Monday, July 27, 2009

T Anchor's bones

Some who have commented on today's article about options for developing the T Anchor Lake area recalled an ancient discovery made in the early 1980s.

On June 15, 1982, a 16-year-old boy walking his dog in open fields in the lake area found a partially exposed skeleton that turned out to be more than 2,600 years old, according to Amarillo Globe-News files.

Police removed the bones, taking them out -- to a West Texas State University anthropology professor's delight -- intact in chunks of earth. Professor Jack T. Hughes said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the care with which the skeleton was exhumed.

Almost a year later, the university received the results of carbon-14 dating tests on the bones, revealing them to be about 2,670 years old. They are believed to be the remains of an early American Indian.

Carbon dating is a process in which a radioactive carbon isotope, which is contained in all carbon-containing matter, such as bones, is activated to determine the age of an object.

No artifacts were found with the remains, which left researchers with no clues as to the Indian's cultural associations.

The sex of the skeleton also could not be determined because the pelvic bone was missing at the time of the discovery.

Judging by the size of the bones alone, it was believed to be a woman of average size. However, one characteristic of the skull is generally associated with males, according to a May 27, 1983, Amarillo Daily News article.

"The one really unusual thing," Hughes said, "is that the skull has heavy eyebrow ridges. It tends to be an ancient trait."

Hughes said the heavy eyebrow ridge was an indication the Indian may have been around during the Neanderthal period.

The eyebrow ridge was not as heavy as that of a Neanderthal, but heavier than Hughes had seen on any other Indian skull.

A Texas Archaeological Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin did the carbon-dating. The coverage said the remains were being kept by WT, but "belong to the Texas Antiquities Commission."

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