likely prehistoric human remains found near Utah-Arizona border

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:40 PM

The Associated Press

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Human remains found last year near Colorado City could be those of an American Indian man from 1,800 years ago, representing an uncommon but not rare find, authorities said.

Children playing in the desert southeast of Colorado City near the Arizona-Utah border in November discovered the remains. Deputies from the Mohave County sheriff’s office responded and sent the remains to a medical examiner. From there, they went to a Flagstaff anthropologist, who told authorities that they appear to be those of a prehistoric man.

“In my experience, it’s not wildly uncommon. But it doesn’t happen every day,” the anthropologist, Amy Kelly-McLaughlin, said Tuesday.

Kelly-McLaughlin said she will begin calling tribes that have links to the area to see if any of them have a legal interest in the remains and would like them repatriated. One of the closest tribes is the Kaibab Paiute, which has a nearly 121,000-acre reservation on the Arizona Strip, about 50 miles north of the Grand Canyon. She’ll also reach out to the Hualapais, whose reservation borders the Grand Canyon on the south side, and possibly the Hopi and other tribes in southern Utah, Kelly-McLaughlin said.

She knew immediately that the remains were prehistoric, based on the uniform staining of the bones from soil and heavy dental wear that suggested the man ate food with heavy grit, Kelly-McLaughlin said. The location of the remains indicates the man could have been from a nomadic tribe, she said.

“They could have just been migrating around, and then somebody passed away and they were buried,” Kelly-McLaughlin said.

She hears about prehistoric remains being discovered in areas not associated with burial sites about once every year or 18 months. “You have to take the necessary measures, do the right thing and get them repatriated with the proper Native American affiliation,” Kelly-McLaughlin said.

Last June, construction on part of a road leading to the Grand Canyon Skywalk was halted when a small piles of bones was found near the road’s edge. The remains were determined to be prehistoric, U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Deborah Stevens said Tuesday. Federal officials worked with the Hualapai Tribe to rebury the remains in July and re-route the road, she said.

The area had been used for thousands of years by American Indians and others for farming, hunting, ceremonies and other activities.

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