Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gibson bones predate Columbus

Bones found in the basement of a Gibson home last year could be more than 700 years old and likely came from the Indian mound on which the house was built, state officials said.

The bone fragments were found Nov. 21, 2009, amid the remains of a cardboard box in the basement of 234 Fandall St. by a real-estate agent showing the house to potential buyers.

The bones are likely those of American Indian inhabitants of the area and could be more than 700 years old, archeologists say in a soon-to-be-released study.

The report, from the state Division of Archeology, indicates that they came from one of two mounds on the property. Initial plans are for the Chitimacha tribe in Charenton, St. Mary Parish, to receive the bones. They will likely be returned to the Gibson mound, said state anthropologist Chip McGimsey, although discussions with the Chitimacha and local Indian groups are still pending.

While the bones were not carbon-dated or other “invasive procedures,” McGimsey estimates they date back to between 800 and 1300 A.D. Pottery shards recovered along with the bones aided scientists in establishing the timeline.

Scientists have not determined the tribe of origin.

What is known, according to the report, is that the remains are of at least four people — three adults and a child.

Rob Mann, the state anthropologist whose region includes Terrebonne Parish, said the Gibson mounds are “already considered a significant site.”

The Archaeological Conservancy, a private, nonprofit organization, bought the Fandall Street house and land, site of one mound. Negotiations are under way for the adjacent property, site of the second mound. “We preserve these sites for research and educational purposes,” said Jessica Crawford, the conservancy’s regional director,

“There could be future limited testing and mapping of the mounds and maybe coring of some parts,” she said. “It is one of the few remaining mound sites in the area so that would make it unique.”

Crawford, who was traveling when contacted, was not certain of the purchase price of the house.

The house was previously owned by Mark Morgan of Schriever.

According to the report, the bones were likely removed from the mound beneath the house over many years, likely by different people.

Officials discounted the possibility that the basement — perhaps a fallout shelter built by a prior owner decades ago — was the scene of a modern-day crime. Terrebonne Parish Coroner’s Office investigators had previously determined the bones were very old, but they couldn’t be more specific.

Those determinations came from researchers at the FACES Laboratory at Louisiana State University.

Their inventory shows 661 bones or bone fragments were recovered, 504 of which were animal and 157 were human. The human bones, according to the report, included ribs, legs, arms and skull fragments. Researchers said they couldn’t determine gender with any certainty.

Representatives of local Indian groups said they are waiting to hear from the Division of Archeology, but several acknowledged that turning the bones over to the Chitimacha for reburial is a good thing.

“They should go to the proper people which is probably the Chitimacha,” said Lora Ann Chaisson, 45, a United Houma Nation Tribal Council member living in Pointe-aux-Chenes. “And they need to bury them in the proper ways.”

Chaisson said she and other Indian people were dismayed upon learning the bones had been disinterred from their mounds and found in a basement.

She expressed hope that property owners will take care when discovering evidence of Indian burials on their lands, so that the dead are not disturbed.

“People need to be aware and respect it,” she said. “Contact the proper authorities. If you find it mark it and document and leave it. That is my personal preference.”

DeSantis, John. 2011. "Gibson bones predate Columbus". Daily Comet. Posted: January 8, 2011. Available online:

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