Ventana Cave

Ventana Cave (O'odham: Nakaijegel) is an archaeological site in southern Arizona. It is located on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. The cave was excavated under the direction of Emil Haury by teams led by Julian Hayden in 1942, and in 1941 by a team led by Wilfrid C Bailey, one of Emil Haury's graduate students[3]. The deepest artifacts from Ventana Cave were recovered from a layer of volcanic debris that also contained Pleistocene horse, Burden's pronghorn, tapir, sloth, and other extinct and modern species. A projectile point from the volcanic debris layer was compared to the Folsom Tradition and later to the Clovis culture, but the assemblage was peculiar enough to warrant a separate name – the Ventana Complex. Radiocarbon dates from the volcanic debris layer indicated an age of about 11,300 BP.[4]

Ventana Cave
Ventana Cave
LocationPima County, Arizona, United States
Nearest citySanta Rosa, Arizona
Coordinates32°21′N 112°14′W
NRHP reference #66000189
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLJanuary 20, 1964[2]

Bruce Huckell and C. Vance Haynes restudied the Ventana Cave stratigraphy and artifact assemblage in 1992-1994. New radiocarbon dates and reanalysis of the artifacts indicates that the volcanic debris layer was laid down between 10,500-8,800 BP. Huckel and Haynes hypothesized that vertical turbation (postdepositional disturbance) is responsible for Haury's original interpretation that these extinct fauna were killed with stone tools. "This turbation may have led to the incorporation of bones of extinct fauna from an underlying conglomerate deposit rich in horse remains, creating the impression of their association with artifacts". Huckel and Haynes believe the Ventana Complex is post-Clovis, and not closely related.[5]

Ventana Cave was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.[2]


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. "Ventana Cave". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  3. Haury, Emil (1943). "The Stratigraphy of Ventana Cave, Arizona". American Antiquity. 8 (3). doi:10.2307/275901.
  4. Emil Haury at Ventana Cave, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona
  5. Bruce B. Huckell and C. Vance Haynes, Jr., 2003, The Ventana Complex: New Dates and New Ideas on Its Place in Early Holocene Western Prehistory, American Antiquity, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 353-371 Abstract

Further reading

  • E. W. Haury, 1950, The stratigraphy and archaeology of Ventana Cave. Tucson: University of Arizona Press
  • Guy E. Gibbon, Kenneth M. Ames, 1998, Archaeology of prehistoric native America: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis, 1998. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X
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