Utah boy finds human remains in backyard: "It was kind of eerie"

By: CBS
By: CBS

Salt Lake City, UT (CBS) - A 14-year-old boy digging a trout pond in the backyard of his father's Salt Lake City home stumbled across a surprise: the remains of an American Indian who lived about 1,000 years ago.

Experts from the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts spent Friday removing the remains, which were confirmed by medical examiners as those of a person from a millennium ago, and investigating the site for archaeological clues after ninth-grader Ali Erturk's discovery earlier in the week.

"Humans have occupied this valley for up to 10,000 years," department spokesman Geoffrey Fattah told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We do run into situations where progress runs into the ancient past."

A forensic anthropologist will analyze the remains to try to learn more, including the person's sex and cultural affiliation. A report will go to the state Division of Indian Affairs, which will try to determine whether the remains are linked to current tribes, Fattah said. A tribe may claim the remains and perform interment rites.

Other private property in Salt Lake City has occasionally yielded Native American graves. The department typically receives about six reports of ancient remains statewide each year, Fattah said.

Erturk told CBS affiliate KUTV that he "got the shovel and started digging and before I knew it - it got pretty deep."

Erturk said he had been working on the trout pond for a couple of weeks until he discovered what he initially thought was just an animal bone. Then he realized it was human remains.

The teen told KUTV "it was kind of eerie" that he may have stumbled on a crime scene. It "freaked him out" a bit and so they called others to check out the bones, together the group decided to call police.

Fattah urged the public to contact law enforcement authorities if human remains are unearthed so they can be removed professionally and respectfully. Erturk's father notified Salt Lake City police after his son's discovery.

Ali told KUTV that he was hoping to skip school Friday to watch archaeologist as they screen the dirt from his hole. They will be looking for the rest of the remains and any other important artifacts.

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© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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