Remains at historic house are likely Alaska Native

SITKA, Alaska — More than two years after they were discovered, old human remains have been exhumed from the basement of the historic building that houses Sitka radio station KCAW.

The bones removed from the Cable House have been identified as Alaska Native and are now in the possession of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, KCAW reported. The tribe will determine a suitable place to inter the remains.

The remains were exhumed Dec. 20. They were discovered between two slabs of bedrock in October 2011 by contractors working in the basement during a structural improvement project in the century-old building. With the help of an archaeologist, police determined the remains were old and not part of a crime scene.

Materials such as wood or fiber were not found at the scene.

“Those things would be clues as to when the bones were there, and possibly where the bones had come from. But there was none of that,” KCAW General Manager Ken Fate said shortly after the discovery.

The bones remained undisturbed where they were found until they were exhumed and turned over to the tribe.

New information shows the remains are likely Southeast Alaska Native in origin.

Assistant professor Brian Kemp from Washington State University tested mitochondrial DNA in a tooth. He also screened DNA on gender chromosomes, which showed the tooth had belonged to a female.

The remains are believed to be old, likely predating the building. But Kemp does not know how old, and says radiocarbon dating would be required to determine the age of the remains.

Kemp said it’s not possible to trace the bones to a specific population because the DNA sequence is common in Native American lineage.

Photographs of the remains, however, were inspected by Joan Dale, an archaeologist with the Alaska Heritage Resources Survey. Dale assessed the shape of the skull and said the remains are most likely Southeast Alaska Native.

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