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Field Specialists out in the field

HUMAN REMAINS AT 6.5-MILE – ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELD INVESTIGATIONS

During later September 2015, a partial human skull and associated small skull fragment were located in a pile of dirt at the American Bald Eagle Foundation, Haines, Alaska. The earth had been bought from White Rock and removed by them from a 6.5-Mile Haines Highway quarry. The Haines Borough Police and Archaeologist Dr. Anastasia Wiley were contacted immediately after the discovery of human remains. After examining the bones and sites of discovery, Dr. Wiley contacted representatives from the Chilkoot Indian Association and revisited these again. The Haines Borough Police Department forwarded the bone materials to the Alaska State Medical Examiner for a medical examination, as required by law.

On October 22nd, 2015, the 6.5-Mile Human Remains were released by Medical Examiner and sites associated with the remains as not of forensic interest (older than 100-200 years). On Friday, October 23rd, 2015, a call was put out to Native Archaeological Resource Specialists (NARS) including those trained by summer Native Archaeological Training Programs and Local Residents Archaeological Programs, to help locate and recover any additional human remains. Commitments to work on the project came from 10 participants including representatives from Chilkoot Indian Association (CIA), Chilkat Indian Village (CIV) and Champagne-Aishihik First Nation (CAFN). American Bald Eagle Foundation (ABEF) staff and volunteers who joined for screening materials at their site, Jack Smith Sr. and Jack Smith Jr. (White Rock) worked with the archaeologists at 6.5-Mile. The crew also included two safety officers and climbing experts for the scaling the approximate 50’ vertical slope at 6.5-Mile. The crew was under the direction of Nancy Anastasia Wiley and Tlingit Patrick Philpott, with assistance by Tlingit Tim Ackerman and Champagne-Aishihik First Nations Ron Chambers, Yukon.

A systematic screening program was instituted at both ABEF and 6.5-Mile using a series of nested screens: 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 1” and 3” both hand and mechanical screens. At the ABEF site on Saturday, October 24th, 2015, 10 yards of earth were processed. The right parietal bone, which was visibly missing from the remains discovered at the Bald Eagle Foundation, was subsequently found during the excavations. The parietal was discovered in poor condition, illustrating years of water damage through the warped shape. Additional small skull fragments were recovered, including what appears to be the ethmoid bone, several small thin nasal pieces, using 1/8”, 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” hand screens.

Within one hour of screening at 6.5-Mile on Sunday, October 25th, 2015, the missing occipital bones were located in the general area where the original skull came from. The occipital bone, or the bone located at the back of the skull, was fragmented into two pieces. However, their presence provided a validated link between the ABEF site and 6.5-Mile. Screening all during the day did not produce additional bone pieces. Simultaneously, the crew cleared a profile about 15’-20’ down from the top surface, where a block of red-orange consolidated soil was lodged, and tossed the earth below for screening.

Hitting late afternoon with still no additional bone, White Rock’s mechanical screen was brought to the site which processed dirt through 3” on top and 1” below. The tool produces two piles, 3” = rock pile on one side and 1” = dirt pile on the other. Using this machine in concert with a 303 backhoe, large amounts of earth can be processed quickly. After one-half hour, the backhoe was directed to excavate the red-orange consolidated ‘nodule’ in the ‘middle’ of the vertical pit profile, and placed the dirt in the mechanical screen. Immediately, two human leg bones (right femur and tibia) were found on top of the mechanical screen from earth directly below the nodule.

Screening, using both hand and mechanical methods, continued throughout the day on Sunday, but no additional bone was found. Approximately 50 yards of earth was processed. When screening was completed, Christopher Hotch took GPS measurements to map and record the location of discovery. All osteological finds were taken to the SRScorp Laboratory on Piedad for stabilization. On Monday, October 26, 2015, archaeological work was concluded.

On October 29, 2015, the skull was released from the Alaska State Medical Examiner to the Haines Police Department. The Police Department released the remains to Nancy Anastasia Wiley and was taken to the SRScorp Laboratory on Piedad for laboratory analyses.