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State to probe Indian bones' origin

Published December 17, 2004 1:47 am

Questions surround Kanab discovery: How did the people die? Who are they? How old are the remains?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

KANAB - Bones from nine ancient American Indians unearthed recently by a southern Utah sod farmer have found their way to the state history offices.

But questions remain about the remains: How old are they? How did the people die? What tribe might they have belonged to?

Those questions will begin to be answered next month when scientists start examining the remains, discovered in late October and early November in Kanab.

That research is on hold until crews finish remodeling the Division of State History offices at the Rio Grande building in Salt Lake City, state archaeologist Kevin Jones said Thursday.

Scientists will determine the age, sex, cause of death and health at the time of death for each specimen, Jones said. Radiocarbon dating of the bones and artifacts buried with them will determine how old the remains are.

Right now, the bones are believed to belong to the Anasazis, who lived in southern Utah until about A.D. 1250.

"It can be a lengthy process," Jones said. "We take a modern-day detective approach to try and understand the circumstances of the deaths, how they came to be there, cultural affiliation and relationship to a [modern] tribe."

Matt Zweifel, an archaeologist for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Kanab who led the team that collected the bones and documented the site, said only three sets of remains were in complete skeleton form. The others bones were scattered in the pit.

Zweifel said rainy weather at the time of discovery made it easier to remove the bones in whole pieces.

When the test results in Salt Lake City are compiled, Zweifel will write the final report. That could take up to a year.

The discovery generated much interest in Kanab.

"There were a lot of good people asking a lot of good questions about history, archaeology and our procedures," Zweifel said. "Some were at the site when we first started hoping to see a [ceramic] pot, but rarely if ever are there big beautiful pots."

mhavnes@sltrib.com