The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

A place where new and old meet

 

Amanda Tafolla-Sutton

A historical marker sits in front of Sidney's new pool, the marker indicates a site where per-historic remains of a male and an infant were found in 1992. The remains were actually found directly across the road from where the sign sits.

New growth seems to be everywhere in Cheyenne County. In the forefront of one particular part of this new growth sits very old history, pre-dating the historic times Sidney is better known for.

Before the Gold Rush and the battle for the west, there were per-historic tribes that called Cheyenne County home, and the skeletal remains quietly buried beneath our growing community still have stories to tell.

It was story that remained buried until 1992, when a couple of joggers spotted the skull of an old skeleton while out on their morning jog.

According to the Nebraska Historical Society, the discovery and preservation are credited to Jim and Becky Haddix of Sidney.

After finding the bones, the Haddixes notified authorities and an archeologist was called in to identify and exhume the body, Kathy Wilson with the Boothill Committee said.

Upon further investigation it was determined that the bones of an adult male and an infant were interred in a single grave, covered in a natural earth pigment called red ocher.

"The remains were sent off to the University of Nebraska,Omaha Sociology & Anthropology department," Cemetery Sexton, Don Gehrig said.

According to Archeologist Kevin Hammond, the bones themselves were more than five thousand years old, and were from the prehistoric hunter-gatherers known as the Oxbow Complex, who once occupied the northern High Plains from western Nebraska to southern Canada. The skeletal remains, found eroding from a road cut, represent Nebraska's earliest documented burial.

According to the Nebraska State Historical Society the Oxbow people participated in an extensive North American trade network. Copper from the Great Lakes and shells from the Atlantic Coast have been found at many Oxbow sites.

Exotic objects accompany the Sidney burial included a neck ornament made from a turtle shell, raven bones, freshwater mussel shells, a large stone knife of local Kimball chert, and five amazonite pendants.

When Native American remains are found, testing can determine what tribal affiliation they have. The remains are then claimed by that tribe and re-interred. Even though these remains were attributed to the Oxbow Complex, the Native American tribe they belonged to could not be specified. Without a tribal specification, Gerhig said, the bones and the artifacts found with them where placed in a vault and re-interred in the Greenwood Cemetery.

"The remains are buried in the west end of the cemetery," Gerhig.

A historical marker sits just across the road to the west of the area the bones were first uncovered, just outside Sidney's newest development, the Aquatic Center on Fort Sidney road.

According to Wilson, this was not the first set of pre-historic remains to be found in that area. During the construction of the infrastructure for the Prairie Winds housing development another set of remains was unearthed.

"These remains were about two-thousand years younger then the Oxbow remains," Wilson said.

The thirty-year-old male was also unclaimed by a tribe and was re-interred in Dannebrog, in a plot of land donated to unclaimed remains of Native Americans.

Wilson said the area these remains were found were once the winter resting grounds of these tribes. She said on Google earth you can still see the fire rings created by these pre-historic people. Among the remains were other per-historic items that were found in this area. Bison bone, that per-date the Buffalo we know now, mammoth tusks, flint arrow heads and camel bones from when camels roamed North America.

A few of the items recovered can be seen at the Sidney City Offices, said Wilson, and more will be on display when Camp Lookout, Sidney's oldest home turned museum is opens.

 

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