Pinedale Skeleton Update
Several bone beads like the one shown on top were found. The small animal bone with cut marks shown on the bottom is possibly the stock used to build the beads.
Many people chipped in to help screen a lot of dirt to find smaller bones and fragments.
by Clint Gilchrist, Pinedale Online!
June 18, 2007
Viewers have asked for an update on the skeletons found on May 10th just west of Pinedale during installation of a septic system at the construction site of a private residence. There really isnít much new, but we decided to do a follow-up story to let viewers know where things stand.
For background and pictures see the original story: Human skeletons found near Pinedale - May 11, 2007.
Human bones were first found on Thursday, May 10th, by construction workers and reported to authorities. With help from anthropologist Russell Nelson and BLM archeologists David Crowley and Dave Vlcek, it was determined within a couple days that the site was not a crime scene and it was released by the Sublette County Sheriff's Department.
Sublette County Sheriffs Office press release - May 15, 2007.
Landowners Julie and Jerry Morrell graciously agreed to stop construction as long as it took to fully excavate the site. Excavation continued for one week with many volunteers jumping in to help. Current Archeological Research out of Rock Springs donated crews for two straight days to do the bulk of the work.
The majority of bones were found for each skeleton making it likely that the site was fully excavated and no more would be found. No bones were found in place. All had been disturbed by the construction. Russell Nelson continues to analyze the bones, but due to other commitments has not had the time to fully study them.
Preliminary information from Russell indicates that there are six bodies. An adult woman was likely aged in her late 20s or early 30s. An adult woman and male were probably in their late teens or early 20s. There were also three children, one maybe 4-5 years old and the other two were probably under 2 years old. Facial cranial features indicate probable American Indian heritage.
The only artifacts found other than the bones were a handful of bone beads about Ĺ inch long each. In addition, a small animal bone was found with cut marks and was possibly used for stock to build the beads.
There is no solid evidence to determine when or how the bones ended up where they were found. The lack of other artifacts, and some indicators of how bones were found, open the possibility that they were bundle burials. American Indians were often buried on scaffolds. The relatives would then return later, gather the large bones, and re-bury them in a bundle.
It is very unusual to find so many bodies together, so the find has the potential to be very significant in the understanding of human occupation of the area, especially if the bones date to the archaic period more than 2000 years old.
Due to the intense public interest, at some point Russell hopes to issue a press release this summer with more details. The much anticipated radio carbon dating may not happen until this fall. There is also interest in studying the bones in much further detail, but those plans have not been worked out and will not likely be determined until this fall.
Everybody involved is curious and wants answers now, but the reality is that the bones are now fully recovered and safe, so there is no hurry. We will report any details as they become available.
Editor's comment: Clint Gilchrist is a board member on two local historical boards: the Sublette County Historic Preservation Board, a county historical board appointed by the Sublette County Commissioners; and the Sublette County Historical Society, which oversees the Museum of the Mountain Man.