The Elephant in
the Parlor

Another Story of Sandia Cave

Tony Baker
May 1, 2005

My mother, Jewel Baker, and sister, Jeanette, in Sandia Cave in the 1950s.

Sandia Cave is located just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico and was excavated by the University of New Mexico (UNM) during the years 1936-1940 (Hibben 1941b:3). The first article concerning the Cave and associated work appeared in April 1937 (Hibben 1937:260-263). Frank Hibben, who is considered the principal investigator and life-long proponent of the Sandia Cave findings, authored it. The next article on the Cave by Wesley Bliss (1940a:200-201), began a controversy in North America archaeology that raged for many years. By the 1980s, the raging controversy had become a few smoldering coals as Sandia Cave was disappearing from the modern literature. The decline in interest was because most academics did not believe the reported findings from the Cave, so they didn't write and/or teach about the subject. Now, in 2005, I am not sure a new archaeological student would recognize the terms "Sandia Cave" or "Sandia Man".


I was born in 1944 and raised in Albuquerque. My parents attended UNM during the early years of the excavation of Sandia Cave and my father, Ele Baker, was an archaeology student. My parents knew Frank Hibben and his wife Brownie. In fact, my mother stayed at the Hibben house during the summer of 1937 to attend summer school and finish her undergraduate work. With this close association to Hibben and the archaeology department at UNM, one would assume my parents would have known about Sandia Cave. However, in the 1960s when I became interested in Paleoindian archaeology, my father only knew what was presented in the Monograph titled Evidence of Early Occupation in Sandia Cave, New Mexico, and Other Sites in the Sandia-Manzano Region (Hibben 1941b). However, he always suspected that something was not right with the Cave.

I found myself living in Denver, Colorado in the 1980s and since colleges were nearby, I decided to return to school to get a Masters in archaeology. During my course work, an ethnology class required me to record an oral history. I decided to interview someone who had dug in Sandia Cave. I asked my father if he remembered anyone that might have dug in the Cave. He recalled a Robert Easterday and after a number of phone calls I located him. Easterday told me on the phone that he had never dug in the Cave, however he referred me to a friend of his by the name of Jim Greenacre. Greenacre had participated in the excavation of the Cave. Greenacre also lived nearby in Ft. Collins. I contacted him and ultimately interviewed him and his wife Doris for 4 hours on March 6, 1983. I wrote my follow-up short paper for the ethnology class and put the audio tapes on the shelf for the next 20 years.

In the Fall of 2004, I had occasion to listen to the audio tapes of the 20 year-old interview. I was so intrigued that I digitized them and then started the long process of transcribing the interview. As I transcribed, I began to make a Time-Line and soon found myself searching the literature, the Internet, and personal records to fill in the gaps. From this process grew a Story of Sandia Cave I had long suspected, but never quite understood. The following is my story of Sandia Cave that I have named "The Elephant in the Parlor."


My story spans the time period from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. In the Southwest, the mid-1930's were plagued by the depression and the dust bowl drought. Jobs were scarce and most people did not have money to purchase food for their table, much less go to college. Yet, my story is about a few individuals who found a way to attend college and study a discipline that is famous for its poor salaries. At the end of my story in mid-1940s, the United States was at war and these same individuals were either soldiers or served in a support capacity back in the States.

My story has several sources of information. The primary source is the Greenacre Interview, which I have transcribed and located at This interview was between Jim and Doris Greenacre and myself. Although Doris (Jim's wife) was not associated with Sandia Cave, her memory for the dates during the interview was a tremendous addition. The Interview is unedited and over 100 pages long (in four parts) if the reader should choose to print it. There are 1,959 entries, which are each time a different person spoke. These entries are numbered from 1 to 1,959 and are what I used for reference in this paper. For example, the reference (Greenacre 1983:100-105) is to entries 100 to 105 during the interview. The Interview will open in a separate window, and I recommend the reader keep it open and toggle back and forth between the Story and the Interview.

My secondary sources are the literature, my parents' letters and recorded oral histories, and my own memory. I have organized the information from these sources and the Greenacre Interview chronologically in a Time-Line, which is a separate webpage with its own references. Click on Time-Line to open it. I recommend the reader print this Time-Line and refer to it as one reads the story. Even with the Time-Line in front of the reader, the story is very complicated.

I have also prepared or referenced some ancillary information about some of the characters in the story. I have done this for several reasons. In the case of Jim Greenacre, I want the reader to know that he was an extremely credible witness. For Wesley Bliss, I want the reader to appreciate that he was more than just "a student." I want the reader to realize how close my parents were to The Story and that they knew so little of what really happened. There is Douglas Byers, who probably never saw Sandia Cave, even from a distance; but he is a very important person. Finally, I offer anecdotal information and source references about Frank Hibben, whose reputation need no further elaboration.

Jim Greenacre
Jim Greenacre was born the winter of 1913/1914. He grew up on the family farm/ranch outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. In those days most people didn't have a tractor so they farmed with horses and Jim acquired the skill and knowledge of working with horses (Greenacre 1983:676). In high school he met Doris Brollier Hartwig who would later become his wife. When I interviewed Jim and Doris in 1983, her memory was often better than Jim's.

In 1934 Jim enrolled at Colorado College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts, later to be known as Colorado A&M, and finally, Colorado State University (Greenacre 1983:657-658). At that time ROTC was mandatory and it was a cavalry unit at Colorado A&M. Because of his knowledge of horses and associated equipment, he was immediately made a Platoon Captain. Additionally, he worked in a hamburger shop in the evenings until 2 AM (Greenacre 1983:676-682).

After completing two years at Colorado A&M, Jim transferred to the University of New Mexico in the Fall of 1936 (Greenacre 1983:82,658). Doris remained in Fort Collins. He had little money so he washed dishes and tended bar to make ends meet (Greenacre 1983:159). He also lived with one or more roommates who were as poor as he. He told a story about catching a baby rabbit and raising it in their room. When it was grown, they ate it (Greenacre 1983:171-172). In another anecdote, he talked about burning scraps from a lumber mill to heat his room (Greenacre 1983:176-180). It was during the Fall of 1936 and Spring of 1937 that Jim participated in the excavation of Sandia Cave. He also did some work at Chaco Canyon National Monument (Greenacre 1983:231).

