At Circle Ranch we have what may be the most important unexplored cave dwelling in far-West Texas: A large cave which occurs in one of our limestone escarpments. It is about 200-feet above the desert floor and 100 feet below the escarpment top. The cave measures roughly 80’ by 80’. Inside, it has a regular opening and a flat floor. It is head high even though the floor is 9’ deep in detritus, some of which is more than 10,000-years old.
In this picture Laura and Sarah have climbed down the cliff face to the mouth of the Indian Cave. They are passing by two suspended baskets which are being used to sift excavation material and separate artifacts from dust. Far below them is the desert floor. We are looking off to the southwest.
Entrance to Circle Ranch Indian Cave
The Circle cave is 80’ by 80’ square. There is standing room notwithstanding 10’ of detritus on the floor. Here Bill and Laura are standing in the entrance. The generator above them is powering the lights for the work that is going on inside.
UTEP archeologists are excavating a shaft. This shaft is about 3’ deep and has yielded many interesting artifacts which are pictured below.
Circle Ranch Archeologists
Rachel Romero is a 24-year old archeologist from the University of Texas at El Paso. Rachel worked one month in the Circle Ranch excavation this summer. She is studying for a biology degree. She typifies the outstanding group working on this project.
Excavation shafts at Circle Ranch Cave
This particular shaft has gone down 1-½ feet and struck ledge stone which fell from the ceiling long ago. Who knows what we will find below that ledge stone, and how old it may be.
Bill and Carla
Bill Magee is an old schoolmate of mine. Carla V. Sámano is an archeologist major at UTEP. Here they have excavated a shaft down to the level of fallen roof ledges. Future excavations will remove those rocks and proceed to the cave floor.
Tunnel to Adjacent Cave
There are two large caves which are a few hundred feet apart in the escarpment wall. As we excavated in this corner we have discovered a tunnel which may connect through the stone to the adjacent cave. This is an intriguing aspect of the project.
The mouth of this cave looks like it could have been shaped as a door. The interior temperature of the cave is cool in the summer and warm in winter, a dry, constant temperature which is to be expected, surrounded as it is by hundreds of feet of stone. This creates a perfect environment to preserve artifacts.
Typical of the many human artifacts we are finding.
Ancient Basket Fragment
This fragment was discovered on June 20, 2011 and probably is 5,000 years old, or older. It will be carbon dated.
Disproving characterizations about myself, this is probably the oldest turd in West Texas: it will be rehydrated and microscopically analyzed and radiocarbon dated to determine what these folks were eating, and when.
Complete Report on Circle Ranch Indian Cave