Steve Schwartz

Man in blue shirt and jeans standing in front of cave.
Steve Schwartz

Chapter 14

Steve Schwartz, US Navy archeologist (retired), San Nicolas Island, discusses his search for the lost Indian Cave on San Nicolas Island. This is a shoreline cave that may have been one of the temporary shelters used by the Lone Woman.

Finding the lost Indian Cave (Lone Woman’s cave) was the highlight of my 25-year career on the island. The early accounts said she had lived in a cave near where she was found in her small hut, or windbreak.

Some explorers had been out to the island in the years afterwards. They found the cave, went into it, and found artifacts in the cave. Ever since, however, a number of archeologists had been on the island to survey for sites, but an occupation cave (a cave in which people lived) was never found.

It seemed to me that the cave must exist somewhere, but had collapsed or become buried over the years so no one was able to find it. This began my quest to find the cave.

After making several failed attempts to find the cave in the field, I had almost given up when a vital piece of information came to light. An 1879 map actually showed the location of the cave. By using the map and the field notes that accompany the map, I was finally able to pinpoint the precise location of the cave.

Digging out still took a lot of hard work by archeology students from California State University, Los Angeles. After many days of digging, we had removed enough of the sand that had filled the cave to finally expose its opening. Before we could see inside the cave, we had to remove over 40,000 buckets of sand!

The search had taken over 20 years. It was an amazing experience.

Last updated: November 26, 2017