During the summer of 1937, Jim took a job with the Smithsonian Institution excavating at Lindenmeier under the supervision of Frank Roberts (Greenacre 1983:257; Wilmsen and Roberts, 1978:9-11). It was during that summer that Jim met C.T.R. Bohannon, who became a close friend and would later help him get his first regular job (Greenacre 1983:987-988).

In the Fall of 1937, Jim returned to UNM. During the Spring of 1938, he ran out of money and started looking for a job. His friend Bohannon knew Jack Cotter of National Park Service and University of Pennsylvania fame. Bohannon and Cotter had worked together at Lindenmeier two summers before Bohannon and Jim met. Cotter was working for the University of Kentucky organizing their field archaeology work. Bohannon told Cotter that Jim needed a job and Cotter offered him the job of Supervisor of Field Excavations for $150 per month. Jim jumped at the job and left UNM without getting his degree (Greenacre 1983:1522-1534). Jim and Doris were married that same Spring (Greenacre 1983:421).

Jim's first excavations were in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. He then did some work in Butler County in the central part of the state and finally on the Tennessee River (TVA) in the western part of the state (Greenacre 1983:1534-1540,1629).

WWII broke out in Europe in 1939 and although the United States was not at war, it began to expand its forces and give aid to the Allies. This shift in policy caused the WPA money to dry up and Jim lost his job. He tried investing in the timber business and "nearly lost [his] tail" (Greenacre 1983:1627). The United States entered the war in December 1941 and in May of 1942 the Army reorganized a number of operations and created the Army Map Service. A previous WPA administrator and acquaintance helped Jim get a "...pretty good job" with the Army Map Service in the Fall of 1942 (Greenacre 1983:1627-1629). He went to work in the Louisville office and was in charge of Compilations.

Shortly after taking the job in Louisville, Jim was transferred to Cincinnati as manager of that office. Four months later the Army closed the Cincinnati office and he was transferred back to Louisville as manager where he was in charge of 300 employees. In late 1944, he was sent to Cleveland to close that office. At the end of the war, Jim was moved to Washington D.C., where he was head of the Department of Geographic Names. He stayed in that job for the next ten years (Greenacre 1983:1627-1643).

Health problems caused Jim to leave Washington and the Department of Geographic Names. The family moved west for a drier climate, but Jim ultimately returned to the USGS in St. Louis, where he was in charge of the Information Center (Greenacre 1983:1643-1644,1650).

Around 1960, the Lunar Mapping Program of the Air Force and NASA started up. Jim was offered a chance to be part of that effort and he took it. The family moved to Flagstaff Arizona. Here he helped build the first darkroom at Lowell Observatory. In 1969 the U.S. landed the first man on the moon with the aid of maps that Jim helped to create. In 1973, Jim retired (Greenacre 1983:1650-1673).

I interviewed Jim and Doris Greenacre for 4.5 hours in 1983. I met them for the first time the day of the interview and I never saw them again. I only spoke to them a couple times on the phone. Sometime between 1983 and 1996 Jim passed away. In 1996 the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Colorado Archaeology Society created the James Greenacre Scholarship Fund with funds donated by Doris Greenacre in memory of Jim. One of the requirements to receive this award is that the recepient must be a student of archaeology.

Wesley L. Bliss
In the 1940s American Antiquity had a section called "Correspondence", which is equivalent to the "Comments" in the modern version of the Journal. In the Correspondence section in June 1941, Frank Hibben (1941a:266) wrote the following.

"This correspondence has grown out of an article on the Sandia Cave written by a graduate student who signed himself from the University of New Mexico (American Antiquity, Vol. V, no. 3). Professor Donald Brand, head of the Department of Anthropology of the University of New Mexico, pointed out in subsequent correspondence that the article was totally unauthorized by the University of New Mexico and the student had not been enrolled here for three years. Further more, Professor Brand indicated that the student had had little to do with the Sandia Cave and naturally would not be competent to write about it even through authorized to do so. The glaring errors of this unfortunate article Professor Brand has already pointed out. The assumption that the writer (Hibben) was collaborating with this student in the excavating of this cave is so presumptuous as to be preposterous."

The student in the above excerpt is Wesley L. Bliss. The precious little I know about Bliss suggests that he was much more than just a student. I remember my father telling me in the 1960s that Bliss was a graduate student at the University of New Mexico and the sharpest Paleoindian archaeologist he had ever met. This compliment by my father placed Bliss, who I have never met, on a pedestal in my mind with few other archaeologists. That said, what else do I know about Wesley L. Bliss?

Bliss came from Greeley, a town in northern Colorado, which was located about 40 miles southwest of the Lindenmeier Site (Greenacre 1983:391,1181). In the 1930s, he knew about the Folsom culture and the original Folsom Site, the Lindenmeier Site, and the Johnson Site (Greenacre 1983:1118; Wormington 1949:32).

February 1935 saw the discovery of the polychrome murals at Kuaua Pueblo near Bernalillo, New Mexico. At the time, Kuaua was being excavated jointly by the University of New Mexico and the School of American Research with funds from FERA (Bliss 1948:219). The murals were on three walls of one kiva. When it was completely excavated, Bliss was placed in charge of removing the murals intact, transporting them to the University of New Mexico, and then separating the 25 murals from the 87 thin layers of plaster. The three walls were 14, 16, and 18 feet in length and when removed they weighed just slightly less that five tons. When the 18-foot wall was transported, sandbags had to be placed on the front fenders of the truck so it could be driven. Bliss earned his Masters degree at the end of this year. The removal of and laboratory work on the murals were the basis of his thesis (Bliss 1948:218-222; Dutten 1963:221). My father was one of the University students that assisted Bliss in the removal of the murals from the field (Bliss 1948:222).

