Skull Found by Kayakers Isn't What Sheriff Expected

It belonged to a young man who lived 8K years ago in what is now Minnesota
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2022 8:00 AM CDT
Skull Found by Kayakers Is 8K Years Old
File photo of the Minnesota River.   (Getty/scgerding)

(Newser) – Forensic testing on a skull found in the Minnesota River has brought a surprise—instead of solving a modern missing-person's case, the skull belonged to a young man who lived about 8,000 years ago. As Minnesota Public Radio reports, kayakers spotted the remains last summer in the drought-depleted river and alerted authorities. A newly completed FBI analysis has just revealed the surprising age. “It was a complete shock to us that that bone was that old,” says Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable. His department put up a Facebook post about the discovery, but later deleted it after objections were raised by the Native American community.

“Seeing Native American ancestors being displayed and treated as a piece of history is traumatic for many Native Americans as, for centuries, Native American burials were looted, vandalized, and destroyed,” says Dylan Goetsch of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. The skull will be returned to tribal authorities for burial. Whoever the young man was, the skull suggests he had recovered from a serious head injury. And an anthropologist at Minnesota State University suggests he may have been part of a small community.

“There’s probably not that many people at that time wandering around Minnesota 8,000 years ago, because ... the glaciers have only retreated a few thousands years before that,” Dr. Kathleen Blue tells the New York Times. “That period, we don’t know much about it.” The man likely subsisted on a diet that included nuts, seeds, fish, deer, turtles, and mussels. His skull was found in the river about 110 miles west of Minneapolis, per the AP, though it's possible it was carried away by the water over time from its original spot. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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