Bones found in the Montecito area last month have now been deemed Native American remains by the Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau. 

On Monday, May 24, at approximately 5:12 p.m., deputies responded to the 800-block of Riven Rock Road in Montecito to investigate a report of human remains found while workers were digging a trench for a residential construction project. Coroner’s detectives and forensics technicians responded to assist deputies and the remains were photographed, collected and transported to the Coroner’s Bureau for further examination. Digging was suspended in the area until further notice.

During the preliminary investigation, coroner’s detectives noted that the bones appeared to be from a non-recent death, were yellowing and in a state of decomposition and deterioration. Detectives also noted that the teeth appeared to have been worn down in a manner that is consistent with a much rougher diet that would cause that type of wear, similar to Native Americans. Coroner’s detectives contacted the State of California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) and advised them of the investigation and their preliminary observations. 

On June 3, the remains were examined by a forensic anthropology consultant, Dr. Rick Snow at the Coroner’s Bureau in Santa Barbara. Dr. Snow also visited the residence where the remains were found to ensure that there were not any additional unearthed remains or artifacts. After his examinations, Dr. Snow concluded that the remains are those of a Native American male of unknown age. The remains that were collected are not a complete skeleton; most of the bones are fragmented and a majority of the bones from the hands and feet are missing. 

Coroner’s detectives will be coordinating with the NAHC to release the remains. The NAHC environmental and cultural staff will designate which California Native American tribe the remains are most likely the descendent of and will contact that tribe. 

For more information about the discovery of human remains that may be Native American, including steps to take when remains are discovered, visit NAHC.Ca.Gov. 

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