Marshall County, Iowa – A human jawbone discovered last month on the Iowa River belonged to a “prehistoric Native American,” according to the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.
At approximately 4 p.m. on August 10, Marshall County Conservation staff and Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputies found a human lower jaw near the Iowa River during a biological survey.
Three other bones believed to be human were found in the area. An investigation has been opened to determine their origin.
“The jawbone was intact, but the condition deteriorated indicating that the jawbone was several years old,” the statement said. Marshall County Sheriff Joel Phillips said the bone was in “remarkable” condition when it was found.
“It’s kind of a historic discovery,” he said.
He said his office and the state medical examiner sent the remains to the Office of the State Archaeologist at the University of Iowa for further analysis.
“There are no medical comparisons because this was before medical records existed in the United States,” he said. “We are trying to put things in their place.”
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The archaeologist’s office found the mandible likely came from a middle-aged or older “prehistoric Native American,” according to a news release. Lara Noldner, director of bioarchaeology at the Office of the State Archaeologist, said the office has yet to determine the exact age of the remains.
Following the bureau’s analysis, Noldner said the remains would be reported to the federal government as part of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The law, passed in 1990, aims to respectfully return remains and cultural objects to the Native American tribes from which they originated, according to the National Park Service.
Phillips said historically there were about 10 Native American camps along the river bank. Nodner said all tribes will be notified of the remains so they can be returned for proper burial.
The remaining bones were not human, according to the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office.
Philip Joens covers public safety, municipal government and RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.