Main Menu   Sites

Sandia Cave

NM: Sandoval Co.: 35°15°N, 106°24°W; 2280 m.


Location of Sandia Cave.Age. Haynes and Agogino (1986) give a table of radiocarbon dates done by them, ranging from 11,850 to 13,700 radiocarbon dates BP. Non-Sandia artifacts (other than modern) suggest deposition in the 11,000 - 9000 BP span. Brasso and Emslie (2006) report a new date on Gymnogyps californianus of 10,795 ± 50 (CAMS 123881) or 25,090 ± 220 (CAMS 123916). One of these dates is from Sandia Cave and one from Marmot Cave; however, which belongs to which cave is uncertain from the publication since the abstract gives one result and the text the other. Preliminary excavations were in 1936-37 (by Hibben and by Wesley L. Bliss), followed in 1938-1941 by Hibben, and in 1961-62, 10 days by Haynes and Agogino. Radiocarbon dates and faunal elements indicate that deposition of at least most material was late Pleistocene (Brasso and Emslie 2006), presumably late Wisconsin.

General Description. Haynes and Agogino (1986): The cave is a solution tunnel 138 m long and 2 to 4 m diameter in the Magdalena limestone of Pennsylvanian age. The mouth is in a nearly vertical cliff some 100 m above the floor of Las Huertas Canyon, Sandia Mountains.

Entrance to Sandia Cave; photo by Desertrice Discussion. Haynes and Agogino (1986): By the traditional account, Sandia points were found in a loose deposit underlying a limonite ocher deposit which, in turn, occurred under a cave breccia containing Folsom artifacts and reportedly sealed by an overlying dripstone. However, Haynes and Agogino's investigation indicated that the Sandia deposit (Unit X) is a rodent deposit created by bioturbation of the limonite layer (Unit C) and contains material derived from most of the other deposits. A second dripstone (Unit D) is recognized as being preoccupation rather than contemporaneous with the post-Folsom dripstone. Absence from the front of the cave is attributed to removal by Paleo-Indians for mining of ocher. Other stone points in the "Folsom" breccia include those now classifiable as Agate Basin and Milnesand.

Entrance to Sandia Cave. Photo used under Creative Commons from Desertrice.

The current vegetation is described in general terms by Brasso and Emslie (2006). The area is upper pinyon-juniper woodland with Gambel Oak and Mountain Mahogany. A few Ponderosa Pines occur in the canyon proper.

Haynes and Agogino (1986), based on stratigraphy, hypothesized: 1) a warm, moist period for the derivation of the ocher by leaching from a pedalferic paleosol formed during a previous cool, moist period; 2) desiccation of the ocher during a dry climate; 3) formation of the lower dripstone during a cool, moist period; 4) gypsum precipitation (Unit E) due to either a dry period or opening of the cave or both; 5) accumulation of dust and debris (units F and H) under dry conditions alternating with dripstones (units G and I) and breccia cementation under wet conditions.



Lophodytes cucullatus—Hooded Merganser (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Centrocercus urophasianus—Greater Sage-Grouse (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Dendragapus obscurus—Blue Grouse (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Lagopus sp.—Ptarmigan (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Meleagris gallopavo—Wild Turkey (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Callipepla squamata—Scaled Quail (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Coragyps occidentalis—Western Vulture (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Gymnogyps californianus—California Condor (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Accipiter striatus—Sharp-shinned Hawk (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Aquila chrysaetos—Golden Eagle (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Accipiter cooperii—Cooper's Hawk (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Buteo lineatus—Red-shouldered Hawk (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Falco sparverius—American Kestrel (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Falco peregrinus—Peregrine Falcon (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Falco mexicanus—Prairie Falcon (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Ectopistes migratorius—Passenger Pigeon (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf. gen. et sp.)
Zenaida macroura—Mourning Dove (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Aegolius acadicus—Northern Saw-whet Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Asio otus—Long-eared Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Asio flammeus—Short-eared Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Bubo virginianus—Great Horned Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Glaucidium gnoma—Northern Pygmy-Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf.)
Micrathene whitneyi—Elf Owl (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Colaptes auratus—Northern Flicker (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Corvus corax—Common Raven (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Cyanocitta stelleri—Steller's Jay (Brasso and Emslie 2006: cf. gen. et sp.)
Nucifraga columbiana—Clark's Nutcracker (Brasso and Emslie 2006)
Pica hudsonia—Black-billed Magpie (Brasso and Emslie 2006)


Mammut americanum—American Mastodont (Hibben 1941)
Mammuthus columbi—Columbian Mammoth (White and Morgan 2011)
Nothrotheriops shastensis—Shasta Ground Sloth (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Marmota flaviventris—Yellow-bellied Marmot (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Thomomys talpoides—Northern Pocket Gopher (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Microtus montanus—Montane Vole (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Microtus pennsylvanicus—Meadow Vole (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Canis lupus—Gray Wolf (Hibben 1941: cf.)
Equus occidentalis—Western Horse (Hibben 1941: cf.)
Equus excelsus—(Sandia level) (Hibben 1941)
Camelops hesternus—Yesterday's Camel (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Hemiauchenia macrocephala—Big-headed Llama (Thompson and Morgan 2001)
Navahoceros sp.—Mountain Deer (Thompson and Morgan 2001: ?)
Capromeryx furcifer—Matthew's Pronghorn (White and Morgan 2011)
Bison antiquus—Ancient Bison (Folsom and Sandia levels) (Hibben 1941)

Literature. Brasso and Emslie 2006; Haynes and Agogino 1986; Hibben 1937, 1941; White and Morgan 2011; Thompson and Morgan 2001.


Last Update: 5 Aug 2011