Spirit Eye Cave: Reestablishing provenience of trafficked prehistoric human remains using a composite collection-based ancient DNA approach

Bryon Schroeder, Tre Blohm, Meradeth H. Snow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Spirit Eye Cave, located on private land in west Texas near the US/Mexico border, contains as many as four human interments removed by pay-to-dig collectors in the 1950–60 s. The relocated remains provide initial DNA results from a region peripheral to both the Southwest and Plains, and the bone collagen 14C dates are coeval with a period of presumed multiethnic migration. The mitochondrial DNA results from two individuals indicate a maternal relationship between each interment. Considered together, these data indicate both a familiarity with the region and a stability of land use by foraging groups during a period of reputed instability. The identification of the B2a4a1 haplogroup in both individuals ties the region to indigenous groups in present-day Mexico, Texas, and the prehistoric site of Paquimé, in Chihuahua, Mexico. These results demonstrate the utility of a collaborative collection based aDNA approach for looted and heavily collected sheltered sites. Significance statement: Two rediscovered human remains from at Spirit Eye cave in west Texas situated on the US/Mexico border were radiocarbon dated and sampled for mitochondrial DNA. Both burials belong to the same B2a4a1 mitochondrial haplogroup and were dated to a period of dramatic cultural change in the region. Our results indicate a group of related foraging groups repeatedly used the cave as a mortuary site over several generations. This study also illustrates the utility of pursuing collection-based research from heavily impacted archaeological sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102798
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume36
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Ancient DNA
  • Archaeology
  • Human remains
  • Repatriation
  • mtDNA

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