Meet Chiquita: Wyoming’s 500-year-old mummy

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - George Gill hands over the never-published photos of the infant he calls Chiquita.

Her fine blond hair arches over her wrinkled, leathery skin. Her arms are wrapped around her, a tiny mouth frozen in an “O.”

If she once had another name, Gill wouldn’t know it. After all, Chiquita has been dead for hundreds of years.

She is one of only a handful of known infant mummies in existence with a particular birth defect. Two such mummies, Chiquita and one known as the Pedro Mountain mummy, were found in Wyoming.

They both hold tantalizing clues about those who inhabited Wyoming’s past and what sort of lives they had. Both likely didn’t survive birth.

But clues are just that, and the mummies raise more questions than anyone can answer.

Gill has studied hundreds of human remains. For the noted anthropologist at the University of Wyoming, it’s his job and his passion.

But despite all his time excavating, protecting and curating human remains elsewhere and in Wyoming, he’s never come across remains like these.

“We never get preservation like that from any time, from any population,” he said. “Even war chiefs and very special burials are not preserved like these little people.”

But there’s a problem. Both are again lost and gone.

- The first find

Chiquita came to light only because decades before, two prospectors were looking for gold and found something they didn’t expect.

It was the early 1930s. Using dynamite, Cecil Main and Frank Carr blew open the entrance to a cave on the slope of a peak in the Pedro Mountains, about 65 miles southwest of Casper.

Inside they found not a streak of gold but what looked like a tiny, dead old man with leathery skin, his arms crossed and legs folded under him as he sat on a ledge in the cave.

It was a mummy.

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