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Osage Tribe Visits Burial Site Believed To Date Back 1000+ Years

An archaeologist representing the Osage Nation, one of America's largest Native American tribes, has personally visited the newly-discovered burial site of a Native American who is believed to have died over 1,000 years ago in southern Missouri. KSMU's Jennifer Moore has details.

Dozens of Native American tribes were contacted for their input on what should be done with the human skeletal remains, which were discovered by canoeists along a riverbank near Thayer several weeks ago.

The Osage Nation has responded by sending an archaeologist of its own to view the remains. Thayer Police Chief David Bailey says Dr. Andrea Hunter visited the burial site this week.

An initial assessment of the bones cast them as dating back to the Civil War era or older, due to the specific wear to the teeth, which showed signs of a diet consisting of food that was ground using stone tools.

After the Missouri Department of Natural Resources sent a team down to inspect further, the remains—and the soil they were originally buried in—were declared to be much older.

Dr. Judith Deel was the first archaeologist to inspect the remains, and says the geological soil expert who was with her deemed the soil to be probably between 1,000 and 1500 years old, possibly up to 2000 years old. That means the person buried there could have lived a thousand years before the first Crusade to the Holy Land.

Deel says bones weren't the only thing the team found waiting for them; they also found several artifacts, including pottery.

The canoeists who discovered the bones saw what they thought was a skull sticking out of a vertical wall of soil, which had been worn away by flooding. The bones, Deel says are about four feet underground and are only partially exposed.

Accompanying Deel was an conservation engineer who went to see whether the riverbank could be stabilized, so that the skeletal remains would not have to be moved if that were to be the Native American tribes' wish.

Deel says its important to get the input from the various tribes because this is seen as sacred ground to many of them.

The archaeologist from the Osage Nation who inspected the remains, Dr. Andrea Hunter, will present what she found at the site to the tribe's Council of Elders, which holds its next meeting on the 20th of August.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.