Split-twig figurines were first recognized in the Grand Canyon in 1933. They’ve also been found in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. Frequently, these hand-crafted animals are in the shape of deer or bighorn sheep. Each one is made from a single twig, often willow, split down the middle, and then carefully folded into animal shapes. These figurines date from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago and were found in remote caves.
Though we aren’t certain what purpose these figurines served, modern research theorizes that they were connected with hunting and gathering culture. Because they’ve been found, carefully placed, in remote areas or under cairns—rather than inhabited caves—has led scientists to believe they were not toys, but perhaps indicators of important findings.