IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- The Idaho Falls Police Department has closed its investigation into a mummified hand found in a museum storeroom and officials said the remains will likely be turned over to Native American tribes in Utah.
Officials with the Museum of Idaho said an unidentified man apparently dropped off the hand at the museum a few years ago. He had reportedly found it while cleaning out a deceased relative's belongings and said something about it having come from Utah. But the box containing the hand was left on a storeroom shelf and forgotten until the room was cleaned earlier this year.
The Post Register (http://bit.ly/nZbi8v ) reports the Idaho Falls Police Department sent the hand to the Utah Division of State History Antiquities, where forensic anthropologist Derinna Kopp determined it is between 700 and 1,000 years old.
Kopp declined comment "out of respect for and at the wishes of Native American tribes."
Museum of Idaho director David Pennock said the hand was never part of the museum's collection, but he was glad to finally learn the approximate age and to find that it is being dealt with appropriately.
"We've never had anything like that here before," he said.
Retired Idaho State University professor Rick Holmer of Island Park said it's unusual for ancient human remains to be kept by private citizens, as apparently was the case with the hand. Utah's climate and geology -- the state has several dry, sandy caves -- make it possible to find well-preserved remains, he said.
Returning the mummified hand to the Utah tribes for repatriation is important for the culture, Holmer said.
"They have a very well-developed system for re-interring remains that have been uncovered," he said.