SALT LAKE CITY — 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 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.
"When I saw it looked like a human skull, then it definitely was a bit creepy," he told KTVX-TV. "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."
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.