The 10,000-year-old mummy can now truly rest in peace.
For decades, anthropologists and a Native American tribe are grueling a legal battle over the so-called “Spirit Cave Mummy”. The ancient bones of about ten decades unearthed from a Nevada cave were found to be a Native American tribe ancestor. The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe reburied the controversial skeleton in Nevada this summer. This ended the legal argument with the anthropologists that took more than 10 years long who withstood for it to stay at a museum exhibit.
Scientists carefully took some DNA samples from the primordial skull and verified that the skeleton was indeed the tribe’s ancestor and debunked the theory that it belonged to a group of “Paleoamericans” that lived in North America prior to the arrival of Native Americans.
Prof. Eske Willerslev said, “What was most amazing is that it was similar to if you and I were burying a very close relative. It’s that emotional even though we are burying a mummy that was living 10,000 years ago.”
The professor spearheaded the decoding of the “Spirit Cave Mummy” and facilitated the deciphering of genetic data from more than a dozen ancient specimen dating 10,000 years ago from parts of Alaska and Patagonia. He said that the discovery emphasized the “power of ancient DNA” to unravel hidden information of the history.
He was present at the reburial of the “Spirit Cave Mummy” which according to him involved crying, singing, and praying. The skeleton was laid in a casket and people were encouraged to put goodbye presents beside it. He, himself put a box of snuff tobacco.
The “Spirit Cave Mummy” was discovered by Sydney and George Wheeler in 1940. It was found in a Nevada dry cave called the Spirit Cave (hence the name) wearing moccasins and was shrouded in a rabbit-skin blanket along with mats made of reed. The skeleton belongs to a male aged around 40 years old at the time of his death. The dry conditions helped in the preservation of the remains making the head fully unscathed and were then relocated to the Nevada State Museum. He was discovered together with some of the remains of the other three individuals.
The Wheeler couple at that time was serving for the Nevada State Parks Commission. They were inspecting potential archaeological locations to counter their destruction because of guano mining. When they entered Spirit Cave, they found two people covered in tule matting and the other one buried deeper with the head and shoulder partly preserved calling it the “Spirit Cave Mummy.”
The archeological finds were taken to the Nevada State Museum and were basically estimated to be around 1,500 to 2,000 years old. It was then kept in the museum’s storage facility in Carson City where it will stay for the next fifty-four years.
The skeleton’s total genetic information, considered as the world’s oldest native mummy is declared as a segment of an extensive international research of the North and South American ancestry. It also proved that there are two prior unknown migrations into South America. The research likewise unveiled remarkable traces of Australasian lineage in native South Americans.