Lemon Grove, California is known for its giant lemon…and mummified bodies

Lemon Grove, California is known for its giant lemon...and mummified bodies

The Lemon Grove Mummies: Ancient Corpses from Mexican Cave Found in California Garage

In 1980, a Californian mom decided on an ordinary day to spend the evening cleaning up her garage – a long neglected chore. She noticed plenty of garbage and knick-knacks;  some forgotten memories arose but nothing unusual.

It’s before she’s come to a container buried in the back. She found the body of a young girl and a baby inside. The mother called the police at once, horrified that something so ghastly had lurked in her garage. The Lemon Grove PD arrived ready to investigate a murder.

Rather, they stumbled over a mystery. The two bodies found in the California garage were perhaps victims, but their deaths took place many centuries earlier.

Information of how the two mummified bodies came into the California garage are vague.

Both names have been withheld.  In 1966, 14 years before the garage was cleaned, two California teenagers became fascinated with mummies and archeology.

They wanted to make a find for themselves and they were a lot more serious about following through with their idea than many teenagers.

They had heard that the Indian tribes of northern Mexico had a tradition of burying their dead in caves.

The cool, dry air would then naturally mummify the bodies. With Egypt being so far away, this seemed like the best chance of discovering a real live mummy. The duo spent over a month exploring the caves of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Their hard work and dedication paid off – the pair found not one but two mummified corpses in a cave in Chihuahua. One was that of a young woman, the other of a baby girl. The teenagers removed the bodies from the cave and smuggled them across the border to Lemon Grove, California.

However, upon arrival, they immediately encountered a huge problem: what to do with the mummies? The teenagers could not display their find or turn the bodies over to a museum – that would reveal their crime. They certainly could not tell their parents.

Before they could work out a good solution, they were drafted into the US army to fight in Vietnam. So apparently, the teens asked a friend if they could store the box in her garage. She said yes and there the mummies sat for 14 years.

The mummies were found in a cave in Chihuahua, Mexico (pictured).

When the Lemon Grove PD realized that the bodies were centuries old, they called the Museum of Man in San Diego, an institute renowned for its mummy collection. The police also tracked down the two teenagers, who were then adults.

They revealed the origin of the mummies and, in an effort to atone for their crimes, offered to donate the mummies to the Museum of Man. But obviously, the mummies were not theirs to donate. A team of experts in San Diego reached out to the Mexican authorities to inquire about the Chihuahua bodies.

Mexico allowed the bodies to remain in the United States at the Museum, first for a temporary exhibition and then later as a permanent display.

Had the two deceased been of American Indian ancestry, they would have been repatriated to their tribe and properly reburied. However, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) does not apply to Mexican Indians. Thus, the mummies have remained on display and have since been thoroughly studied.

Researchers have determined that the young woman was 15 years old at the time of death and the child was one year old. They bodies were incredibly well preserved – hair still clung to the head of the 15-year-old and the baby’s ears and nose remained perfectly intact.

The mummy of Lemon Grove Girl, San Diego Museum of Man

The cold, dry desert air most likely dehydrated the bodies, which prevented bacteria from living in the flesh and decomposing it. Presently, the most prominent theory suggests that they mummies were not purposefully buried. Given their position – curled up and huddled close together- scientists believe that they died in their sleep.

No other cause of death has been determined. No objects were found with the mummies, according to the teenagers who discovered them. Carbon dating suggests that mummies died sometime between 1040 A.D. and 1260 A.D.

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