National Register of Historic Places

Mummy Cave

Park County

Date Added to Register

Wednesday, February 18, 1981

Smithsonian Number


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Mummy Cave is a rockshelter on the left bank of the North Fork of the Shoshone River in Park County. It is adjacent to U.S. Highways 14, 16, and 20 just east of the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The site was first given serious attention in 1962 and was subsequently excavated by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Radiocarbon dates from the deposits in the cave range from 7280 years B.C. to A.D. 1580. Internally the site comprised 38 cultural strata representing cultures ranging from late Paleoindian to the Late Prehistoric period. The primary and most significant cultural component identified in the occupation strata was the McKean Complex which places the site in the Plains Archaic tradition. Unusually dry circumstances in the site resulted in the preservation of many perishable materials which are not normally preserved in prehistoric context. Among these materials are fragments and artifacts of wood, hide, and feathers. Other artifacts included projectile points, chipped stone knives and scrapers, faunal remains and tubular bone pipes. Features discovered were mostly hearths, but, in addition, there was a very well preserved burial, named ''Mummy Joe'', who was evidently one of the human occupants of the cave during the earlier of the two Late Prehistoric occupations dated 1230 years ago. From the clothing and other items found with this individual, it was concluded that he held high status among his contemporaries. The name of the site derives from this discovery.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources