Archaeologists are excavating ancient human remains of at least seven people discovered during construction of the Aztec wastewater treatment plant. Studying pottery and other artifacts found near the graves, scientists estimate the skeletons are at least 700 years old, and potentially older.Further research likely will confirm the genders and ages of the dead and potentially a cause of death for some. Following the archaeological assessment, the remains and artifacts will return to a descendant tribe for reburial.The remains first were found last week while construction crews were grading and removing dirt, although a preconstructionarchaeological assessment of the site showed no indication of a burial ground.
Crews noticed the bones while a dump truck was emptying its load.
Police Department and state Office of the Medical Examiner initially
treated the site as a crime scene before confirming the remains were
ancient. Following the discovery, the site was turned over to the New
Mexico Historic Preservation Office, which works with developers to
ensure the burial ground is properly excavated.
"Basically when the
construction people realized they had human remains, they stopped
construction and protected them, and they went through the process
that's specified by state law," said Historic Preservation Officer Jan
Biella, the acting state archaeologist.
The find required
construction crews to stop work in thearea of the burial ground,
instead shifting work to other areas of the developing site of the
wastewater treatment plant while scientists ensure all human remains
"Our goal was not to disturb anymore," Biella said.
Although crews immediately
stopped digging, recognizing the significance of the find, some damage
was done to the site. Without being able to study the remains as they
were found in the ground, research on the nature of the burial site
itself will be limited.
"Unfortunately we haven't
got any of the original context left. This is where things become more
complicated," said Dr. Peter Cater, president and owner of Aztec
Archaeological Consultants, the company hired by the city of Aztec to
study the site. "Not knowing where they were, how they were laying,
what kind of gravethe......
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