In 1936 and 1937 Bliss had a fellowship from the University of New Mexico of $100 per month (Greenacre 1983:92,292,527,1433). Bliss also taught Archaeological Techniques and Museum Techniques in the classroom, and was a member of the teaching staff for the summer field school held at Chaco Canyon National Monument (Greenacre 1983:94). At that field school there were approximately 50 students and 20 research students and staff including Drs. Ernst Antevs and Leslie Spier (letter from Ele's mother to Ele 3/17/36; letter from Bliss to Ele 8/12/36).

During the Fall of '36 and Spring of '37, Bliss was in charge of the excavation in Sandia Cave (Byers 1942:408). Bliss saved samples of seeds, pollen and dung in anticipation of getting a paleontologist involved with the interpretation of the Cave (Greenacre 1983:1063-1070,1169). He scraped the black deposits from the ceiling for analysis by a chemist in hopes it might be soot (1983:1242-1247). He borrowed a camera from one of the Albuquerque newspapers to take photographs in the cave (Greenacre 1983:1200-1205). He also used a box camera from an airplane to make aerial photographs and identify Pueblos in the Albuquerque area (Greenacre 1983:237).

The Anthropological Field Party of the University of New Mexico headed by Bliss departed for Canada the summer of 1937 (Bliss 1939:365;Byers 1942:409). They returned the Fall of 1938.

"The object of the field program was to locate sites for excavation, make a general archeological survey and look for evidence of early man in relation to glaciation and possible early migration routes from Asia. It is the opinion of the organizer (Bliss) that there is a need for more physical evidence of early American Cultures and culture complexes. Arguments pro and con have been presented for the existence of man in North America during the Pleistocene or ice age. Therefore, it was thought advisable to form a definite program for work in the glaciated and unglaciated area of western Canada and Alaska in order to correlate, if possible, some of the early cultures with glacial chronology. This work was supported by a grant from the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society and by the University of New Mexico (Bliss 1939:365)."

When Bliss returned from Canada, he shared his research findings with Marie Wormington while his own publications were "in press". Wormington included Bliss' findings and acknowledged his collaboration in her first edition of "Ancient Man in North America" (1939:4,11).

Bliss did not return to the University of New Mexico after the Canada trip. Instead he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he had a mentor in Dr. E. B. Howard who was head of the Anthropology Department (Greenacre 1983:101,132,499,1390-1392; Bliss 1940b:78). Howard was a Paleoindian scholar and acquainted with most of the individuals who were knowledgeable in Paleoindians. He knew my father and grandfather and even helped my father get a few small archaeological jobs (Baker 1984). Greenacre was unsure if Bliss obtained his Ph.D. at Pennsylvania or not (Greenacre 1983:1390).

It is here that my knowledge of Wesley Bliss is exhausted. I hope I have created an image of a scholar, and not just a student, at the University of New Mexico.

My Parents
In 2000 I wrote a short history of my parents and their archaeology at the request of the Panhandle Archaeological Society of Canyon, Texas. This history is located at I believe it and the Time-Line will demonstrate that they were knowledgeable and were at "ground zero" during the early years of the Cave's excavation. Additionally, the image at the top of this paper indicates we visited the Cave several times as a family during the 1950s. That said, the memories my parents provided me about Sandia Cave are meager. All of them could have been extracted from the Monograph. It was as if they had never lived in Albuquerque. The one unusual memory was the caution that something was not right with Sandia Cave.

Douglas S. Byers
"Concerning Sandia Cave" written by Douglas S. Byers (1942:408-409) is one of the most important references for this paper. This article, which appeared shortly after the release of the Monograph, is skillfully written to appear innocent to the casual reader, and yet, extremely informative to the informed reader. Ironically Byers, who at the time was Director of the Peabody Museum and Editor of American Antiquity, probably never visited the Cave. He was acting as a proxy for an unnamed source(s). He wrote in his article that:
"...the Editor received communications supported by copies of certain documents, from several members of the Society, requesting that in fairness to Bliss and in fairness to the evidence of the cave itself, a full statement of the circumstances surrounding the excavation of the cave and of the publication of Bliss' original article be made public." (Byers 1942:408)

This unnamed source(s) was definitely an advocate of Wesley Bliss. Furthermore, the evidence they offered to Byers must have been extremely convincing or they were very influential with him, to cause him to act as their proxy. With this strong a position, one wonders why this unnamed source would have wanted to remain anonymous?

Byers' article is important to this Story because it dovetails with Greenacre's account. To help the reader be aware of information coming from this single article, I have marked all of the Byers' citings in this paper and in the Time-Line in red. An Internet search for Byers will indicate the significant role he played in archaeology at the time he wrote this single two-page article.

Frank C. Hibben
Anyone who knows of Sandia Cave will most likely also know the name Frank Hibben. He gave Sandia Cave to the World. In retrospect, however, he gave New World archaeology a much greater gift. Hibben ignited a flame of love for anthropology, especially archaeology, in all his students. In the case of the author, I would not have written this paper, pursued a Masters degree in archaeology, or hunted a single arrowhead if it had not been for Frank Hibben.

In the 1960s I was a student in engineering at the University of New Mexico. Engineering students at that time were required to take 12 hours (4 courses) in humanities to graduate. So as luck would have it, in 1963, I found myself in a lecture hall with 300 other freshmen and sophomores listening to Dr. Hibben lecturing on physical anthropology. Somehow during the semester he managed to segue from Old World hominids to New World Paleoindians and his book, The Lost Americans, became required reading. Needless to say, I fell in love with Paleoindians and asked my father to take me arrowhead hunting toward the end of the semester. This was the beginning of my archaeological adventure that is continuing today.

A thumbnail sketch of Frank Hibben is located at For a more detailed and critical look at Frank Hibben, I suggest the article, "The Mystery of Sandia Cave" by Douglas Preston in the June 12, 1995 edition of the New Yorker magazine.

