PORT TOWNSEND — A bone fragment discovered last summer during a project to upgrade the light standards at Jefferson County Memorial Field has been identified as human.
Allyson Brooks, the director for the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, said part of a foot bone was identified.
“We can’t determine from a foot, but based on the fact it came from the site, it’s likely Native American,” Brooks wrote in an email Thursday.
Brooks said in August that all of the bone fragments were animal remains and that nothing was Native American.
“They are not hundreds of years old,” she said. “They relate to the history of Port Townsend, not the Native American settlement of Port Townsend.”
It wasn’t until closer analysis was done during the past two months that the single bone fragment was determined to be from a human foot, said county Public Works Director Monte Reinders on Friday.
“It takes experts at the state to make that determination in a lab,” he said. “The bone fragments could have come from anywhere until you really study them closely.”
The excavated material from Memorial Field was taken to an off-site location, where it was secured until April, when an archaeological firm was hired by the county to analyze it.
A crew from Equinox Research and Consulting International Inc. re-screened the material and found several objects, including some metal and several bones, Reinders said.
“Only the foot bone was human,” Brooks said in an email on Thursday. “The rest were faunal remains.”
Reinders said state and federal mandates require cultural and historical assessments prior to excavating, and the county completed that work.
“During the pre-survey work, they didn’t discover anything that would have led them to believe we had a site there,” he said.
“It was when we were doing the construction work that we discovered we had items of interest down there, and that’s when we called a second archaeological team to go over all the material.”
Reinders said the dig produced items from different eras, from an early 1800s Native American village that had been burned to a Chinese village that suffered a similar fate in the late 1800s.
The field itself was re-graded in 1947, he said.
“There was stuff from each of those kinds of eras just all jumbled together,” Reinders said.
The county worked with the Native American tribes and the state to handle the excavation appropriately, he said.
“We’re continuing our work with archaeologists and the tribes to develop a management plan for the field in the event there would be future work down there,” Reinders said.“We want to make sure there are protocols to follow, for whoever will be in our jobs at that time, because of the now-known sensitive nature of this site.”
When the fragments were found, work was stopped and detailed surveys were performed in the remaining areas that were to be excavated, Reinders said. The bone fragment was found after a test pit was dug for one of the light standards, he added.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.