Historical remains of three people were uncovered in McGrath, Alaska last week.
According to Vicki Otte, CEO of MTNT Ltd., an Alaska Native Corporation representing McGrath and three other villages, the remains of an adult man, a teenager or young man, and a child were found on corporation-owned land.
The five-acre plot was being cleared by a construction company to be used to store rock for an erosion-control project planned for next year in the community, on the Kuskokwim River.
On Oct. 2, construction workers found one set of the remains, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers says. Troopers requested an archaeologist with the Department of Natural Resources after determining the remains were "prehistoric."
The archaeologist, Rachel (Joan) Dale, found two other sets of remains. Dale says the bodies appeared to have not been buried, and were found in a rather small area.
Dale says MTNT officials only asked her to excavate the remains, so she did not study them much to get an idea of how long they had been there. The bones were fairly well preserved for the usually-acidic soils of a boreal forest, Dale says. A possible explanation may be that a camp or cooking fire had been built above the bodies in later years, and the ash and oils may have helped preserve them.
Otte, with MTNT, says the area where the remains were found used to be a homestead, but the remains appear to predate the homestead. Artifacts were also found with the remains.
The corporation plans to have the remains and artifacts tested to see how old they are, and eventually to give them a proper burial. The corporation is treating them as ancestral remains.
The remains were found in town, between what is currently the school and health clinic. McGrath has been in its current location since sometime after 1933. In that year, a flood prompted some residents to move to the south bank of the river from the town's previous location. The location of Old McGrath is now on a slough, and no longer on the main course of the river.