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Bonfire Shelter

TX: Val Verde Co.: 29°49' N, 101°33' W


Location of Bonfire Shelter.Age. Late Wisconsin. Bone Bed 2 radiocarbon dates are 10,230 ± 160, 10,100 ± 300, and 9920 ± 150; a date on charcoal associated with a horse-camel-mammoth deposit is 12,460 ± 490 for Bone Bed 1 (Dement 1986). Both bone beds probably contain earlier deposits, though without the main bone beds overlapping.

General Description. Other names applied to the archaeological site include Ice Box Cave, Bone Cave, Burned Bone Cave, and 41VV218 (the official designation). The site consists of a rock shelter in Mile Canyon, near Lantry. Located at the base of a cliff, the deposits record several bison jump incidents and an earlier, multilayer deposit (Bone Bed 1) unresolved as to whether associated with man or not. An excellent presentation with numerous photographs is available on the web at the Texas Beyond History site, and a portion of the information here is from that site.

Google Earth overview of Bonfire Shelter and environs

Fig. 1. Overview of Bonfire Shelter in Mile Canyon (foreground) and relationship to the surrounding countryside (Google Earth view). The shelter is at center left; the Rio Grande and international boundary (yellow) is in the upper right quadrant. The view is approximately east-southeast.

Google Earth view of Bonfire Shelter

Fig. 2. Oblique view of Bonfire Shelter (mostly hidden from view behind the large block sitting on top of the debris cone and extending south nearly to the vicinity of the cleft at the upper right of the debris cone.

Discussion. Three main deposits (bone beds) were recorded, some recording more than one incident. Bone Bed 2 and Bone Bed 1 date to before the end of the Pleistocene. The original descriptions of the archaeology (Dibble) and Bison bone analysis (Lorrain) appeared in Dibble and Lorrain (1968); identifications of miscellaneous faunal remains were by Frank (1968).

New excavations were carried out in 1983-1984, focused on bone beds 2 and 1 (Dement 1986).


Bone Bed 2

Perognathus sp.—Pocket Mouse (Frank 1968)
Cratogeomys sp.—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Frank 1968)
Neotoma sp.—Wood Rat (Frank 1968)
Peromyscus sp.—White-footed Mouse (Frank 1968)
Sigmodon sp.—Cotton Rat (Frank 1968)
Equus sp.—Horse (Frank 1968)
Bison antiquus—Ancient Bison (Frank 1968)

Stratum separating Bone beds 1 and 2


Urocyon cinereoargenteus—Gray Fox (Bement 1986)

Bone Bed 1


Sylvilagus sp.—Cottontail (Frank 1968)

Mammuthus sp.—Mammoth (Bement 1986)
Equus francisci—Stilt-legged Onager (Bement 1986)
Camelops hesternus—Yesterday's Camel (Bement 1986)
Capromeryx sp.—Miniature Pronghorn (Bement 1986)
Bison antiquus—Ancient (Bement 1986)

Literature. Bement 1986; Dibble and Lorrain 1968; Frank 1968; Graham 1987; Texas Beyond History (TBH) .


Last Update: 14 Mar 2012