Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2011


Great Plains Research Vol. 21, No. 2, 2011


© 2011 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Approximately 10,000 radiocarbon years before present, the body ofa 17- to 19-year-old female, probably associated with the Plainview Culture, was buried on the south side of Arch Lake, located near the present-day border of New Mexico and Texas. The young woman was interred in an extended supine position with a necklace of talc beads low on her neck, a bag containing red pigment and a unifacial stone tool on her left hip, and a bone tool placed on her chest. Her grave remained relatively undisturbed until 1967 when it was exposed, discovered, and carefully excavated by archaeologists. The Arch Lake Woman's skeleton is among the oldest found in North America and therefore of significant interest to archaeologists and physical anthropologists. While known at the time to be a fascinating archaeological find, the Arch Lake Woman remains have not been extensively studied. In 2000, Douglas Owsley and a team ofPaleoamerican experts undertook an extensive reinvestigation of the skeleton, radiocarbon dates, burial geology, and artifact assemblage. The skeletal remains investigation included the development of a biological profile, new radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and comparison of the Arch Lake Woman's skeletal features to those of other early Americans, Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans. The investigation also included geoarchaeological analysis of the burial location, microprobe analysis of the red pigment in the burial fill, and comparison of Early American mortuary practices.