|Location||Kane County, Utah, United States|
|Elevation||1,280 metres (4,200 ft)|
Bechan Cave is a single-room sandstone rock shelter located at an elevation of 1,280 metres (4,200 ft) along Bowns Canyon Creek, a tributary of the Glen Canyon segment of the Colorado River, in Kane County in southeastern Utah in the United States. The cave is roughly 31 metres (100 ft) wide, 9 metres (30 ft) high and 52 metres (170 ft) deep. It has a single entrance that faces southwest and is well-lit during the daytime.
The cave holds alluvial deposits containing the remains of Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoths, ground sloths, and even-toed ungulates. Archaeological excavation of the site in 1983 and 1984 by paleontologists Larry Agenboard and Jim Mead unearthed animal bones, dung, hair, and teeth dating from 11,555 BCE to 9720 BCE, underneath "a few feet" of cave fill, consisting of ceiling spall and wind-blown sand, containing evidence of Holocene habitation from the Archaic period to the Basketmaker culture and possibly even by Navajo or Paiute. Among the items unearthed were large dung boluses, similar in size to the dung of the African elephant, containing the stems of graminoids and sedge (Carex). The cave is also one of at least seventeen sites on the Colorado Plateau where Archaic-era Southwestern sandals have been discovered.
The cave's name derives from a Navajo word meaning "big dung" or "big feces". The well-preserved dung layer was deposited over approximately 1,000 years by multiple animal species during a period characterized by the proliferation of oak and the decline of blue spruce and water birch. The organic deposit consists primarily of Columbian mammoth (M. columbi) dung but also includes dung belonging to shrub-oxen (E. collinum), Shasta ground sloths (N. shastensis), Harrington's mountain goats (O. harringtoni), bighorn sheep (O. canadensis), cottontail rabbits, pack rats, and possibly equines. With a thickness ranging between 4 and 16 inches (10–41 cm), an area of more than 300 square metres (3,000 sq ft), and a volume of 225 cubic metres (8,000 cu ft), it is the largest coprolite deposit in North America. Other macrofossils discovered in Bechan Cave include teeth and a bone, a "metapodial condyle", belonging to E. collinum.
The cave is located inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and, though it is rarely visited, is accessible on foot from Bowns Canyon. The 5-mile (8.0 km) round-trip hike between Bowns Canyon, which can be reached from Lake Powell by boat, and Bechan Cave is considered moderately difficult.
- Agenbroad, Larry D.; Mead, Jim I.; Mead, Emilee M.; Elder, Diana (1989). "Archaeology, Alluvium, and Cave Stratigraphy: The Record from Bechan Cave, Utah". Kiva. 54 (4): 335–351. doi:10.1080/00231940.1989.11758126. JSTOR 30247207.
- "Utah Segments". National Park Service. June 17, 2004. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
- Mead, Jim I.; Agenbroad, Larry D. (1992). "Isotope dating of Pleistocene dung deposits from the Colorado Plateau, Arizona and Utah". Radiocarbon. 34 (1): 1–19. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
- Agenbroad, Larry D.; Nelson, Lisa W. (2002). Mammoths: Ice-Age Giants. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8225-2862-3.
- Agenbroad, Larry D.; Davis, Owen K.; Martin, Paul S.; Mead, Jim I. (1984). "The Pleistocene dung blanket of Bechan Cave, Utah". In Genoways, H.H.; Dawson, M.R. Contributions in Quaternary vertebrate paleontology: a volume in memorial to John E. Guilday. Special Publications of Carnegie Museum. S008. Carnegie Museum of Natural History. pp. 267–282 – via the National Park Service (see p. 35).
- Hitchcock, Don (August 17, 2011). "Mammoth and Bison rock engravings in Utah". Don's Maps. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- Hoffecker, Lilian T. (January 1999). "Droppings of Mammoth Proportions". Highlights. pp. 40–41. Archived from the original on July 29, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
- Agenbroad, Larry D.; Mead, Jim I. (1995) [First published 1989 in Geology]. "Quaternary geochronology and distribution of Mammuthus on the Colorado Plateau". In Boaz, D.; Bolander, S.; Dierking, P.; Dorland, M.; Tegowski, B.J. Proceedings of the Third Annual Fossils of Arizona Symposium, November 18, 1995. Mesa Southwest Museum. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-935810-61-5.
- Teague, Lynn Shuler; Washburn, Dorothy Koster (2013). Sandals of the Basketmaker and Pueblo Peoples: Fabric Structure and Color Symmetry. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-8263-5331-3.
- Mayor, Adrienne (2007). "Place names describing fossils in oral traditions". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 273: 245–61. doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.2007.273.01.19.
- "What Can We Learn from Fossil Dung?". Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
- Kropf, Manny; Mead, Jim I.; Anderson, R. Scott (January 2007). "Dung, diet, and the paleoenvironment of the extinct shrub-ox (Euceratherium collinum) on the Colorado Plateau, USA". Quaternary Research. 67 (1): 143–151. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2006.10.002.
- Santucci, Vincent L.; McClelland, Lindsay, eds. (September 2001). Proceedings of the 6th Fossil Resource Conference (PDF). Conference on Fossil Resources. National Park Service. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
- "Bechan Cave". Intermountain Healthcare. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
- 42KA2546 (Bechan Cave) at the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database
- Photographs of Bowns Canyon (including Bechan Cave) at Backcountry Post