SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah anthropologists have partially solved the mystery of a set of bones found in a basement ceiling by a Salt Lake City man remodeling his house in May.
The bones likely belong to a Native American man who lived at least 100 years ago, a recent report from the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts concluded.
Anthropologists couldn’t pinpoint what decade he lived in or which tribe he belonged to, but they were able determine that he lived off mostly wild plants and animals while eating little to no corn.
The bones were discovered May 1 when a man knocked out a section of the basement ceiling in his house in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
State anthropologists get an average of two calls each month about bones discovered statewide, but they are not typically found like this, said Geoffrey Fattah, spokesman for the heritage department.
“This one was unusual,” Fattah said. “Typically, when we receive reports of ancient human remains, it’s usually somebody that has been doing digging or excavating.”
Fattah said the Salt Lake City homeowner, who has not been identified, did the right thing by calling police.
Police meticulously gathered the bones, which didn’t include the skull, and handed them over to the medical examiner. That office realized they were too old to suggest a modern crime and called in state anthropologists.
The bones appear to have been moved from their original burial spot, which made it difficult for anthropologists to figure out more about who this person was, Fattah said. Sometimes artifacts are found in the original burial sites, which can provide clues of a person’s culture and when they lived. The position in which a person is buried can sometimes to the same.
Since a tribe cannot be identified, the bones are being stored in a facility for unclaimed remains, Fattah said.
Anthropologists sent a bone sample for radiocarbon dating, which revealed this person lived sometime between 1710 and 1910. No matter how ancient the bones, anthropologists always keep in mind that the bones represent a person, Fattah said.
“We try to treat all human remains with reverence and respect and particularly with Native Americans, who have special reverence for their ancestors,” Fattah told the Deseret News.
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