THE STORY - Fall 1935 to February 1, 1937

In the early Fall of 1935, Sandia Cave and Davis Cave were brought to the attention of the Anthropology Department of UNM. The literature is full of various accounts of this event including the Byers article (1942:408). Greenacre was attending Colorado A&M (Colorado State) in Ft. Collins at the time, so he only had an opinion on how it might have occurred (Baker, T. 1983:106-111 & 717). What is more important is that "...on October 18, 1935 the Caves were posted as a mining claim with notices signed by Brand, Bliss, Hawley, Hibben and Davis" (Byers 1942:408). Byers further reported that "on Nov. 7, 1935, Dr. Brand, as acting head of the Department of Anthropology, applied for a permit to conduct archaeological and paleontological excavations in the caves, stating that he was to be in general charge of the work and that Wesley L. Bliss was the individual in charge of field work" (1942:408).

The permit was approved January 3, 1936 and according to Byers two separate field parties were created with Bliss and Hibben as leaders. Bliss was in charge of the larger Davis Cave and Hibben had Sandia Cave. Bliss dug in Davis Cave until March 1936 when it was determined to be sterile (1942:408). As to when the work commenced in Sandia Cave, Byers cleverly defers to Dr. Brand's report of February 1, 1937 to the Forest Supervisor. It states the work in Sandia Cave began in February of 1936 (Byers 1942:408). However, this disagrees with Greenacre's recollection of the events.

click here to listen to Greenacre describing the fill in the entrance of the Cave (Greenacre 1983:1234-1237)
Greenacre recognizes the door frame in Plate 66 of Monograph (1195-1198).
Greenacre transferred to UNM in the Fall of 1936 and began working with Bliss in Sandia Cave that same semester (Greenacre 1983:79-87). The first thing they did was hack out a trail so they could carry up tools and the lumber to build the wooden door that would permit them to lock the Cave (Greenacre 1983:717-735,1196-1198). The entrance was so plugged that the only way a person could get in was to wedge themself in sideways. Therefore, cleaning out the entrance was the first order of business and they did that during their first outing (Greenacre 1983:58,62,66,78,1234-1239,1434-1439). Obviously, this was the first physical work done at the Cave or, in different words, nothing had been done during the time Hibben had been in charge. Byers supports this by telling us that Bliss was in charge of the excavation from October 1936 to February 1937 (1942:408).

A summary of the events to this juncture, as I understand began with an excavation permit being approved by the Forest Service on January 3, 1936. Hibben was placed in charge of the work at Sandia Cave. Nothing transpired in the Cave until October when Bliss was put in charge. On Greenacre's first outing with Bliss they cleaned out the entrance. Bliss and his crew continued to work in the Cave until February '37, at which time a report was submitted to the Forest Service. From February to the Summer of '37 there is no information indicating whether Bliss and Greenacre continued to work in the Cave. I suspect they did not. I know Bliss left for Canada that summer and never returned to UNM (Bliss 1939:365; Byers 1942:409; Greenacre 1983:247-271). Additionally, Greenacre never mentioned working for anyone in the Cave except Bliss.

Bliss' Secret Excavation
Initially the excavation was an unofficial affair (Greenacre 1983:60). Bliss organized a team of undergraduate students who were members of the TIWA archaeological Society to dig in the Cave (Byers 1942:408). I suspect several had worked with him in Davis Cave earlier in the year, but Greenacre was new since he transferred to UNM in the Fall of '36. The team would drive to the Cave on Friday night, set up camp, and then work all day Saturday and Sunday morning (Greenacre 1983:701). Most of the time the group consisted of only males, but occasionally, "... a couple of girls went along" (Greenacre 1983:695). In addition to Bliss and himself, Greenacre remembered Barbara Clark, Ken Davis, Vance Davis, Otto Hammerschmidt, Don Hastings, Don Lehmer, Jane Olsen, and Barbara (?) participating in the excavation at various times (Greenacre 1983:686-710). From this group, only Bliss, Greenacre, Clark, and Olsen are acknowledged in the Forward of Hibben's Monograph (1941:iii).

Greenacre commenting on the yellow ocher dust (56-58)
Sandia Cave was a very dry and dusty cave. The author was in it several times in the 1950s, long after it had been excavated, and a single trip to the back of the Cave caused one to be covered from head to foot with yellow ocher dust. This ocher dust caused Bliss' team members to wear painter's mask dipped in water. They could stay in the cave about 15 minutes before the mask would be plugged with the dust. Without a mask, one could only last about five minutes in the Cave before being forced out for air (Greenacre 1983:56-58, 62-66, 702-704, 751, & 1451-1458). Because of the continuously plugging masks, the excavators would work in pairs. When one person was forced out, his partner would go in and resume working in the same square. Depending on how many excavators were available, there could have been three to four squares being simultaneously tested along the length of the Cave (Greenacre 1983:66,778). I suspect this is the same strategy Bliss used in Davis Cave in the Spring of the same year.

As if the ocher dust wasn't bad enough, the only lighting inside the Cave was provided by candles (Greenacre 1983:785-786,838). This poor lighting was one of the reasons all excavated dirt was screened. The dirt was bagged and carried down below the Cave where the screening took place (Greenacre 1983:728-731, 744-745, & 836-838). Screening in those days was rare, however, Bliss probably chose to do it because he was testing as he had done in Davis Cave.

Hibben finds out about the secret excavation (367-369)
I previously wrote that Bliss' excavation was initially an unofficial affair. In fact, Greenacre said the University and Hibben were unaware of it (1983:367-369). If we are to believe Byers, Sandia Cave had been assigned to Hibben to excavate (1942:408). In a sense, Bliss was trespassing in Hibben's Cave. Ultimately, "... a little information leaked out and Hibben found out about it and hit the roof" (Greenacre 1983:369). However, I believe the realization by UNM that Bliss was digging in Hibben's Cave occurred late in the period between October 1936 to February 1937. I believe this because the report by Bland to the Forest Service in February 1937 indicates that Bliss was in charge during this time period (Byers 1942:408). If UNM had learned of Bliss' excavation early in this period, Hibben would have taken over the work and Bliss would not have been cited in the report to the Forest Service.

Up until Bliss' unofficial excavation of Sandia Cave, he was a "fair-haired boy" at UNM. (Read the previous section on Wesley L. Bliss, if the reader has not already done so.) I believe he "fell out of grace" with the University when they realized that he was secretly excavating in the Cave. As stated earlier, Bliss left for Canada that summer and never returned to the UNM.

