The Blond Mummies Of
Tennessee And Kentucky -
A Smithsonian Find
Courtesy Patricia Mason

In his Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology for the Smithsonian's twelfth annual report (published in 1894), Cyrus Thomas relates the following discoveries:
Cave burials occur in this district [referring to the Tennessee District] in the following counties: In Grayson, Hart, Edmonson, Barren, Warren, and Fayette counties, Kentucky; Smith, White, Warren, Giles, Marion, and Fentress counties, Tennessee, and Bartow county, Georgia. These localities lie mostly in a belt extending in a north and south direction through the center of the district.
In most of these caves, both in Kentucky and Tennessee, the bodies appear to have been laid on the floor of the cave, sometimes in beds of ashes, sometimes on a pavement of flat stones. There are, however, some instances in which the bodies have been found incased in stone slabs, and afterwards imbedded in clay or ashes. In Smith and Warren counties, Tennessee, and in Warren and Fayette counties, Kentucky, the flesh of the bodies was preserved and the hair was yellow and of fine texture. In some cases the bodies were enveloped in several thicknesses of coarse cloth with an outer wrapping of deer skin. Some of the bodies were wrapped in a kind of cloth made of bark fiber, into which feathers were woven in such a manner as to form a smooth surface. In two cases the bodies, placed in a sitting or squatting posture, were incased in baskets. In one of the caves in Smith county the body of a female is said to have been found, having about the waist a silver girdle, with marks resembling letters.
This article first appeared in
The Wizard's World of Unusual Choices Newsletter
April 26, 2001

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