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

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

(Read the article on one page)

On an ordinary day in 1980, a Californian mom decided to spend the afternoon cleaning out her garage – a long neglected chore. She found a lot of trash and plenty of knick-knacks; some forgotten memories arose but nothing unusual. That is until she came to a carton buried in the back. Inside, she found the corpse of a young girl and an infant. Horrified that something so ghastly was lurking in her garage, the mom called the police at once. The Lemon Grove PD arrived ready to investigate a murder. Instead, they stumbled upon a mystery. The two bodies found in that California garage may have been victims but their deaths had taken place many centuries earlier.

Details about how the two mummified corpses made their way to that California garage are vague. All 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.

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

The mummies were found in a cave in Chihuahua, Mexico (pictured). Lon&Queta / Flickr

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.

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.

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

The mummy of Lemon Grove Girl, San Diego Museum of Man ( public domain )

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 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.

Top image: The Lemon Grove mummies ( lemongrovemummyinfo)

By Kerry Sullivan


Atlas Obscura. "Lemon Grove Mummies."  Atlas Obscura . Atlas Obscura, 2016. Web.

Deem, James M. "Lemon Grove Girl."  Mummy Tombs . James M. Deem, 2016. Web.


It is grave robbing such as this that is one small step to blunting our feelings/spirituality for others and many steps later we have ended up in a very violent society. The final step is to be faced with a war that is the end of our civilisation. Put the mummies back and ask for forgiveness. Grave robbing has not advanced this civilisation one step and is a purile hobby. 


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

A Greek amphora showing athletes, 4th century BC. ©Trustees of the British Museum.
Every two years, when the Winter or Summer Olympics comes around, we hear about how the games staged at Olympia in Greece since 776 BC came to a sudden end in the late fourth century AD. The finger is pointed at the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I (AD 379-395)

Myths & Legends

An illustration of Vasilisa the Beautiful, by Ivan Bilibin.
[…] In the evening the girl laid the table and began waiting for Baba-Yaga. It grew dark. The black horseman swept by and it was night. The skulls’ eyes began to shine. The trees creaked, the dead leaves crunched, the earth trembled, and there was Baba-Yaga…

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Ancient Places

The highly-decorated tomb is built in a distinctive ‘L’ shape
A mysterious ancient tomb with “unusual and rare” wall paintings has been discovered in Egypt. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told BBC reporters the discovery of a 4,400-year-old tomb found during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery “likely belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, who assisted women in childbirth.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article