Extent of Bliss' Excavation
Figures 2, 3, & 4 in the 1941 Monograph indicate that the first 24 meters in the front of the Cave were completely evacuated (Hibben 1941). In the first article, which Hibben published shortly after Bliss finished his excavation in early '37, he reports that "to date, seven meters have been excavated in the front or west end of the Cave, and five meters in the back, to bed rock in each case" (1937:261). Taken at face value, one would assume that Bliss excavated the first seven, contiguous meters of the Cave. However, as Greenacre pointed out, the test squares were scattered along the length of the Cave (Greenacre 1983:778). During the interview with Greenacre in 1983, I showed him Figures 2, 3, & 4 from the Monograph. After some discussion, he felt that Bliss' team had put in squares all along the, ultimately 24 evacuateded meters in the front of the Cave. He especially remembered a draft of air that originated from the high ceiling at meter 11 (Greenacre 1983:781-790; Hibben 1941:8). Additionally, he felt that they had put in test squares in the interval from 73 to 82 meters because he recalled they could not get beyond the boulders at meter 85 (Greenacre 1983:758-828). The five test squares in the back of the Cave were most likely located between meters 73 and 82.

If Bliss' seven test squares in the front of the Cave had been evenly spaced along the first 24 meters of the front of the Cave, they would have been four meters apart. The spacing of the test squares in the back would have even been closer. In different words, Bliss effectively sampled the front and back of Sandia Cave.

Findings of Bliss' Excavation
Relationship of the travertine to the yellow ocher (751)
The stratigraphy in Sandia Cave has been one of the great controversies over the years. It has been described differently by different authors over time. In Hibben's case, he described it differently in different publications (Stevens and Agogino 1975:9-15; Haynes and Agogino 1986:4-5). Greenacre's recollection was different from any of the published accounts, but it is most similar to the first two articles published by Hibben (1937) and Bliss (1940b). Additionally, it is of the front of the Cave where he remembered four layers resting on the Cave floor. From the top down, there was the recent, disturbed layer; the travertine layer; the yellow ocher layer; and finally the productive, undisturbed layer (Greenacre 1983:433-452). The difference between Greenacre's recollection and the accounts of Bliss and Hibben is the presence of the yellow ocher layer. See Table 1. For some reason Hibben and Bliss chose to omit it in the first two articles. It does appear later in Hibben's Monograph (1941), and a report by Haynes & Agogino (1986). In those subsequent articles, there are layers inserted between the travertine and the ocher layers. Greenacre remembered the ocher adjacent to and immediately beneath the travertine. Additionally, Hibben wrote in his 1937 article that the travertine "... is absolutely unbroken over the whole of the Cave floor and successfully resists the blow of a pick" (262). Bliss reported in his 1940 article that the travertine had been penetrated by rodents (201). Greenacre strongly agreed with Bliss (Greenacre 1983:428-440).

Greenacre's recollection concerning artifacts and animal remains found in the Cave can be summed up in one knee-jerk remark. I told Greenacre that when I was looking for someone to interview about Sandia Cave, I had contacted Bob Easterday before I contacted him. On the telephone, Easterday said he had never worked in the Cave and the only thing that he had ever seen associated with Sandia Cave was a lot of rat dung on a laboratory table. Greenacre's response was "he saw one of the biggest finds" (1983:626-630). This simple comment made in jest, which appears at times to be contradicted during other parts of the interview, is the proverbial "elephant in the parlor." Greenacre could not remember finding anything of significance in the Cave.

Greenacre seemed to remember that camel teeth and mastodon bone were found, but no mastodon teeth (1983:1310-1321, 1460). Agreeing with Bliss, he said the Pleistocene animal bones were in the upper, recent layer and they had been brought up from below the travertine by rodents (1983:430-440). However, these discussions seemed to be unclear and Greenacre's memory was vague on this subject.

Greenacre said they never found any pottery in the Cave (1983:1234-1235,1241). I discussed the lithics found in Sandia Cave, off and on throughout the interview. Initially, he was very vague and appeared to remember very little. After we reviewed the Monograph Plates with the images of the lithic tools and points, he began to be surer about what they may have found. I believe I may have influenced what he remembered. In summary, he did say they found some flake tools and said some looked like the end scrapers in Plate 6 of the Monograph (1983:450-452,557-576,581-584,829-836,1269-1281,1282-1305,1344-1360). He never said specifically where they came from, but I got the sense he would say both the upper, disturbed, as well as the lower undisturbed layers. He was sure they never found any projectiles or any other diagnostic artifacts (1983:581-584,829-836,1169,1177-1180,1227,1250-1255,1269-1305,1344-1360,1471-1476,1818-1824).

Finally, he remembered a hearth in the front of the Cave, and he gave me the impression that he participated in its excavation. He remember it was on the Cave floor in the lower, undisturbed layer, but it was not banked with rocks, nor was there a projectile associated with it (1983:458-472,1461-1469). He seemed to recall some lithics that he called "very crude instruments" associated with it. Prior to the interview I had previewed the early literature and I knew that both Hibben (1937:263) and Bliss (1940:201) had reported finding a projectile (later to be known as the "first-Sandia-point") associated with a hearth and banking rocks. This was the only hearth discussed in their two articles. I pressed Greenacre about his memory of his hearth and the lack of rocks and a projectile. However, he stood fast to his memory of his hearth. While preparing this paper, I re-read the Monograph and found reference to Greenacre's hearth. It was located at meter 15. A second hearth with banking rocks and the first-Sandia-point" was located at meter 13 (Hibben 1941:27). For some reason, similar to the yellow ocher layer, Hibben and Bliss chose not to mention Greenacre's hearth in the first two articles.

I stated in the beginning of this section that Greenacre's recollection of his time in Sandia Cave mostly matched the first Sandia Cave article of 1937 by Hibben and the 1940 article by Bliss. This is logical because all three are reporting on the work done by Bliss during the Fall of '36 and the Spring of '37. See the Time-Line. Table 1 summarizes the important similarities and differences between the three accounts. I have highlighted in yellow the items that I consider important. And, notice the "Elephant in the Parlor," Greenacre remembered finding nothing of significance in the Cave.

