Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Strange Primitive Skeletons Unearthed in Missouri Cave

Strange Skeletons Unearthed in Missouri Cave



Three miles northeast of Big Piney is a cavern which from its position, formation, and surroundings is particularly adapted to the requirements of primitive people in search of a permanent shelter. It is situated in a bluff rising from the left bank of Big Piney River, 200 feet above the level of that stream and half that distance below the summit of the hill of which the bluff forms the front. It lies in three different tracts of land, but the greater portion is on the farm of Daniel S. Miller, who lives a little more than half a mile away. For three generations it has been widely known as "Miller's Cave." It opens toward the southeast, the river at this point flowing north of east, and thus secures protection from the cold winds of winter, receives the greatest amount of light 
]through the day, and has the advantage of sunshine at the season when this is most needed. Big Piney, like all streams in the Ozark region, is extremely crooked and its bed is a continuous succession of riffles and pools, or eddies as they are locally known. In front of the cave is one of these pools nearly a mile long and at lowest stages fully 15 feet deep in places; even now it yields an abundance of fish, turtles, frogs, and mussels, all of which are important items in the aboriginal dietary.

   The first interment was found at 46 feet from the front, 14 feet from the east wall. The folded skeleton of a very old person lay on the right side, head east, in loose ashes, on a large flat rock whose top was 30 inches below the surface. This rock had not been placed here, but had fallen from the ceiling; probably its existence was not known until it was uncovered in digging the grave. The skull still retained its shape, in part, being held in place by the ashes, but fell in pieces when this support was removed. A portion of it was gone; two fragments were found, several feet away, not near each other, one of which fits in the skull, and the other probably belongs with it also. The frontal bone is nearly half an inch thick; the sutures partially obliterated; the teeth worn down to the necks, some of them nearly to the bone; the forehead is low and receding. A restoration is seen in plate 20, ab. In addition to the missing portions of the skull, most of the ribs, half of the lower jaw, and nearly all the dorsal vertebr√¶ were absent, probably having been dragged away by ground hogs. The bones are all light and fragile. Lying above the skull, in contact with it but supported by the ashes on both sides, was half of a large mortar hollowed on both sides. Above the skeleton, and extending for several feet on every side, was an undisturbed stratum of closely packed ashes, 17 inches thick at the middle, which broke off under the pick in large clods; these, of course, had accumulated after the body was interred.