An expert with the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation was in Freeland on Tuesday examining ancient human remains discovered at a home construction site.
The bones were found late last week by men digging a septic system at a new home near Robinson Beach on Mutiny Bay. Workers called police and Island County Coroner Robert Bishop was dispatched. He later confirmed the bones were both human and old.
“They’re prehistoric,” Bishop said.
Some animal bones may be mixed in, but the human remains may be Native American, he said. That determination, however, is the purview of state experts with the historic preservation office and the case was officially turned over to them, Bishop said.
Guy Tasa, the state physical anthropologist with the agency, confirmed he would examine the bones at the job site on Tuesday morning, but declined to provide details of just what he would look for to determine their origin.
“I won’t really know until I get there,” Tasa said.
Attempts to reach the agency’s director for more information Monday were unsuccessful.
The remains were unearthed early Friday, Aug. 28, by South Whidbey-based Mason V Strevel Construction. Company owner Mason Strevel said this was the first time he’s found human bones in 20 years of work on the island but that it was immediately clear what they were.
“We went, ‘Oh boy, shut her down,’ ” Strevel said. “Once we saw the round part of the skull, there was really no doubt what it was.”
News of the discovery filtered around the South End over the weekend, leading to lots of speculation. Strevel said he’d already heard one rumor that a small hole in what appears to be part of a skull was the result of a gun shot.
Bishops said he could made no definitive conclusions other than that indicators, such as the color of the remains, made it clear they were very old.
If the bones turn out to be Native American, it will spark a process that involves at the very least informing relevant tribes of their discovery. Strevel said they are keeping busy with work in the house but hopes the delay won’t be too long.