Table 1
Hibben 1937Bliss 1940Greenacre 1983
recent layer upper, unconsolidated layerupper, disturbed layer
travertine layer travertine layer travertine layer
   yellow ocher layer immediately
below the travertine layer
older layer lower, unconsolidated layer lower, undisturbed layer
Animal Remains  
ground sloth bones ground sloth bones  
horse bones horse bones  
camel bones camel bones  
mastodon bones   mastodon bones
horse teeth horse teeth 
 mastodon teeth 
  camel teeth
Cultural Remains  
occasion flakes
and/or lithic tools
occasion flakes
and/or lithic tools
occasion flakes
and/or lithic tools
one projectile later termed
the "1st Sandia Point"
one projectile later termed
the "1st Sandia Point"
no projectiles
hearth (located at meter 13)
with rocks and a projectile
later termed the
"1st Sandia Point"
hearth (located at meter 13)
with rocks and a projectile
later termed the
"1st Sandia Point"
hearth (located at meter 15)
with no rocks or projectiles


The first article published concerning Sandia Cave appeared in April 1937 and was written by Hibben. This was just three months after Hibben's and Bliss' joint letter to Brand about the status and, probably the cessation of the testing in the Cave. According to Byers (1942:408), Bliss had been in charge of the Cave's excavation from October 1936 to January 1937. Greenacre remembered that Bliss' team cleaned out the entrance and began testing the Cave in the Fall of 1936. Considering there is a time lag between when an article is submitted to the publisher and when it is actually published, Hibben's 1937 article must surely have been written at least a couple of months before it was published in April. Realizing this, Hibben's article had to be a report of Bliss' work.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
When I compare Greenacre's recollection with Hibben's 1937 article, a number of questions arise. One is why did Hibben omit the yellow ocher layer from the stratigraphic column in the 1937 article? Its presence and location would have been obvious in 1937, since it had caused the excavators severe breathing problems. Later, in the 1941 Monograph it is one of the most important markers in the column. It is the sterile layer that separates the Folsom layer from the Sandia layer (1941:Figs. 4 & 6). In my opinion, this omission in 1937 was significant and causes me to ask if it was unintentional or premeditated?

Two Hearths in a Tangle
A second question is more complex and, similar to the omission of the yellow ocher layer, it also doesn't have an answer. In the 1937 article Hibben reports on a hearth with rocks and a projectile that was located on the Cave's bedrock floor (263). This projectile is the first-Sandia-point found in the Cave. Greenacre has no recollection of a hearth with rocks and a projectile; but he, himself, excavated a hearth on the Cave floor without rocks or projectile (Greenacre 1983:458-472,1461-1469). The 1941 Monograph reports there were two hearths found in the Sandia layer on the floor. One was located at meter 13 and had rocks and a projectile (Hibben 1941:27). For simplicity, I will term this the Frank (Hibben) Hearth. The other was at meter 15 and it had no rocks or projectiles (Hibben 1941:27). This hearth I will call the Jim (Greenacre) Hearth. So, the question is why did Hibben, in his 1937 article, report on the Frank Hearth and omit the Jim Hearth? This question assumes that both hearths were known to exist at the time Hibben wrote the 1937 article.

A different assumption, which seems highly unlikely but one that can be made, requires little fore thought. It is that the Frank Hearth at meter 13 was known and the Jim Hearth at meter 15 was yet to be discovered at the time that Hibben wrote the article. The question that follows from this assumption is why did Greenacre not know about the Frank Hearth as he was digging the Jim Hearth? The two hearths would have been just two meters apart. As positive as Greenacre was about the fact that no projectiles were found in the Cave during his association with it, makes it impossible for me to accept this alternate assumption. I must assume the Jim Hearth was discovered first.

Returning to the previous assumption that the Jim Hearth was discovered first, I must then assume Greenacre was not present at the time the Frank Hearth was found. So, the Frank Hearth must have been discovered by Hibben and his team after January 1937 when Hibben must have assumed the leadership of the excavation. And, it must have been discovered very soon after the leadership change because Hibben reported it in American Antiquity in April 1937.

Ironically, Bliss acknowledges the Frank Hearth in his January 1940 article entitled "A Chronological Problem Presented by Sandia Cave, New Mexico" (1940a:201). However, in doing so he raised such a protest from Brand and Hibben that he never returned to UNM or Sandia Cave (Brand 1940; Hibben 1941; Bliss 1940b). So what did Bliss write in his 1940 article that caused Brand and Hibben so much concern? He didn't deny the existence of the Frank Hearth; in fact, he embellished it by describing the rocks that surrounded the hearth. However, he also injected some doubt. In the middle of the paragraph describing the hearth, Bliss (1940a:201) inserted two sentences, which are not contiguous, that do not logically belong there:

"Rodents had broken through the consolidated center layer (travertine) causing a redeposition of faunal remains by carrying fragments above the layer and bringing down material from the upper deposits."
"The (1st Sandia) point was associated with the fire remains in a way that indicated that it had not been disturbed by rodents."

These two sentences totally contradicted Hibben's description (1937:262) of the travertine in his '37 article where he wrote:

"Beneath this is a hard surface of calcium carbonate (travertine) or similar material which varies from one-half inch to three inches in thickness. This is absolutely unbroken over the whole of the cave floor and successfully resists the blow of a pick"

In attempting to answer the question of why Hibben omitted the Jim Hearth in his 1937 article, I have only managed to create more questions. The first is, did Bliss actually witness the Frank Hearth? Or, did Bland's and Hibben's concern arise from only the fact that Bliss contradicted Hibben, or did a deeper concern exist? Finally, did the Frank Hearth ever exist?

Only the Shadow Knows
Almost three years elapsed between Hibben's 1937 article introducing Sandia Cave to the World and Bliss's article (1940) that challenged the integrity of the travertine layer above the Frank Hearth. During that time the information coming out about Sandia Cave appeared to be nil. Sandia Cave was literally and figuratively a "black hole".

