Human skeletons found near Pinedale
by Clint Gilchrist, Pinedale Online!
May 11, 2007
On Thursday, May 10, 2007, construction workers installing a septic system just west of Pinedale found some human skulls and authorities were immediately called.
Although the site is on private ground, Dave Crowley and Dave Vlcek, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) archeologists, were called in for their expertise.
By evening, enough bones had been recovered indicating at least six individuals, and possibly seven, were present. Recovery continued on Friday and more bones were found.
Anthropologist Russell Nelson was also called in to try and help establish ethnicity, sex, age, number of individuals, and any other physical signs that could give a clue what has been found. The site has been cordoned off as a crime scene by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) until a crime can be ruled out.
During construction, all of the bones found had been moved, probably during the backfill operation by a trackhoe, so no remains were found articulated or in place where they were originally deposited. This limits the conclusions that can be made, but with so many individuals, there is still a lot to learn.
As the experts cautioned, nothing can be ruled in or out until a comprehensive analysis is complete. However, everybody likes to speculate, and there are some tantalizing clues even at this early stage.
Several “shovel shaped” incisor teeth were found, suggesting at least some of the remains are Native American. Two 1/2-inch long bone cylinder beads were found, also suggesting Native Americans. Size of bones establish both children and adults are present. A couple pelvis bones are indicative of women. No non-bone artifacts were found. It is likely Euro-Americans and even Native Americans during the trade era (i.e. since 1800) would have had metal, glass and other materials that would not deteriorate and should have been found.
At the risk of making a wild guess, which us non-experts get to do, these individuals appear to be Native American, likely more than 200-years old, and maybe even archaic (2000-7000 years old). If Native American, it would be extremely unusual to find multiple skeletons together, and the significance of the site could be huge.
Russell Nelson, a forensic anthropologist, will now clean, sort and analyze the bones to try and determine who these people were. The Sublette County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) will conduct radio-carbon dating to establish age. Once it can be concluded this is not a crime scene, the bones will likely be returned to the land owner.
It is important to note that the land owners have been very cooperative in the whole process. They have voluntarily stopped construction to make sure the remains can be handled appropriately and with respect.
The site location is not being disclosed. Please do not visit the site. It is on private property and is still considered a crime scene under control of the SCSO. More information will be posted as it becomes available.
Photos by Dave Vlcek.