Mummy and Child

Mummy and Child

Mummy and Child.


Recently, “just in time for Mother’s Day,” as the headlines said, the fossilized remains of a mother holding her baby were found in Taiwan. The images reminded me of a similar touching find from a cave in the Yosemite Valley, the so-called Martindale Mummies.

The Martindale Mummies

The Martindale Mummies


Remains of a Woman Seven Feet Six Inches Tall and Her Child Discovered Wrapped in Parchment

Scientists of the West are greatly interested in the mummified remains of a woman, supposed to have belonged to a prehistoric race, found in a cave in the Yosemite Valley, in Southern California, and now in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society, at Topeka, Kan. It was found by G.F. Martindale, of Scranton, Kan., who, with a party of friends, was out in the Yosemite Valley on a pleasure expedition.

The discovery was made quite by accident. The members of the party were in a ravine and were resting from their exertions. One of the party began prying up the stones along the side of the ravine, which was covered with moss and grass. A hole was discovered, and upon further investigation a hermetically sealed cave of large dimensions was revealed.

It was in this cave that the mummified remains of the woman were found. Mr. Martindale says that the cave was evidently sealed up by a race of people at so remote a period that the accumulation of years of deposits had destroyed all signs of the existence of the cave.

The woman evidently belonged to a race long since extinct. The mummy measures seven feet six inches in hight and has many characteristics not possessed by any race of people now known. Scientists and students of archaeology in Kansas are greatly puzzled over what niche in the world’s history to place this woman. Some even go so far as to express the belief that she was full grown before Adam ever saw the light of day.

While this may seem an exaggerated statement, says the New York Herald, yet it must be remembered that Augustus Le Plongeon, in his work entitled “Sacred Mysteries Among the Mayas and Quiches,” traces the origin of the human race back 11,500 years to a race of people which he locates in Central America and southern Mexico, which is contiguous territory to that in which this mummy was found.

Le Plongeon locates this race by investigations among the antique palaces and temples of the Mayas and by interpretation of passages of the Troano manuscript, which was evidently left by some of the priests of the race. The history and civilization of this tribe was very similar to that of Greek mythology, and the latter has the appearance of having been copied to a certain extent from the Mayas. [what?]

The existence of a prehistoric race in this section of the country is further borne out by the discovery made a few years ago by the well-known Mexican archaeologist, Signor S. Marghieri. In a cave on the east side of the Sierra Madre mountains, about two hundred miles of Deming, in old Mexico, he found the mummified remains of four beings, evidently father, mother and two children. The mummies were wrapped in a textile resembling the tanned hide of an animal, and were well preserved. They are now in the museum of the State Mining society of California.

When found the Kansas mummy was lying on its back on the floor of the cave and in its arms an infant was clasped. Both the mother and child are in a high state of preservation. They were wrapped with a thin material resembling parchment, but probably animals’ hide. The mother’s hair is jet black. Her teeth, finger nails, and, in fact, all portions of the body are perfect, with the exception of abnormal size. The foot is about square in front. In other words, the tops are all about the same length. This is the same shaped foot found by Le Plongeon to have belonged to the tribe which existed near the Pacific coast thousands of years before the time of Adam.

The mummy was brought from California to Kansas in a long box, somewhat resembling a coffin. It was presented to the Kansas State Historical society by Mr. Martindale, and has since been viewed by numerous scientists and archaeologists from various parts of the west. I had the box placed in an upright position and photographed, as is shown by the accompanying picture. The man standing beside the picture if Mr. J.J. Mickey, clerk of the Kansas state railroad board. He is a man of about the average hight. His picture was taken for the purpose of showing by comparison, the great high of the mummy.

Prof. Winslow Anderson, who, in connection with William Irelan, state mineralogist of California, made an investigation of the mummies heretofore mentioned, and the caves in which they were found, has an exhaustive treatise on the origin of the ancient tribes of the Pacific coast in the report of the state mining bureau of California, 1888 to 1896 (see pages 5 to 41). He finds that the Maya or Quiche empire was in a high state of civilization at the dawn of the Christian era. He deduces the conclusion that the origin of this race of people date back many thousand years before the Christian era.

[The rest of the article goes on to discuss theories about the origins of the American Indian: Phoenician merchants, the Lost Tribes of Israel, transplants from Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and the banks of the river Oxus.]

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 30 July 1899: p. 21

Looking at the images, it seemed obvious that mummy and child were gaffs, but while I do many things by the Force, fortean research is not one of them. The Mummies have had quite the checkered history. They apparently were never actually donated to the Kansas State Historical Society, but were displayed there before beginning their career as a side-show/county fair attraction. One wonders what those scientists and archaeologists made of the prized specimens. This article gives a summary of the Martindale Mummies’ complicated afterlife and even more complicated composition.

There are no citations, so I’m not sure where the author got her specific information about Dr. Larry W. Cartmell’s analysis of the various bits and bobs cobbled together into an Indian giantess. However, Dr. Cartmell, a paleopathologist and mummy expert, once owned the mummies, studied them, and then sold them to Ripley’s to be displayed in one of their Believe-it-or-Not “Odditoriums.”  Dr. Cartmell has written an (as of 2003) unpublished manuscript called “The Martindale Mummies,” which is cited in The Scientific Study of Mummies  by Dr. Arthur C. Aufderheide, a distinguished pioneer in the discipline of paleopathology. (See the book link for some x-rays and photos of animal teeth in the mouth.)

While it might seem obvious that the mummy and child were fake, I’ve added the links about their history because some sites suggest that they are real and mysterious human corpses—perhaps even the Giants in the Earth of the Bible—despite x-rays clearly showing wires and nails in the hands. Perhaps the age-old portrayal of mother’s love for child blinds believers to the mummies’ anatomical deficiencies.

I’ve also wondered if the Taiwan fossils were too good to be true. Infant corpses mummify more quickly than adult bodies, but their bones, which are more porous than adult bones, tend to decay in acid soils and are often under-represented in excavation sites.  Last year, the intertwined skeletons of a mother protecting her child from a powerful earthquake were discovered at a site known as “The Pompeii of the East,” in China’s Qinghai province. This latest discovery is equally poignant, but might it have anything to do with an archaeological motherly-arms race between China and Taiwan?

Thoughts or bony embraces to chriswoodyard8 AT

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.


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