Greenacre remained at UNM for a year after the publication of Hibben's 1937 article. During my interview with him in 1983, I got the impression that he had never seen the article or he didn't recall it. He never mentioned working with Hibben in the Cave, or a different team that might be working in the Cave during this last year.

The archaeological grapevine appeared to also be silent. Both my parents attended UNM in the Spring of 1937. My mother actually stayed at the Hibben House while finishing her undergraduate degree in summer school of 1937. My parents then worked at Chaco Canyon National Monument, which was connected to UNM, in the Fall of 1937. Their association with UNM dropped off when they took a different job in the Panhandle of Texas for the next three years. However, my mother's family lived in Albuquerque, so I assume they traveled there occasionally and they must have visited with some old school acquaintances. Considering this, I have nothing in my family history that suggests they were aware of anything happening at Sandia Cave. This is very important when one considers my father was extremely interested in Paleoindian and was always on the lookout for any associated information.

Marie Wormington was another person "shaking the bushes" for Paleoindian information in the late 1930s and 1940s. Her first edition of "Ancient Man in North America" appeared in May 1939, which was two years after Hibben's 1937 article. Of significance in this edition, which discussed all the known Paleoindian sites and then some, is the absence of any mention of Sandia Cave. On the surface that may not seem strange, but this was not typical Wormington. She was famous for seeking out cutting edge work and writing about it long before the details met any peer review presses. For example, in that first edition, which was only 80 pages, she discusses Bliss' research in Canada during 1937 and 1938 while his own publication was "in press." She thanked Bliss and others for this kindness in her "Acknowledgement" that permitted her to do this (1939:4). Possibly she approached Hibben for more information on Sandia Cave and he had rejected her. Still, she could have referenced Hibben's '37 article. But she chose not to. Bliss provided her with his research findings from Canada, possibly they also discussed Sandia Cave. Did he provide her with some information that now has been lost to the Ages? Finally in her second edition in 1944, she reports on Sandia Cave, but her entire account could have been derived from Hibben's 1941 Monograph.

In retrospect of this time period, Hibben tells us in the Monograph that further excavations "... were carried on, although not continuously, during the seasons of 1937, 1938, and 1939." In 1940 the "... excavation was further facilitated by a generous grant from the American Philosophical Society" (1941b:3). This accelerated the excavation of the Cave to completion in that same year. During this same time period Hibben attended Harvard and earned his Ph.D. after receiving his Masters from UNM in 1936 (Adams 2002; Hibben 1940a). Byers tells us that "Dr. Brand put Hibben in charge of the excavation in the Fall of 1938" (1942:409). So, who was in charge of excavations during February 1, 1937 to the Fall of 1938? I suspect that no one was and there was no activity in the Cave. Furthermore, I suspect there was no activity until 1940 and the arrival of the American Philosophical Society grant (Hibben 1941b:3).

Who Was that Masked Man
Jim Greenacre's recollection of the early period in Sandia Cave differs greatly from the majority of the published history. Frank Hibben wrote the vast amount of that history including the Monograph. As stated early in this document, there is an unusual article in the early literature that was written by Douglas Byers (1942:408-409) and supports Greenacre's account. Also, I suggested early on that Byers was acting as a proxy for an individual who was an advocate for Bliss and his side of the story. Now, I want to suggest that that advocate was Edgar B. Howard of the University Museum of Pennsylvania.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Howard personally knew all the Paleoindian people across the country. He traveled widely and often would stay at the homes of the individuals he was visiting. I know he visited and stayed with my Grandfather (letter to Jewel from Ele, 8/16/34). He also knew my father, who felt secure enough in their relationship to ask Howard for advice about marrying my mother (letter from Howard to Ele, 10/29/34).

Howard knew Bliss and had been to Sandia Cave and according to Greenacre, Bliss and Howard were friends (Greenacre 1983:101, 499, 1392, 1397-1401). Apparently after the Brand article in April of 1940 (339) stating that Bliss was incorrect in his understanding of the competency of the travertine layer as reported in Bliss's January 1940 article (200), Bliss discussed the situation with Howard. Or maybe the discussion was after Hibben's June 1941 article (266) where he referred to Bliss as a "student". Regardless, Bliss then asks Greenacre to write up his experiences in the Cave and send them to Howard (Greenacre 1983:481).

Greenacre forwarded his write-up of Sandia Cave to Howard and he believed it was published in American Antiquity (Greenacre 1983:483). I pointed out to him during the interview that I had not found any articles by him in the Sandia Cave literature. Greenacre insisted that his article had been published or incorporated into an article that Howard wrote for American Antiquity (Greenacre 1983:502-506). Again, I had to tell Greenacre that I had not seen any articles by Howard, either. Toward the end of the interview, Greenacre suggested that maybe Howard had published the article in a University of Pennsylvania publication (Greenacre 1983:1420). I told him I would check the library when I got back to Denver.

In 1983 at the time of the Greenacre interview, I didn't know of Edgar B. Howard or his Paleoindian fame (Greenacre 1983:1395). In fact, I knew very little about the history of Paleoindian archaeology. After my parents passed away and I inherited the photographs and letters of those early days before I was born, I began to understand and appreciate people like Howard. That said, when I decided to write this paper in the Fall of 2004, I again searched the literature for evidence of the write-up that Greenacre had sent to Howard. I found nothing. Finally one day, I realized that Greenacre's information, with that of possible others, had found its way to Byers via Howard. Then it all made sense.

