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Human remains uncovered at historic Basin home

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Human remains unearthed near Kimball Junction last week could belong to a pioneer from the 19th century.

"The main ingress route into Salt Lake valley for the pioneers was what currently is the I-80 corridor, after coming into Summit County as they came out of Wyoming," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said. "I suspect that we probably have a lot of burials, a lot of unmarked graves along the way."

The partial skeleton was found Thursday by a construction worker excavating at a house on Glenwild Drive in the Snyderville Basin, said Alan Siddoway, a Sheriff’s Office death investigator.

Among the bones were a skull, mandible and pelvis, but no human tissue was found at the site, he said.

"They were digging some footings and came across the bones," Siddoway said. "As the county grows and as subdivisions develop were just seeing more and more human remains being uncovered. Wherein, my first 15 years at the Sheriff’s Office we never had this type of call."

Investigators found no artifacts like clothing or wooden casket remnants at the discovery last week in Snyderville.

"It had been there for a substantial amount of time," Siddoway said about the discolored skeleton. "The state archeologist, in looking at [the bones], believes they’re Caucasian."

Investigators said Tuesday they believe the remains are of a man of European descent.

"We did find a human skull and I think that’s what prompted the phone call," Edmunds said. "A human skull is readily identifiable to pretty much everyone. But a lot of the other [bones], it’s hard to differentiate between human and animal."

Near the remains were animal bones that were sawed, Siddoway said.

With no sign of a casket and because all the bones weren’t found, "it appeared to us that this probably wasn’t the first time the bones had been disturbed," Edmunds said.

Last week, Assistant State Archeologist Ron Rood took possession of the remains.

"Bones do talk. They do tell a story of what your life was like," Rood said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Everything from health to diet is reflected in what your bones can tell you."

Scientists agree the remains are between 100 and 150 years old. By examining the bones, a forensic anthropologist may determine when the man died and if he had any diseases.

"In some cases she can tell things like handedness and if this guy was a real big guy or small fragile guy," Rood said, adding that obtaining the test results could take four weeks. "With the discovery of these bones we can now hear a little bit of this guy’s story."

As a result of the discovery the Utah Division of State History will research western Summit County, Rood said, adding, "I’d be willing to bet you dollars to donuts that every person in Summit County right now has a notion about who this guy is."

"These are the bones of a person who lived here and we owe it to that person to find out as much as we can from these bones and perhaps even be able to figure out if he’s got living descendents," continued Rood. "This dead person did not intend to be discovered by a backhoe, but he was."

Meanwhile, the Utah Legislature passed a law this year that would make it easier for the state antiquities department to take custody of historic remains found on private land.

"You need to report those to the police," Rood said adding that he responds about 12 times per year when remains are uncovered. "It’s the legal thing to do, it’s the right thing to do."


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