Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A 14-year-old boy digging a trout pond in the backyard of his father's Salt Lake City home stumbled across a surprise — and one that wasn't at all pleasant to him.
The remains of a Native American who lived about 1,000 years ago.
"When I saw it looked like a human skull, then it definitely was a bit creepy," Ali Erturk told KTVX-TV in Salt Lake City. "I really do think there's other bones nearby, and I don't think that it's that unlikely or that lucky that I stumbled across this."
"It kind of stayed in the back of my mind even when I wasn't digging the pond, going to sleep, it was in the back of my mind that it was human remains," he added to the station.
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.
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 the ninth-grader'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 gender 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.
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.