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Burnet Cave

NM: Eddy Co.: T22S, R21E, Sec 27, ca. 1402 m


Location of Burnet Cave.Age. Wisconsin and Holocene. There is a solid 14C date of 7432 ± 300 (C-823), but questioned by Hester (1967). The fauna shows clearly that late Wisconsin material is present, but also there certainly is Holocene faunal material. Schultz (1968) took the radiocarbon date seriously to indicate that a number of extinct taxa survived until after 7400 BP; subsequent work in the Guadalupe Mountains rules against this. Schultz et al. (1985) reported that just below a fire hearth associated with a fluted point was another fire hearth dated at 13,100 BP. Emslie (1987) (as Rocky Arroyo Cave) dated a condor bone (humerus, USNM 319169) at 12,180 ± 130 (AA-1491B).

General Description. S Fork of Rocky Arroyo ca. 1/4 mi above confluence of the three forks of Rocky Arroyo, ca. 25 mi. W Carlsbad. Howard (1935) describes the cave as about 1/4 mile up the South Fork (from Three Forks) in the township and range noted above. He also gives a fair amount of information on excavation methodology and stratigraphy of the faunal remains. Schultz and Howard (1935) describe the cave as follows: elevation, 4600 ft. Several hearths and artifacts were found at the same level as the fossil fauna. Above this level were remains of a Basket Maker culture. Schultz and Howard describe the cave as having an entrance about 70 ft above the floor of the canyon and facing east of south. Windblown dust and rock fall filled the cave to within 3 ft of the inner roof, making the depth of dirt and debris at that point about 9 ft. The dimensions of cave are roughly 50 ft from entrance to rear wall and 13 ft wide at a point where the talus slope began inside the entrance. Directly under the outer overhang, the height is about 25 ft. A number of burials were found in the upper 2 or 3 ft of fill. Below the burial level (Basketmaker), there were many hearths or lens-shaped deposits of charcoal and ashes at various levels to a depth of 8 ft 6 inches. Also in these lower level, bones of 62 kinds of animals which were, in many cases, directly associated with hearths. Some bones had been burned. Directly under a large rock, a hearth with a grooved spear point was associated with bones of an extinct bison (Bison antiquus taylori) and an extinct muskox (Preptoceras sinclairi neomexicana). The point was about 4 ft below the burials.

Discussion. Burnet Cave is considered to be the same site as Rocky Arroyo Cave of Wetmore (1931) and others. Wetmore (1931, 1932) first reported identifications of birds from Rocky Arroyo Cave. Burnet Cave is the type locality of Navahoceros fricki, Euceratherium collinum morrisi, and Preptoceras sinclairi neomexicanus, all Schultz and Howard 1935.

The mammals reported by Schultz and Howard (1935) are in many cases given at the subspecific level. Many of these are given as "referred" (translated here as "cf."). They identified two species of jack rabbits (L. townsendii and L. cf. alleni on material that is extremely unlikely to be identifiable to species; I have listed them here as "Lepus sp." Several other taxa likely are misidentified, but are listed here; pertinent comments are made in the taxonomic accounts. Kurtén and Anderson (1980) listed Tremarctos floridanus, apparently in lapsis for Arctodus. The identifications of Equus, as given by Schultz and Howard (1935) are unclear; their E. excelsus is assumed to refer to E. scotti; their E. tau may equal E. conversidens or E. francisci.



