A partial human skull discovered last December on the Wet Walnut Creek belonged to an American Indian male who probably died before 1900, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.
BCSO detectives received results from a forensic anthropologist in Manhattan, who determined the remains were those of a man 35-45 years old, if not older. Age was approximated by dental attrition. No trauma was noted and the cause of death could not be determined.
Undersheriff Larry Holliday said the report didn’t pinpoint the period in which the man lived, but, "there was no modern dental work."
History suggests the man may have died circa 1860.
In 1973, the Kansas Historical Society notes, floodwaters of Walnut Creek exposed human bones in the creek bank. They were from the 10 bodies that had been buried in two graves after an attack by Indians — later known as the Massacre at Walnut Creek — on July 17, 1864.
The skull found on Dec. 26, 2010, was spotted by duck hunters less than a mile from Greg Brown’s residence southeast of Great Bend. "It was laying on a log in the creek," he said. The skull was missing the lower jaw and only had three teeth in the upper jaw, but was mostly intact, he said.
Brown said bullets and American Indian paint pots have also turned up over the years.
According to the BCSO, the skull will be forwarded to the Kansas State Historical Society’s Unmarked Burial Sites Board to be considered for inclusion as National American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act materials. Federal law requires human remains and other Native American "cultural items" in cases such as this be returned to their respective peoples.