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photo of excavation inside the cave
Archeologists at work using fluorescent lights to illuminate the inside of the cave.
photo of the field crew
The field crew with their vehicle.

Click images to enlarge  


photoof crew using a vacuum cleaner
A vacuum cleaner was essential for removing the fine dust.
photo of an archeologist using a brush
An archaeologist using a fine brush to recover artifacts.
photo of fan system
View of the fan system used to
vent the cave and remove dust.
photo of Dr. Hamilton
Hamilton reconstructs the large Mata Red-on-Brown jar.


Work at Granado Cave was done in stages over a three-year period, with preparatory work devoted to mapping and reconnaissance prior to the testing phase. As in most archeological research, the most time-consuming phase involved laboratory work and analysis.


A preliminary map was drafted in July 1976 by Hamilton and James Malone of the Texas Historical Commission. Ronald Fiesler and three associates from the Texas Speleological Society created a more accurate map of the cave's interior in November 1976. A transit was used to map in excavation units, although it was difficult to read the angles and scales due to the almost complete darkness of the interior of the cave.


Test excavations were conducted in November 1976 around the area from which burials had been removed by Mr. Granado. Hamilton returned in 1978 with a crew of four archeologists to conduct formal excavations. A theodolite with battery-operated lights on all the scales was adopted. Also, eight fluorescent light fixtures were suspended from the cave ceiling and run from a gas-powered electric generator. Excavation units consisted of 1-m squares and profiles were recorded for each unit.

All fill was screened through 6-mm mesh. To reduce the amount of dust in the cave as a result of screening, a large smoke-evacuating fan was installed. It was vented to the outside with a length of tubular plastic.

Laboratory Work

After the excavation, work continued in the laboratory, as site maps were drawn and data were analyzed. Tasks included the reconstruction of a large Mata Red-on-Brown ceramic jar from over a dozen sherds. The jar was found by Mr. Frank Granado, although additional pieces were recovered during the archaeological excavation.

Human coprolites were studied to gain insight regarding the diet of the prehistoric inhabitants of Granado Cave and Caldwell Shelter. A large variety of local plants were eaten, with grass seeds and cactus playing significant roles, along with mesquite, waterleaf, peas, wild grapes, mint and sunflower. Mormon tea (Ephedra sp.) may have been consumed as an antidiarrhetic to counteract the magnesium-sulfate-contaminated water ubiquitous across the region.

An economic pollen spectrum characteristic of the Castile Phase was developed and compared to the pollen spectrum of the Lower Pecos and Chihuahua regions. Bones from rodents, rabbits and birds were also found, indicating that these animals were consumed.

photo of archeologists in the cave
Archeologists at work inside the cave.
photo of archeologist at the screen
Removed matrices were carefully screened for artifacts, seeds and other materials.
photo of hearth feature
A hearth feature in Unit 4.
photo of a researcher
A researcher collects pollen and seeds from a human coprolite.
graph of pollen types
Click to view percentages of pollen types.