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Scraping tool also found with centuries-old bones in backyard of home

An archaeologist from the South Dakota State Historical Society said Wednesday that a scraping tool also was found in the Mitchell backyard where some centuries-old human bones were unearthed Monday.

An archaeologist from the South Dakota State Historical Society said Wednesday that a scraping tool also was found in the Mitchell backyard where some centuries-old human bones were unearthed Monday.

Michael Fosha, assistant state archaeologist for the society, said the human remains found behind a home on the 600 block of Roselander Road are likely to be at least 700 years old, but further analysis will be required.

"We can make a broad assumption that these are all of equivalent age roughly within a period of time of 700 to 800 years, but we can't say that with 100 percent certainty," Fosha said.

The remains were unearthed as a result of a project to add an addition to the Mitchell home. Detective Lt. Don Everson said Tuesday an archaeologist determined the bones appeared to be those of a female, and he said the estimated age was 800 to 1,500 years old.

The society dispatched Repository Manager Katie Lamie to the scene on Tuesday. Lamie was unavailable for comment on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Everson declined to disclose the exact address, but dirt piles could be seen Tuesday behind a house at 601 Roselander Road, on the eastern edge of the city east of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. Police vehicles were also spotted near the scene.

"There are recorded formal burial sites in the area, but not at this particular location," read a news release from the Mitchell Police Division.

Fosha said further analysis by a physical anthropologist will likely be done to determine the ethnic origin and age of the bones.

The scraping tool found at the site will also be analyzed, but Fosha said there may be no connection between the two items, although other burial sites have contained ceramics or other items that help determine the age and origin of the bones.

"Unfortunately, no (other) artifacts have been recovered, as far as I know," Fosha said.

If the bones are determined to be American Indian in origin, area tribes will be contacted. If no connection can be made, the bones could end up in a Sturgis grave maintained by the society.

Regardless of race, the top priority of the society is to unite the bones with the proper descendants.

"The intent is always to find the closest relatives regardless of race and culture," Fosha said.

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Fosha said it's not uncommon to find remains like those discovered Monday.

"This isn't a case where we're going to learn new insight into the cultures that lived here other than the fact they were buried in the region, which we already know," Fosha said. "From that perspective, it's not something we would get excited about. It's part of the duties of the historical society to try to handle these situations in the best way possible."

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