Bones were discovered at the bottom of a construction ditch on Nov. 14 at Girard Park Circle on University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.
Mark Rees, Ph.D., a UL Lafayette anthropology professor, was at the scene at the time the bones were found. According to Rees, they determined that the bones were from a very large mammal that was not human.
Rees shared how he believed the bones were from an animal the size of a large cow or some large mammal.
“It was impressive sized bones, about four feet below the ground surface,” Rees said.
The physical plant that was working on the construction contacted UL Lafayette’s Office of Facility Management when they saw the bones. The office called Rees and Lynn Funkhouser, Ph.D., a UL Lafayette visiting assistant professor for anthropology, to come out and investigate the bones.
According to Rees, the trench was deep and could potentially be an old trench that was along an earlier road. However, what fascinated him about the bones was the depth of the trench that the bones were found in and the size of the bones. Also, there was nothing else associated with the bones that were found that day.
“I just thought it was a bit unusual that they would find bones at that depth. And it could be something unusual in terms of the species, but we don’t have the identification yet,” Rees said.
Funkhouser is currently spearheading the identification process of the bones.
Rees further discussed the general identification process for bones. Archaeologists usually start with comparative collections.
They look at the size of the bone, and with the knowledge they have from identifying bones, they could pinpoint the position in the body or the element.
According to Rees, the bones that were found were either a part of the mammal’s femur or tibia.
“You identify the element, and then using a comparative type collection, in which you have bone from known species of animals, you compare it, especially if it’s fragmentary, for a positive match,” Rees said.
Rees shared that finding bones is not unusual and that items are found pretty often; however, archaeologists aren’t usually called to inspect them. In Lafayette, much archaeology hasn’t been done, according to Rees.
Rees discussed the Civil War earthworks, which are forts that were made from dirt that were used to be strong and protective foundations, that were in and around Girard Park that he was looking for.
Rees elaborated on some of the sites and remains that were found along the Vermilion River.
“But there’s certainly Native American sites along the Vermilion. Many of them were destroyed but some are still intact, some dating going back 3,000 years,” Rees said. “Even earlier, actually, there have been mastodon remains found along the Vermilion River as well as projectile points from 13,000 years ago.”
The identification process of the recently-discovered bones is ongoing, and specifics on the mammal’s species will be determined soon.