Excavation of Secret Untouched Cave Slated to Reveal Black Hills History

In the Black Hills region of South Dakota, a cave never before explored is currently being excavated. A National Park Service worker first located the cave, dubbed “Persistence,” in 2004 on Wind Cave National Park land. Now, a team also working for the National Park Service will begin opening up its entrance. A group of Eastern Tennessee University scientists will conduct thorough analysis of the bags of sediment and animal fossil that are set to be removed from the untouched cave.


Persistence Cave excavation already paid off.


Bones dating back about 11,000 years have already been found. Maybe even more interestingly, fossils of at least three species (pika, pine marten, and platygonus) that had never been seen in the Black Hills region before. Fossil findings from the dig are expected to clue scientists in on animal migration patterns and, from there, climate change in the region. For example, around forty years ago in Hot Springs, which is near the Black Hills area, a well-preserved wooly mammoth graveyard was discovered. Wooly mammoths died out around 26,000 years ago, while the oldest of the bones from Persistence’s entrance, as mentioned before, were found to be 11,000 years old. Scientists thus hope to use the data to better understand how the Ice Age changed over time. They expect to find at least a hundred thousand bones by the end of the dig, sometime this summer. Hopefully, the fossils will help paint a rich picture of the natural and climatic development of the area.


Untouched cave’s location is being kept a secret, for now.


In order to protect the cave and whatever it may contain, the National Park Service is keeping its location under wraps. All they would say was that the mouth of the cave is around a third of a mile away from the edge of the Wind Cave’s tunnel system.


Fossil research is only part of this untouched cave’s story.

The fossil and climate study is only a part of the secrets this cave may hold. Judging by the wind speed and direction inside the entrance of the cave, the scientists believe the cave is likely very large. In fact, they even acknowledge the possibility that Persistence Cave connects to Wind Cave, perhaps through a sediment-filled or otherwise inaccessible passage. This may be the reason the untouched cave was undiscovered for so long.