2011-03-26 Bank with shell midden and old human bones? – Comox BC

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2011-03-26 Bank with shell midden and old human bones? – Comox BC

Image by Ken_Lord
I was taking photos of the many bald eagles at the Comox estuary and noticed shell middens exposed in a bank. I stopped to look around and found what I think are some old human bones.

I presume they are native, the site is on a reserve, so I didn’t dig away at the bank.

The bones were about 2 feet below the top of the bank (6 or 7 foot tall bank), just beneath a shell layer.

There were a few shell layers interbedded with soil and sand, my guess is that the site was probably used as a trash heap at different times as the natives came and went and as the shore line rose and dropped as it does with the big earthquakes that happen here every few hundred years.

The shell layer above the bones was intact so I’m guessing that someone died there or was placed there but not buried, later the natives resumed piling shells on the site.

The bones are pretty weathered. Ends of the humerus and radius are missing as well as a portion of the scapula … who knows what other bits may be a few inches deeper in the bank.

I took some photos, then covered the bones with driftwood. I took the photos to the RCMP but they didn’t seem very interested. The officer didn’t know what to do about it but discussed it with a forensics person.

It’s been a few days and I haven’t heard back from the RCMP, so I intend to notify the Comox first nation so they can take care of their ancestor.

… then again, what if it’s a long lost member of an early Spanish or British explorer’s crew? At a friend’s recommendation I might also notify an archeologist.

An archeologist for the K’omoks First Nation has been notified

The RCMP got ahold of me. An officer and a coroner went to the site and found the bones. The coroner confirmed that the bones are ‘ancient’ native remains and not part of any recent criminal incident. The officer told me that there is an old native buriel ground on that reserve, but not specifically right there, and that the coroner figured that the bones were transported to their current position from there.

He seemed to be saying that the transport happened naturally long ago by erosion. He intended to contact the Komox band and was happy to hear that we had already passed on our information to the band’s archeologist … whom I haven’t actually heard anything from.

So there may not be anything else to learn about the bones from this avenue but it got me to do a little reading from Google.

- I think there is some confusion in the officer’s story. I’m not certain that he understood that the bones were poking out of the bank when i found them. If the bones were naturally transported to that site, it happened long ago as there was a shell midden layer above it that appeared undisturbed.

- I’ve learned that the band’s ancient buriel ground was actually at Goose Spit, at Comox Indian Reserve #3 before the land was expropriated for the Quadra naval base in the 1870′s, and that at some point remains were moved from Goose Spit and re-buried at Comox Indian Reserve #1, the land I was on.

So the officer may have meant that these bones were part of what was reburied from the ancient burial grounds at Goose Spit, although he was only aware that there was a burial ground somewhere at reserve #1, not specifically where I found the bones, but this sounds like a reasonable conclusion. Or these bones were transported naturally from a second old burial grounds near my location. … Or someone was left or buried there long ago under some other circumstances.

I’m hoping the archeologist gets back to me, maybe he can clarify it. Regardless I assume the bones are now in the right hands … no wait, I think it was a left arm …

Whale Bone

Image by Buzz Hoffman
Whale bone (with chop marks) in an Unangan (Aleut) house pit on Kiska Island. Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

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