Cultural - Minera Hill Cave
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TO THE LAB .....

Bryan Hockett excavates sediment from Chamber 5.  The sediment was placed in buckets, then carried out of the cave and transported to the BLM's Elko Field Office for processing.



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! 

 Bryan Hockett readies himself for another day in the cave.

Eric Dillingham looks pleased at the prospect of hauling 50-pound buckets full of clay and bones down steep hills all day long!<-------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 tMineral Hill Cave bones drying in the lab.  After water screening the bones, they were individually cleaned to remove any remaining sticky clay deposits, and then laid out on tables to dry.  The sediment and bones from each excavation unit were maintained as separate samples from other units so that their provenience or location within the cave could be maintained.hen 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. Proper identification of the Mineral Hill Cave bones depends greatly on the adequacy of the modern samples used to make the comparisons.  The Elko Field Office maintains a comparative collection of skeletons.   Pictured here is the skull, mandibles (jaw bones) and postcranial (vertebrae, limb and foot) bones of a modern coyote.  Modern samples can not only help identify ancient tooth and bone specimens, they can also point to changes in tooth and bone structure and size through time.

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.  





The Elko Field Office did not have all of the modern skeletal samples necessary to accurately identify all of the bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Eric Dillingham is pictured here "behind the scenes" at the George C. Page Museum (La Brea Tar Pits) in Los Angeles identifying camel and llama bones.  Some of the Mineral Hill Cave bones were identified at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.Bryan Hockett measures short-faced bear phalanges at the Page Museum.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
The Bones, Part 1 - Preservation, Age & Origin
The Bones, Part 2 - Species Present
More on Mineral Hill Cave - Workshop Paper
Mineral Hill Cave [Monograph]

Mineral Hill Cave Introduction Home Page

Last updated: 12-14-2007