REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — A partial skull that was discovered last summer by two kayakers in Minnesota is being returned to Native American officials after investigations determined it to be about 8,000 years old.
Kayakers found the skull in the drought-depleted Minnesota River about 110 miles (180 kilometers) west of Minneapolis, Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable said.
Thinking it might be related to a missing person case or murder, Hable turned the skull over to a medical examiner and eventually to the FBI, where a forensic anthropologist used carbon dating to determine that it was likely the skull of a young man who he lived between 5,500 and 6,000 BC, Hable said.
“It was a complete shock to us that that bone was so old,” Speak told Minnesota Public Radio.
The anthropologist determined that the man had a depression in his skull that “perhaps suggested a cause of death.”
After the sheriff posted about the discovery Wednesday, his office came under fire from several Native Americans, who said posting photos of ancestral remains was offensive to their culture.
Hable said his office removed the post.
“We didn’t want it to be offensive at all,” Hable said.
Hable said the remains will be turned over to tribal officials in the Upper Sioux community.
Minnesota Council on Indian Affairs Cultural Resources Specialist Dylan Goetsch said in a statement that neither the council nor the state archaeologist were notified of the discovery, which is required by state laws governing the care and repatriation of Indians. Native American remains.
Goetsch said the Facebook post “showed a complete lack of cultural sensitivity” by not calling the individual Native American and referring to the remains as “a small piece of history.”
Kathleen Blue, an anthropology professor at Minnesota State University, said Wednesday that the skull was definitely from an ancestor from one of the tribes still living in the area, The New York Times reported.
She said the youngster would likely have eaten a diet of freshwater plants, deer, fish, turtles and mussels in a small region, rather than following mammals and bison on their migrations.
“There probably weren’t that many people at that time wandering around Minnesota 8,000 years ago, because, like I said, the glaciers only retreated a few thousand years before that,” Blue said. “That period, we don’t know much about it.”
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