PORT ANGELES — State officials have decided that centuries-old bones found in January along an eroded beachfront next to the Olympic Discovery Trail are of Native American origin.
The determination was made by the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and state Physical Anthropologist Guy Tasa, according to a press release Friday from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
The state forensic pathologist determined the remains were between 500 and 1,000 years old.
“DAHP and Tribes are continuing to monitor the situation as repairs are completed,” according to the press release.
A man and his son found a skull, mandible and scapula Jan. 14, a person walking the beach found a hip bone Jan. 18, and state officials investigating the site found an undisclosed number of bones Wednesday, according to earlier reports.
Matt Kiddle, 31, of Port Angeles, and his son, Ivan, 4, found remains on Jan. 14 and reported them to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Kiddle, a physician assistant, said Friday they were riding their bikes along the trail at about 3 p.m. — just as snow was beginning to fall in a storm that dumped some 18 inches on Port Angeles — to examine beach erosion when they stopped.
They immediately saw the adult-size skull and mandible.
“We hopped onto the beach and there it was; it was just right on the beach,” Kiddle recalled.
“I would say it was definitely an adult size skull. The teeth were mature.”
Kiddle said a scapula, or shoulder blade, that appeared to have been a child’s was nearby.
Kiddle said he picked up the dark brown skull and mandible, which “keyed in perfectly” together, moved them off the beach so they would not wash into Port Angeles Harbor, and called authorities.
“Frankly, my first reaction was, what poor individual is missing that I just found their bones, then I quickly realized they were very old and likely Native American, and some form of ancient individual.”
Those remains were sent to DAHP for examination, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.
City and Clallam County public works crews last week were repairing portions of beachfront embankment along the trail east of downtown Port Angeles that have sloughed off due to erosion as part of a $50,000 project.
They were covering exposed areas where the bones were found with fabric and riprap.
Discovered in the open in the same general beach area, the remains will be repatriated to tribal members.
Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S’Klallam archaeology and historic preservation officials were at the site last week.
State and tribal officials did not return calls for comment about the discoveries Thursday and Friday.
Frances Charles, chair of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, said Friday she did not want to comment until more is known about the find.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.