Ancient burial site found during construction in West Virginia

Logan burial site’s American Indian remains rise to 44  – The Charleston Gazette .

The skeletal remains of at least 44 American Indians have been unearthed during construction of a new state office building in downtown Logan, and some people say West Virginia officials should have known they might be there.

News of the large number of remains, which were unearthed last year over a 10-month period, was first reported last week in Indian Country Today, a national weekly newspaper.

Since the construction did not involve federal money or land, the state didn’t have to follow Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act guidelines.

However, state law did require the convening of an ad hoc burial committee to establish construction permit conditions before proceeding with work in an area where human remains were found, according to Division of Culture and History spokeswoman Caryn Gresham.

The burial committee included representatives of tribes of “presumed lineal descent” of those buried at the Logan site, including the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, the Seneca Nation, the Seneca Cayuga Tribe and the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. It also included representatives from the West Virginia Archaeological Society and the Council for West Virginia Archaeology.


The reason why I post this is, it’s interesting and created controversy. Cultures have clashed. It is hard to know where ancient burial sites are and hard feelings arise when such a site is discovered. Not everyone will agree that a building should be placed on the spot (and I suspect someone will certainly blame everything that goes wrong with some sort of curse or spirit).

But the land gets recycled. Nothing lasts forever. If the building was not constructed, we would not have known about and been able to retrieve the artifacts and remains. At least we might learn something. I like to think that if I was the person whose remains were found, how amazing it would be were I to know that people hundreds of years later would be interested in my bones and burial. Cool.

  1 comment for “Ancient burial site found during construction in West Virginia

  1. April 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Many would disagree for three reasons. The previous and at times continuing differential treatment of native remains. The recent historical injuries to native communities (which were often accompanied by either the purposeful destruction or appropriation of remains to deny ownership of the land to natives. Think Moundbuilder Myth). Note that these burials are not that old, and post-date European contact. And the continuing problems and maltreatments of natives within American society.

    I don’t know the facts in this case. But this sounds pretty ridiculous. Jamison is right, that is an extremely large number of remains to come out of a construction project, rather than either a straight-up research project or a pre-construction CRM investigation and recovery (it’s a lot of remains, period, especially for the eastern US). I worked on one case with human remains in New York, where we recovered, I believe, two. Because state permits were involved, and because the company I worked for was trying to be ethical, it was resolved with the appropriate nation relatively quickly).

    And yes, if cultural resource management is going to be done, the standard first task of Phase 1 is to go and look at the archaeological and historical documents. Again, I don’t know when what came to light in this case, but as reported at the full article, it certainly seems like this should have not been such a surprise. This case is exactly why CRM gets done in advance, rather than after the bulldozer blade.

    “”The site should never have been considered for a state office, since it was known to have burials.”” is exactly right.

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