The Lemon Grove Girl was discovered twice: first in 1966 and later in 1980. The last
time I saw her was a few years ago at San Diego's Museum of Man in Balboa
Park. To my mind, she is the loneliest mummy in the world.
1966 she was discovered by two American teenagers in a cave near Chihuahua,
Mexico. The teens had gone to Mexico in search of their very own mummy. They had
heard that local Indian tribes had once buried their dead in caves around
Chihuahua; because of the cool dry air of the caves, the bodies often became
They were quite
serious about wanting to find a mummy. Consequently, they spent more than a
month exploring caves. Finally, they found not one, but two mummies: a 15
year-old girl and a 1 year-old girl. The teens packed their mummies, smuggled
them across the border and took them home.
Problem. But what do you do with two mummies
when you get home? Turn them into lamps? Use them as a foot rest? Display them
as art objects? The teens had no idea either. And because they did not want to
share this information with their parents, they eventually asked a friend if
they could store a box in her garage in Lemon Grove, California.
Discovery. For 14 years, the mummies of the
girl and the infant remained in the Lemon Grove garage, until the mother of the
friend began to clean out her garage. Of course, she was shocked to find the
body of the girl in a carton. She thought a murder had taken place. Shaken, she
called the police. When they arrived and inspected the box, they realized that
two bodies were in the box (the girl and the infant) and that both were mummies,
not necessarily murder victims.
While the police
conducted their investigation, the mummies were taken to the Museum of Man.
Culprits. Shortly, the police tracked down the
two teens, now men. They told police how they had found the mummies, smuggled
them into the U.S., and stored them in their friend's garage. Now, to make
amends, they wanted to donate the mummies to the Museum of Man. Of course, the
mummies were not theirs to donate. This would be similar to a robber stealing
your car and then donating it to a charitable organization; the car was not his
This did not stop
the museum, however, from pursuing the donation. Museum officials contacted
Mexican authorities and asked for permission to keep the mummies, to use them in
an upcoming exhibit and them as an addition to the permanent collection.
Permission was granted, and the Museum carefully studied the mummies before
placing them on exhibit, where (as far as I know) they still are.
the mummies had been American Indians, they would have been repatriated to their
ancestral tribe and reburied. Because they came from Mexico, where no such laws
about mummies exist to my knowledge, they were allowed to remain at the Museum
of Man: stolen, smuggled, hidden, and now displayed mummies of two Mexican
Loneliest Mummy. If you should go to the Museum
of Man, you shouldn't have a hard time locating the Lemon Grove Girl. She will
be in a Lucite box, as shown in the picture above. She will be curled in a
basket, her body will look quite dry. In these days of technological wonders, it
would be quite easy to make a reproduction of the body and display it in a
Lucite box. In these days of heightened sensitivities, it would be admirable to
return the mummies to their people. The girl, it is believed, died between the
years A.D. 1040 and 1260. A DNA sample could easily be taken from her body and
possibly traced to her living descendants.
Would you want
grandmother on display in a museum for everyone to watch?
ŠJames M. Deem.
Originally published in How to Make a Mummy Talk
(Houghton Mifflin, 1995). All rights reserved.