I must admit I have not provided hard proof that Howard communicated to Byers the story of Sandia Cave as told by Bliss. However, there is some solid circumstantial evidence that Howard did not accept the Folsom Layer in Sandia Cave. Coincidentally, this same evidence shows that Howard and Byers were colleagues. In January 1943, over a year after Hibben had detailed the Folsom layer in the Sandia Cave Monograph, Howard (1943:224-234) wrote the following:

"The principal sites where Folsom points like those shown in Pl. VIII have been found in place are: the type site of Folsom, New Mexico; various sites near Clovis, New Mexico; and the Lindenmeier site in Colorado. There are also the Johnson site in Colorado, about twelve miles southwest of Lindenmeier, and the Lipscomb County, Texas site. Complete information about the latter site is to be published shortly, but Dr. C. B. Schultz writes that the pieces are typical Folsom. A number of Folsom points have been found on the surface in various places: New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, to name those that come to mind. Nearly all these surface sites are in the Great Plains Province. One exception from Wisconsin which Mr. Byers brought to my attention early in 1941 could certainly be classed as a typical Folsom Point."

The Folsom points in Plate 6 of the Sandia Cave Monograph are definitely typical and they were found in-situ (Hibben 1941:19-20). So why did Howard ignore the Folsom layer in Sandia Cave in the above paragraph?

Older Than Dirt
I began assembling the data that would ultimately be used in this paper in the Fall of 2004, shortly after I completed my
Clovis First/Pre-Clovis Problem, Revisited 2004 paper. In that paper, I made the argument that pre-Clovis was a thick-body-projectile, similar to a Sandia point. I did not use the term "Sandia point" in that paper because I knew the Sandia culture to be fictitious. On the other hand, Bliss (1940:201) had not refuted the first Sandia point, which was found near the Frank Hearth. I thought this would be a good follow-up paper for my thick-bodied-projectile argument. So I was trying to justify to myself that first-Sandia-point and its provenience were authentic. Based on the C-14 dates published by Haynes and Agogino in 1986 (10), this point would have had a date of at least 13500 RCYBP, which would support my argument that Pre-Clovis points were thick bodied.

Unfortunately for my argument, Haynes and Agogino (1986:10) also dated the travertine layer at 226,300 +16,200 years BP by uranium-series (U-S). This was the same travertine that Hibben reported was above the Folsom layer and un-penetrated by rodents (1937:262; 1941:12). The same travertine layer that Bliss reported was penetrated by rodents (1940a:201; 1940b:77). Suddenly, a second elephant walked into the parlor. If this date of 226,300 years was good, then the first-Sandia-point would have had to have been at least a quarter of a million years old.

I communicated with Vance Haynes via Vance Holiday about the U-S date. He indicated the date was vintage 1960's, but he had no reason to discount it. Additionally, he indicated he had a second U-S date on the travertine measured in the 1980s. This date was 300,000 years. Since, I still wanted the first-Sandia-point to be authentic; I began climbing the learning curve on U-S dating in hopes of finding something that would challenge these dates. I learned that "dirty calcite" or travertine can produce bad dates. So, after numerous emails around the world to Ph.D. types in physics and geology, one individual suggested I contact Dr. Henry Schwarcz of McMaster University. Schwarcz was the person who had actually dated the travertine for Hayes and Agogino. I asked Schwarcz if it was possible the travertine in Sandia Cave was a dirty calcite. His response was:
"Sorry: This was a very clean flowstone, not 'dirty'. The date, although never formally published, is accurate at least within the rather large error cited by those authors (Haynes & Agogino)". (personal communication January 2005)

The second elephant was still in the Parlor.

Two Elephants Too Many
Going up and down that mountain (1818-1825)
The first elephant in this story was Greenacre's comment that rat dung was one of the biggest finds of Sandia Cave. The second and larger elephant was the realization that the travertine layer, which was above the Folsom and Sandia layers, was 300,000 years old. I, therefore, abandoned my paper about the first-Sandia-point being a thick-bodied, pre-Clovis possibility and subsequently wrote this paper.


Adams, Bob
2002  Frank C. Hibben, 1910-2002., Albuquerque.
Baker, Ele
1984  Oral History. Recorded by Teddy Dressel. Recording maintained by Tony Baker, Denver.
1988  Interview Concerning Quarai Excavation and Restoration. Transcribed in 1988 by Cheryl Foote. Transcription maintained by Tony Baker, Denver.
Bliss, Wesley
1939  Early Man in Western and Northwestern Canada. Science, 89:365-366.
1940a  A Chronological Problem Presented by Sandia Cave, New Mexico. American Antiquity, 5(3):200-201.
1940b  Sandia Cave. Correspondence in American Antiquity, 6(1):77-78.
1948  Preservation of the Kuaua Mural Paintings. American Antiquity, 13(3):218-223.
Brand, Donald
1940  Regarding Sandia Cave. Correspondence in American Antiquity, 5(4):339.
Byers, Douglas
1942  Concerning Sandia Cave. American Antiquity, 7(4):408-409.
Dutten, Bertha
1963  Sun Father's Way. The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Greenacre, Jim and Doris
1983  Oral History with Focus on Sandia Cave. Transcribed in 2005 by Tony Baker., Denver.
Haynes, C. Vance, Jr., and George Agogino
1986  Geochronology of Sandia Cave. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology No. 32.
Hibben, Frank
1937  Association of Man with Pleistocene Mammals in the Sandia Mountains, New Mexico. American Antiquity, 2(4):260-263.
1940a  The Gallina Culture of North Central New Mexico. Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University. (listed at, but unavailable.)
1940b  Sandia Man. Time Magazine, 35(19):67.
1940c  Sandia Man. Scientific American, 163:14-15.
1941a  Sandia Cave. Correspondence in American Antiquity, 6(3):266.
1941b   Evidences of Early Occupation in Sandia Cave, New Mexico, and Other Sites in the Sandia-Manzano Region. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 99, No. 23.
Howard, Edgar
1943  The Finley Site: Discovery of Yuma Points in Situ, near Eden, Wyoming. American Antiquity, 8(3):224-234.
Preston, Douglas
1995  The Mystery of Sandia Cave. New Yorker, 71(16):66-83.
Wilmsen, Edwin and Frank Roberts, Jr.
1978  Lindenmeier, 1934-1974. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology No. 24.
Wormington, Marie.
1939  Ancient Man in North America. Colorado Museum of Natural History, Denver.
1944  Ancient Man in North America, 2nd edition. Colorado Museum of Natural History, Denver.
1949  Ancient Man in North America, 3rd edition. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver.

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