Skull found in Minnesota River to be returned to Native American authorities

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A human skull found in the Minnesota River and estimated to be 8,000 years old will be returned to Native American authorities.

Two kayakers found the partial skull in September 2021 near Sacred Heart, Minnesota, after drought caused water levels in the river to drop, the Renville County Sheriff’s Office said.

A forensic anthropologist determined that the bone belonged to a young man. Thanks to carbon-14 analysis, preliminary information indicates that the man would have been alive between 5,500 and 6,000 BCE, nearly 8,000 years ago, the sheriff’s office said.

“Carbon-14 from the atmosphere via food is incorporated into the bones as the bones mature. Looking at carbon-14, this individual would have had a heavy marine diet or a diet high in corn, pearl millet, or sorghum, which is out of reach of the American diet,” the sheriff’s office noted.

The skull has a depressed area, consistent with blunt trauma, the sheriff’s office said.

Last week, the sheriff’s office posted the photos to Facebook, but deleted them after Native American officials said sharing them was offensive to their culture.

Sacred Heart is located in western Minnesota, approximately 114 miles west of Minneapolis.

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