Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Red Haired Mummy Discovered in Mammoth Cave Kentucky
Red Haired Mummy Discovered in Mammoth Cave Kentucky
“On my first visit to the Mammoth Cave in 1813, I saw a relic of ancient times, which requires a minute description. This description is from a memorandum made in the Cave at the time.
“In the digging of saltpetre earth, in the short cave, a flat rock was met with by the workmen, a little below the surface of the earth in the Cave; this stone was raised, and was about four feet wide and as many long; beneath it was a square excavation about three feet deep and as many in length and width. In this small nether subterranean chamber, sat in solemn silence one of the human species, a female with her wardrobe and ornaments placed at her side. The body was in a state of perfect preservation, and sitting erect The arms were folded up and the hands were laid across the bosom; around the two wrists was wound a small cord, designed probably, to keep them in the posture in which they were first placed; around the body and next thereto, was wrapped two deer-skins. These skins appear to have been dressed in some mode different from what is now practised by any people, of whom I have any knowledge. The hair of the skins was cut off very near the surface. The skins were ornamented with the imprints of vines and leaves, which were sketched with a substance perfectly white. Outside of these two skins was a large square sheet, which was either wove or knit. This fabric was the inner bark of a tree, which I judge from appearances to be that of the linn tree. In its texture and appearance, it resembled the South Sea Island cloth or matting; this sheet enveloped the whole body and the head. The hair on the head was cut off within an eighth of an inch of the skin, except near the neck, where it was an inch long. The color of the hair was a dark red; the teeth were white and perfect. I discovered no blemish upon the body, except a wound between two ribs near the back-bone; one of the eyes had also been injured. The finger and toe nails were perfect and quite long. The features were regular. I measured the length of one of the bones of the arm with a string, from the elbow to the wrist joint, and they equalled my own in length, viz: ten and a half inches. From the examination of the whole frame, I judged the figure to be that of a very tall female, say five feet ten inches in height. The body, at the time it was first discovered, weighed but fourteen pounds, and was perfectly dry; on exposure to the atmosphere, it gained in weight by absorbing dampness four pounds. Many persons have expressed surprise that a human body of great size should weigh so little, as many human skeletons of nothing but bone, exceed this weight. Recently some experiments have been made in Paris, which have demonstrated the fact of the human body being reduced to ten pounds, by being exposed to a heated atmosphere for a long period of time. The color of the skin was dark, not black; the flesh was hard and dry upon the bones. At the side of the body lay a pair of moccasins, a knapsack and an indispensable or reticule. I will describe these in the order in which I have named them. The moccasins were made of wove or knit bark, like the wrapper I have described. Around the top there was a border to add strength and perhaps as an ornament. These were of middling size, denoting feet of small size. The shape of the moccasins differs but little from the deer-skin moccasins worn by the Northern Indians. The knapsack was of wove or knit bark, with a deep, strong border around the top, and was about the size of knapsacks used by soldiers. The workmanship of it was neat, and such as would do credit as a fabric, to a manufacturer of the present day. The reticule was also made of knit or wove bark. The shape was much like a horseman’s valise, opening its whole length on the top. On the side of the opening and a few inches from it, were two rows of hoops, one row on each side. Two cords were fastened to one end of the reticule at the top, which passed through the loop on one side and then on the other side, the whole length, by which it was laced up and secured. The edges of the top of the reticule were strengthened with deep fancy borders. The articles contained in the knapsack and reticule were quite numerous, and are as follows: one head cap, made of wove or knit bark, without any border, and of the shape of the plainest night cap; seven head-dresses made of the quills of large birds, and put together somewhat in the same way that feather fans are made, except that the pipes of the quills are not drawn to a point, but are spread out in straight lines with the top. This was done by perforating the pipe of the quill in two places and running two cords through these holes, and then winding around the quills and the cord, fine thread, to fasten each quill in the place designed for it. These cords extended some length beyond the quills on each side, so that on placing the feathers erect on the head, the cords could be tied together at the back of the head. This would enable the wearer to present a beautiful display of feathers standing erect and extending a distance above the head, and entirely surrounding it. These were most splendid head dresses, and would be a magnificent ornament to the head of a female at the present day,—several hundred strings of beads; these consisted of very hard brown seed smaller than hemp seed, in each of which a small hole had been made, and through this hole a small three corded thread, similar in appearance and texture to seine twine; these were tied up in bunches, as a merchant ties up coral beads when he exposes them for sale. The red hoofs of fawns, on a string supposed to be worn around the neck as a necklace. These hoofs were about twenty in number, and may have been emblematic of Innocence; the claw of an eagle, with a hole made in it, through which a cord was passed, so that it could be worn pendent from the neck; the jaw of a bear designed to be worn in the same manner as the eagle’s claw, and supplied with a cord to suspend it around the neck; two rattlesnake-skins, one of these had fourteen rattles upon it, these were neatly folded up; some vegetable colors done up in leaves; a small bunch of deer sinews, resembling cat-gut in appearance; several bunches of thread and twine, two and three threaded, some of which were nearly white; seven needles, some of these were of horn and some of bone, they were smooth and appeared to have been much used. These needles had each a knob or whirl on the top, and at the other end were brought to a point like a large sail needle. They had no eyelets to receive a thread. The top of one of these needles was handsomely scalloped; a hand-piece made of deer-skin, with a hole through it for the thumb, and designed probably to protect the hand in the use of the needle, the same as thimbles are now used; two whistles about eight inches long made of cane, with a joint about one third the length; over the joint is an opening extending to each side of the tube of the whistle, these openings were about three-fourths of an inch long and a quarter of an inch wide, and had each a flat reed placed in the opening. These whistles were tied together with a cord wound around them.
“I have been thus minute in describing the mute witness from the days of other times, and the articles which were deposited within her earthen house. Of the race of people to whom she belonged when living, we know nothing; and as to conjecture, the reader who gathers from these pages this account, can judge of the matter as well as those who saw the remnant of mortality in the subterranean chambers in which she was entombed. The cause of the preservation of her body, dress and ornaments is no mystery. The dry atmosphere of the Cave, with the nitrate of lime, with which the earth that covers the bottom of these nether palaces is so highly impregnated, preserves animal flesh, and it will neither putrify nor decompose when confined to its unchanging action. Heat and moisture are both absent from the Cave, and it is these two agents, acting together, which produce both animal and vegetable decomposition and putrefaction.
“In the ornaments, etc., of this mute witness of ages gone, we have a record of olden time, from which, in the absence of a written record, we may draw some conclusions. In the various articles which constituted her ornaments, there were no metallic substances. In the make of her dress, there is no evidence of the use of any other machinery than the bone and horn needles. The beads are of a substance, of the use of which for such purposes, we have no account among people of whom we have any written record. She had no warlike arms. By what process the hair upon her head was cut short, or by what process the deer-skins were shorn, we have no means of conjecture. These articles afford us the same means of judging of the nation to which she belonged, and of their advances in the arts, that future generations will have in the exhumation of a tenant of one of our modern tombs, with the funeral shroud, etc. in a state of like preservation; with this difference, that with the present inhabitants of this section of the globe, but few articles of ornament are deposited with the body. The features of this ancient member of the human family much resembled those of a tall, handsome American woman. The forehead was high, and the head well formed.
“Ye mouldering relics of a race departed,
Your names have perished; not a trace remains.”