Mummification was not intentional for most North American prehistoric cultures. Natural mummification occurred in the dry areas of North America, where mummies have been recovered from rock shelters, caves, and overhangs. In these places, corpses desiccated and spontaneously mummified. In North America, mummies are recovered from four main regions: the southern and southwestern United States, the Aleutian Islands, and the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. This chapter is limited to a discussion of burial practices and a tabulation of the location of mummies in the southwestern United States with some comments on mummies of the southern United States, including the Ozarks (Figure 7.1).
SOUTHWESTERN UNITED STATES
Mummies are associated with several cultures in the southwestern United States. The oldest mummies are from the Archaic cultures in western Texas, primarily from the Rustler Hills and the lower Pecos region at the confluences of the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers, and the Rio Grande and Devils River (Turpin et al. 1986). Mummies are also associated with later agricultural populations of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. These mummies come from three main localities: northeastern (Anasazi), east-central (Sinagua) and southern (Hohokam) Arizona. Mummies vary in how they are positioned. In the Four Corners area, they are usually tightly flexed, with the arms and knees drawn to the chest and the head bent forward. In southern Arizona and west Texas, however, the position varied. Some were tightly flexed, but some were buried in extended position.