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Stephens Co. man finds human remains

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STEPHENS CO., Okla_ A local rancher stumbled upon some human bones on his property, which could be as much as 1,000 years old.

A Stephens County man hemming his cattle fence down in a creek bed discovered human remains in the side of the bedding. Tom Johnson was mending a fence near a creek on his property in Northeast Stephens County Tuesday, when he noticed them sticking out of the dirt.

He called the sheriff's department, and they determined it needed a scientist's expertise. Now, archeologists from the University of Oklahoma are trying to figure out how the bones got there and how old they are.

Kent Buehler from OU's Archeology Department said the remains appear to be that of a Native American male. He said the bones are anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years old.

Johnson said this is one experience he will never forget. He was walking up the side of a creek bed when the bones caught his eye.

"There was a head sticking out of the bank and a rib and that was all that was sticking out," Johnson said.

Human bones lying under this tree, entangled in its root. Johnson said he wasn't frightened by what he had found.

"I think people just buried people where they died a long time ago," Johnson said. "Then, some people would run around this part of the country. They didn't know where their relatives were, and nobody else knew."

Johnson said he contacted the Stephens County Sheriff's Department and they immediately got a hold of Kent Buehler, a forensic archeologist at OU. He said from his day and a half of working at the site so far, he believes Johnson is right about it being a pre-historic burial.

Buehler said, "We get two or three of them a year. It's not unusual, but it's not a regular event either."

In addition to the head and rib that Johnson saw, they've also uncovered a leg bone. Buehler says the bones are so decomposed, he's not sure when he was buried.

"We have not found what we call diagnostic material to indicate what we call the age of the burial," Buehler said. "In different time periods, people had different styles of projectile points. Sometimes you can use those items to give you an approximate age."

Buehler said he even though the skeletal remains are Native American, he isn't sure to which tribe he may have belonged. He said the bones will be taken back to his office today, but it will take anywhere from one to two months before they have more details.

Once they figure out which tribe he belongs to and possibly how he died, they will go back to the tribe for re-burial.

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