Archaeologist details process of identifying remains found on Albuquerque's West Mesa | KOB 4

Archaeologist details process of identifying remains found on Albuquerque's West Mesa

Kassi Nelson
September 13, 2018 05:40 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – When human remains were found on Albuquerque’s West Mesa in July, investigators worked around the clock to determine whether the person was another victim of the infamous West Mesa Murders.


Dr. William Whitehead, an archaeologist, said his team excavated the land for ancient remains in 2016 before the city began building a park.

During that project, he said they found artifacts dating back nearly a thousand years.

However, Dr. Whitehead said state and federal law prohibits him from making the announcement public.

“We don't make that information known to the public because if we made those site locations known to the public, people would bring their backhoes and shovels and start digging looking for stuff,” he said.

During their dig, they missed a skeleton of a Native American woman.

“She was in a very non-descript, location the burial was almost impossible to see,” Dr. Whitehead said.

Despite the discovery, the land will still be turned into a park.

“We've been in consultation with the state historic preservation officer and with the tribes and pueblos and, collectively, we've decided that it's a fine path to move forward to complete the park,” said David Simon, Albuquerque Parks and Recreation director.

Many people asked why officials decided to remove the remains from the site.

“We want to make sure that all human remains that are discovered are treated properly and they're also treated with respect,” Dr. Whitehead said. 

Archaeologists are trying to determine which tribe the woman belonged to so she can be buried again, in a place they see fit.

Artifacts found during the dig will be placed in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe.

As for the park, construction is expected to start in the fall. Once complete, the park will feature signs that teach people about Native American culture.


Kassi Nelson

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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