The Mantle’s Cave Collection includes Native American projectile points, basketry, leather bags, pendants, fishhooks, a necklace, shoes, and headdresses, mostly dating to around AD 1000. Another part of this collection is the associated archive of field notes, describing every step in the excavation and each incredible find. The most compelling artifacts include a vibrant pink/orange and yellow feather headdress, which is stunning in its artistry and preservation. Another piece is the deer-scalp headdress in remarkable condition which is the oldest item in the collection from around 3,500 years ago.
Located in Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, Mantle’s Cave has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994. Fremont archaeological culture includes both hunter-gatherers and farmers who lived from the 6th to the 14th century. Reanalysis of artifacts suggest that the Uinta Fremont interacted with other Fremont and people from the Plains and Southwest. The date of the deer-scalp headdress suggests that the Fremont culture may have developed in situ from an earlier Archaic culture. These artifacts provide information about the chronology of peoples in northwest Colorado. This collection teaches the lesser-known history of Colorado.
The objects represent an unusually long use-history ranging from 700 to 3500 years old. Referred to as a “pharmacy” by Native American consultants, there are approximately fifty storage pits recorded with what appear to be items needed for particular ceremonies grouped together like the feather headdress with knife blade and pendant and feather bundles or a basket with fishhooks inside. Beyond spectacularly preserved artifacts exhibiting both Fremont and Southwest techniques, the cave itself is unusual in that it was not used for residential purposes and contained relatively little pottery and no human remains – it was used for perishable materials.
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