Phrynosoma hernandesi—Mountain Short-horned Lizard (Rickart 1977)
Phrynosoma cornutum—Texas Horned Lizard (Rickart 1977)
Crotaphytus collaris—Eastern Collared Lizard (Rickart 1977: cf. gen. et sp.)
Sceloporus sp.—Spiny Lizards (Rickart 1977)


Terrapene carolina putnami—Putnam's Eastern Box Turtle (Gehlbach and Holman 1974; Moodie and Van Devender 1979)


Aechmophorus occidentalis—Western Grebe (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Coragyps atratus or C. occidentalis—Black or Western Vulture (Howard 1968; Schultz and Howard 1935)
Gymnogyps californianus—California Condor (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Accipiter cooperi—Cooper's Hawk (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Buteo swainsoni—Swainson's Hawk (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Falco mexicanus—Prairie Falcon (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Falco sparverius—American Kestrel (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Tympanuchus pallidicinctus—Lesser Prairie-chicken (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Oreortyx picta—Mountain Quail (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Meleagris crassipes—Big-footed Turkey (Emslie 1980)
Meleagris gallopavo—Turkey (probably Holocene) (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Grus canadensis—Sandhill Crane (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Asio flammeus—Short-eared Owl (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Bubo virginianus—Great Horned Owl (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Colaptes auratus—Northern Flicker (Schultz and Howard 1935: as Colaptes sp.)
Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus—Yellow-headed Blackbird (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Loxia curvirostra—Red Crossbill (Schultz and Howard 1935)


Cynomys ludovicianus—Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Marmota flaviventris—Yellow-bellied Marmot (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Otospermophilus variegatus—Rock Squirrel (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Dipodomys ordii—Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Cratogeomys castanops—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Pappogeomys, close to P. bulleri—Buller's Pocket Gopher (Schultz and Howard 1935: ?)(REJECTED by Russell (1968)
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Thomomys umbrinus—Southern Pocket Gopher (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Lemmiscus curtatus—Sagebrush Vole (Harris 1993c)
Microtus longicaudus—Long-tailed Vole (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Microtus mogollonensis—Mogollon Vole (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Microtus pennsylvanicus—Meadow Vole (Harris 1993c: cf.)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Neotoma mexicana—Mexican Woodrat (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Neotoma stephensi—Desert Woodrat (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Peromyscus maniculatus—Deer Mouse (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Lepus sp.—Jackrabbit (Schultz and Howard 1935: L. alleni and L. townsendii)
Sylvilagus floridanus—Eastern Cottontail (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (Harris 1993c)
Sorex sp.—Shrew (Harris 1993c)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Puma concolor—Mountain Lion (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Canis latrans—Coyote (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Canis lupus—Gray Wolf (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Vulpes velox—Swift Fox (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Vulpes vulpes—Red Fox (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Arctodus sp.—Short-faced Bear (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Mustela nigripes—Black-footed Ferret (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Taxidea taxus—American Badger (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Conepatus leuconotus—North American Hog-nosed Skunk (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Bassariscus astutus—Ringtail (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Equus conversidens—Mexican Horse (Harris 1993c)
Equus francisci—Stilt-legged Onager (Schultz and Howard 1935)

Given as E. tau, which has been variously interpreted as E. conversidens or E. francisci. The former probably is more likely since it is known to be present (Harris 1993c; Harris data).

Equus scotti—Scott's Horse (Schultz and Howard 1935)

As E. excelsus, assumed to be E. scotti.

Camelops sp.—Camel about the size as C. kansanus (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Navahoceros fricki—Mountain Deer (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Odocoileus hemionus—Mule Deer (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Odocoileus virginianus—White-tailed Deer (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Schultz and Howard 1935: cf.)
Stockoceros conklingi—Conkling's Pronghorn (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Bison antiquus—Ancient Bison (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Euceratherium collinum morrisii—Shrub-ox (Schultz and Howard 1935)
Ovis canadensis—Bighorn Sheep (Schultz and Howard 1935)

Literature. Emslie 1980, 1987; Gehlbach and Holman 1974; Harris 1985a, 1993c; Hester 1960, 1967; E. B. Howard 1932, 1935; H. Howard 1962, 1968, 1971; Howard and Miller 1933; Moodie and Van Devender 1979; Rea 1980; Rickart 1977; Russell 1968; Schultz et al. 1985; Schultz and Howard 1935; Wetmore 1931, 1932.


Last Update: 30 Jul 2013