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Arch Lake Woman

Physical Anthropology and Geoarchaeology

Douglas W. Owsley, Margaret A. Jodry, Thomas W. Stafford Jr., C. Vance Haynes Jr., and Dennis J. Stafford, et al

Publication Year: 2010

The Arch Lake human burial site, discovered in 1967 in eastern New Mexico, contains the third-oldest known remains in North America. Since its original excavation and removal to Eastern New Mexico University’s Blackwater Draw Museum, the 10,000 radiocarbon-year-old burial has been known only locally. In February 2000 an interdisciplinary team led by Douglas W. Owsley reexamined the osteology, geology, archaeology, and radiocarbon dating of the burial. In this first volume in Peopling of the Americas Publications—released by Texas A&M University Press for the Center for the Study of the First Americans—Arch Lake Woman presents the results of this recent analysis of the skeleton and site. In addition to color and black-and-white illustrations, Arch Lake Woman includes extensive tables describing the team’s discoveries and comparing their results with those of other ancient burials.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Peopling of the Americas Publications Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The Arch Lake human burial site is located in eastern New Mexico on the highest promontory on the south side of the now-dry Arch Lake basin near the Texas border. When discovered and excavated in 1967, a geologic context of considerable antiquity was recognized. In February 2000 an interdisciplinary team reexamined the osteology, geology, archaeology, and radiocarbon age of the burial. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book is dedicated to Dr. F. Earl Green, who contributed so much to Paleoamerican geoarchaeology, and the late Carolyn Rose, Conservator and Chair, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), for expert guidance on stabilization and treatment of the consolidated matrix and skeleton. ...

Color Plates

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pp. 1-6

The Arch Lake human burial attracted little attention when it was discovered in 1967, even though the geologic context indicated considerable antiquity and it featured red pigment, a unifacial stone tool, a probable bone tool, and nineteen beads. The Blackwater Draw Museum at Eastern New Mexico University has curated the skeleton since its discovery ...

Study of the Site

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Human Osteology

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pp. 9-14

The burial is an extended position interment: the skeleton is supine, legs fully extended, face oriented skyward and tipped slightly to the right or east (figs. 5 and 6, color section). The head lies to the southeast. The partially mineralized skeleton is slightly elevated on the left. The cranium is in poor, fragmentary condition, as are the ribs and the pelvis. The long bone ...

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pp. 15-20

The exact location of the burial in the north wall of the road cut has been obliterated due to attrition during the past thirty-three years (fig. 2). However, the stratigraphy in the north and south walls remains intact. Stratigraphic profiles were exposed and described on both walls of the road cut (figs. 11a, 11b, and 12), and sediment samples were collected ...

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Microprobe Analysis of the Iron-bearing Sediment

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pp. 21-22

Three samples of burial fill taken in the area of dense red pigment between and below the distal left humerus and left ribs were studied using a petrographic microscope and a JEOL 8900 electron microprobe under the following conditions: (1) an acceleration voltage of 15 kv; (2) a beam current of 10 nA; and (3) a beam diameter of 10 μm. The purpose was to ...

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Radiocarbon Dating of the Skeleton

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pp. 23-27

Geochronology studies of the burial site included radiocarbon measurements and chemical analyses of the skeleton. The primary objective was to determine the geologic age of the skeleton by directly dating the human bone. Two samples were tested for potential dating: 4 g of bone removed from the midshaft of the right femur and a right mandibular ...

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Stable Isotope Values

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pp. 28-29

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope measurements provide data regarding the woman’s diet and paleoecology. Interpretations have varying degrees of accuracy because (1) bone collagen is poorly preserved chemically and diagenetic effects alter original isotopic compositions, (2) direct isotopic data from fauna consumed by the human are missing, and (3) ...

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Cranial Morphometrics

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pp. 30-34

Only a limited cranial morphometric analysis was possible because of distortion during burial, as described elsewhere in this report. Measurements obtainable from Arch Lake are presented in table 5. Many of these are approximations, but ones in which there is considerable confidence. It is immediately evident from the values in table 5 that the Arch ...

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Dental Morphology and Measurements

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pp. 35-47

Measurements and crown traits of the teeth were analyzed to gauge Arch Lake’s similarity to recent Native Americans. Comparative data are from two arctic groups, nine groups representing major geographical regions in North America, and Peruvians from South America. Summary information for the subgroups of recent regional samples ...

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Post-cranial Measurements

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pp. 48-52

Metric analysis of post-cranial bones has focused on the femur and tibia, and interpretation emphasizes the biomechanical, behavioral, and adaptive implications of size and shape. Basic post-cranial dimensions could be obtained on the somewhat fragmented remains of the Arch Lake skeleton. Table 17 presents femur and tibia measurements and indices for ...

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Burial Assemblage

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pp. 53-61

A resharpened flake tool was found near the woman’s waist on her left side, associated with a dense concentration of red ocher (see 1 in fig. 4, color plate). Excavation photos show red pigment adhering to the tool upon discovery. Subsequent cleaning removed most of this, but remnants are visible near flake scar terminations. ...

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Archaeological Comparison of Arch Lake with Other Early Burials, 9500–10,020 Radiocarbon Years

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pp. 62-77

Tables 23, 24, and 25 provide information on age and sex, possible cultural affiliation, aspects of burial practice, and the nature of grave goods for five primary internments with AMS dates and/or chronostratigraphic ages between 9500 and 10,020 RC yr. These ancient burials are Arch Lake, Horn Shelter No. 2, Wilson-Leonard burial 2, Gordon Creek, and ...

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Discussion and Conclusion

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pp. 78-80

The Arch Lake woman is among the oldest Paleoamerican human remains yet found. The remains of this young woman were buried fully extended in a grave that was dug 1.1 m (3 feet 6 inches) deep into a sandy deposit. The cross section of the pit, sketched and photographed in 1967, indicate that the grave walls were nearly vertical. Associated materials ...


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pp. 81-88


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pp. 89-93

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443074
E-ISBN-10: 160344307X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603442084
Print-ISBN-10: 1603442081

Page Count: 128
Illustrations: 9 color, 7 b&w photos. Map. 9 line art. 26 tables.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Peopling of the Americas Publications Series
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OCLC Number: 698589251
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Arch Lake Woman

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Subject Headings

  • Paleo-Indians -- New Mexico -- Roosevelt County.
  • Roosevelt County (N. M.) -- Antiquities.
  • Antiquities, Prehistoric -- New Mexico -- Roosevelt County.
  • Arch Lake Woman.
  • Arch Lake Burial Site (N. M.).
  • Indians of North America -- Anthropometry -- New Mexico -- Roosevelt County.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- New Mexico -- Roosevelt County.
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