U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Cultural - Minera Hill Cave|
TO THE LAB .....
Most of the bones recovered from Mineral Hill Cave were covered with wet, sticky clay deposits. As a result, all of the bones could not be retrieved by simply "dry screening" the deposits through a wire mesh screen, which is the method most commonly used in standard archaeological excavations. In order to retrieve the majority of bones present, the deposits from each unit were placed in buckets, carried out of the cave and down the hill to a truck, and transported to the Elko BLM Field Office. Dragging buckets weighing nearly 50 pounds, often on hands-and-knees, across 300 feet of cave and through a 30cm-wide by 6 foot long passageway was slow, painstaking (and painful) work!
<-------Eric Dillingham looks pleased at the prospect of hauling 50-pound buckets full of clay and bones down steep hills all day long!
Bryan Hockett readies himself for another day in the cave.--------->
In the lab, the deposits were water screened through a series of fine-meshed screens, the smallest of which measured 1mm in width. Through this process, minute and abundant quantities of bone were recovered that otherwise would have been missed. Only in the finest meshed screens, for example, were found the bones of animals such as fish, snakes, lizards, and bats.
The bones were then laid out to dry, numbered, bagged separately, and catalogued. After the bones were cleaned and catalogued, the identification process began. Many bones were identified with a reference collection maintained by the BLM Elko Field Office.
Bones of modern animals such as mountain sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, American red deer (elk), mountain goat, and bison in BLM’s comparative collection, for example, were used to identify similar bones from Mineral Hill Cave. However, the BLM did not have the bones of a number of the animals identified from the cave, such as those from camels, llamas, and bears.
In order to identify these bones, BLM archaeologists traveled to the Page Museum (La Brea Tar Pits) in Los Angeles and the American Museum of Natural History in New York to use the extensive collection of modern and fossil bones available to researchers.
History of Research at Mineral Hill Cave