Saturday, July 17, 2004

Bones unearthed at building site

Boone County remains likely 450-800 years old

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

Dr. Emily Craig (right), forensic anthropologist for the Kentucky State Medical Examiner, shows police and county officials human bones uncovered during excavation for a house at Market and Front streets in Petersburg. A Boone County historic preservation officer said the bones were from a Native American burial.
PETERSBURG - David and Mary Holdcraft are supposed to close on their ranch home Oct. 28, but a burial site unearthed where the home is being built may delay, or even prevent that from happening.

Skeletal remains and old pottery pieces were found by TK Constructors at the corner of Market and Front streets Thursday afternoon. It was the first day workers had started digging the foundation for the Holdcraft home.

Boone County Historic Preservation Officer Matt Becher said the Ohio River town was once a Native American village, and the remains are probably between 450 and 800 years old.

As Becher and other county and state officials fielded questions from the media at the site, Mary Holdcraft watched from across the street.

"I'm disappointed, I guess," she said. "Hopefully we can get this straightened out and be done with it."

Events unfolded Thursday afternoon when Jim Hammock of TK Constructors got a call from one of his excavators.

"He just took a chunk of dirt out and found it about four feet deep," said Hammock. "There were two legs sticking out of the wall about six inches, and we found rib bones and a skull bone."

Becher said there are remains of at least one person, "but it looks like more."

The Boone County Coroner's Office was summoned to the scene, as was Dr. Emily Craig, forensic anthropologist for the Kentucky State Medical Examiner. Craig arrived Friday morning and quickly determined this was not a case of foul play.

"I could tell by the context the remains were in," said Craig.

Becher said a state grave-desecration law prevents further digging until the site is studied by an archaeologist. One from the University of Kentucky is expected to be here Monday morning.

"The remains will have to be dealt with before any work on the home can continue," said Philip Mink, staff archaeologist at UK.

Mink said the house could still possibly be built, but it will depend on negotiations between the homeowners and the state.

Hammock said he still has about an 8-foot-by-20-foot section to dig.

"I was told that if we can continue, we're at least a week out from doing any more digging, and that it will have to be a controlled dig so they can sift through it for more remains," said Hammock.

Holdcraft said they inherited the site from her mother-in-law last year.


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