MARTIN, COUNTY, Fla. – Impacts from Hurricane Nicole along Florida’s Treasure Coast are being credited for unearthing what are thought to be human remains from a historical Native American burial mound that could date back to 500 B.C.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday that it dispatched a team of criminal investigators to Hutchinson Island after a resident reported the finding to authorities.
Hurricane Nicole made landfall on the island as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 75 mph. It is only the third in recorded history to make landfall during the month of November in the Sunshine State, joining the "Yankee Hurricane" of 1935 and Hurricane Kate in 1985.
Deputies said the strong winds from the hurricane likely helped unearth at least six sets of bones from the ancient cemetery.
"Detectives are working diligently to preserve and carefully remove the remains that are exposed with the utmost care and respect. Those remains will be transferred to the Medical Examiner’s Office and then to the Bureau of Archeological Research," the agency said.
The barrier island has been a hotbed of discoveries for decades, and archeologists believe that previous discoveries dated back to the Glades time period between 500 B.C. and 1750 A.D.
The Florida Public Archeology Network is aware of the sighting and said significant storms such as Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and other significant systems have helped unearth historical discoveries in the past.
"Florida has over 14,000 years of history," said Emma Dietrich, an archeologist at the Florida Public Archeology Network. "It was a great place to live back then and is a great place to live today. So, it is not a surprise that people are making discoveries."
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act dictates what will happen with the remains and requires witnesses and authorities to treat sacred objects and bones with dignity and respect.
Beachgoers who come across artifacts and other historical findings from the storm are encouraged to report them to the State of Florida at 850-245-6444 or their regional office of the Florida Public Archeology Network.
If it isn’t a deluge of precipitation making human remains easier to spot, drought conditions in the Desert Southwest have also led to grisly discoveries.
Authorities along dwindling Lake Mead, which is located along the border region of Arizona and Nevada, have reported finding at least six sets of human remains during the past six months.
A megadrought and an increase in consumption of the country’s largest reservoir caused water levels to drop to an 80-year low during the summer.
All the remains have been transferred to the Clark County Coroner’s Office, which will be tasked with determining the deceased’s identity.