The partial skull, which was found last summer by two kayakers in Minnesota, will be returned to Indian officials after an investigation revealed it was about 8,000 years old.
Kayakers found the skull in the drought-stricken Minnesota River about 110 miles (180 kilometers) west of Minneapolis, Ranville County Sheriff Scott Gable said.
Thinking it could be related to a case of disappearance or murder, Gable handed the skull to a medical expert and eventually to the FBI, where a forensic anthropologist used carbon dating to determine it was probably the skull of a young man who lived between 5,500 and 6,000 BC, Hubble said.
“It was a complete shock to us that this bone is so old,” Heble said Minnesota Public Radio.
The anthropologist determined that the man had a depression in his skull, which “may indicate the cause of death.”
After the sheriff released information about the opening on Wednesday, several Indians criticized his office, saying the publication of photos of ancestral remains was offensive to their culture.
Hubble said his office removed the post.
“We didn’t want it to be insulting,” Heble said.
Hubble said the remains will be handed over to representatives of the Upper Sioux tribal community.
Dynasty Goetch, a cultural resources specialist with the Minnesota Native American Council, said in a statement that neither the council nor the state archaeologist had been notified of the discovery, which is required by state laws governing the care and repatriation of Native American remains.
Goetch said the Facebook post “showed a complete lack of cultural sensitivity”, without calling the man an Indian and calling the remains “a small piece of history.”
Kathleen Blue, a professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, said Wednesday that the skull is definitely from the ancestor of one of the tribes still living in the area, The New York Times reported.
She said the young man would most likely have eaten plants, deer, fish, turtles and freshwater mussels in a small region rather than watching mammals and bison during their migrations.
“Probably not many people roamed Minnesota 8,000 years ago at the time, because, as I said, glaciers only retreated a few thousand years before that,” Blue said. “That period, we know little about it.”