparently was the corpse of an adult male curled in a fetal position.

The finely preserved mummified corpse had rested for untold centuries in the dry atmosphere of the cave. It was clad simply in a loincloth made of antelope skin that had been chewed to soften the material. Its arms were contorted giving the appearance of grasping its throat with its right hand. The contorted position might have been a final death agony although Rex Owens, one of the pothunters present when the discovery was made, observed that the mummy might have fallen from a crevice higher in the cave at some point thereby moving the limbs.

Almost half a century after its discovery, surprisingly little is known about the Chinati mummy. The mummy and many of the artifacts found with it were on display at the West of the Pecos Museum in Pecos, Texas until just a few years ago. Since the mummy had been removed from the cave along with the artifacts found at the site, no archaeologist could be found who was willing to study or even consider this remarkable find. Even the age of the mummy will never be know since no Radio Carbon 14 dating was never performed.

The presence of atlatl points and sandals seem to indicate that the mummy may have lived in the time of Christ or before. Sadly, since the discovery, many of the artifacts found with the mummy have been lost or sold for considerable profit and scattered among various individual collections. The Chinati mummy may have been a Big Bend Basket Maker, and might possibly have been the best existing example of this long lost culture. The final stages of the Big Bend Basket Maker era lasted between 300 A. D. and 900 A. D. But unfortunately, the mummy leaves more questions than answers. Today, the mummy is no longer at the museum and is forever lost to any sort of study or research. Another priceless bit of our Texas past has been lost forever. Gj

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