Among artifacts recovered from the Kenton Caves are hide and yucca-fiber
sandals, shell, bone and wooden beads, squash rinds, beans, baskets,
stone arrowpoints and spearpoints, and a wooden atlatl (spear throwing
Unfortunately, in spite of the incredible preservation of rarely-found
artifacts at this series of rockshelters, there is much more unknown
than known about the people who lived there. Since most of the sites
were excavated before rigorous scientific techniques, archeologists
are unable to say with certainty who the Kenton cave inhabitants
were, where they came from, or even when they lived here.
Because of the range of artifact styles, it is believed that occupation
of the caves may have continued through several thousand years.
People of the late Archaic, see chart below, who used the atlatl
and spears for hunting, probably lived in the caves. The most recent
Native American inhabitants were probably people from the Protohistoric
time period some 500 years ago when European explorers had begun
colonizing North America. The presence of European glass trade beads
in one cave are indicators of this period.
Rock art from the Kenton Caves
The questions about the Kenton Cave people which remain
unanswered are what different groups used the site, what seasons
of the year were they used, when did agriculture (indicated by the
presence of corn and squash) become important in the area, and what
household activities were carried out in which parts of the caves.
The excavations, as all excavations do, destroyed the context
of the artifacts in relation to one another and to the site as a
whole. Unfortunately, inadequate record-keeping by the original
excavators will not allow modern archeologists to recreate these
important clues to site activities.
The Kenton Caves, as important archeologically as
they are, could have answered all these questions had the archeological
excavations been carried out in a scientific manner. The Kenton
Caves and other sites around the world like them have taught archeologists
a valuable lesson in the importance of preserving sites for future
generations when scientific advances willl allow even more information
to be gleaned from the archeological record.
For further information on the archeology of Cimarron
County, read a report by Leland C.
Bement and Casey R. Carmichael:
Top to Bottom: Pedestrian Survey of the Black Mesa Region Cimarron