FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. >> Human remains found last year near Colorado City could be those of an American Indian man from at least 1,800 years ago, representing an uncommon find, authorities said.
Children hiking with their mother in the hills outside Colorado City near the Arizona-Utah border discovered the remains last November. Deputies from the Mohave County sheriff’s office responded and sent the remains to a medical examiner. From there, they went to Amy Kelly-McLaughlin, a Flagstaff anthropologist who told authorities that the remains appear to be those of a prehistoric man.
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 a lot of grit in it, Kelly-McLaughlin said. The remains are considered prehistoric because they come from a time in the region that has no written record, she said.
“In my experience, it’s not wildly uncommon. But it doesn’t happen every day,” she 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 will 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.
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.
The children who found the remains first saw a leg bone sticking out of the ground and thought that it could be from an animal, according to a Mohave County Sheriff’s Office report. As they dug, they found a human skull. The remains and a broken funerary object made of stone were found about a mile off a dirt access road.
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,” she said.
Last June, construction on part of a road leading to the Grand Canyon Skywalk was halted when a small pile 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.