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Ancient Remains Discovered Under A Frio County Bridge

Contributed photo
Texas Department of Transportation
Scott Pletka, left, and Jim Abbott of TxDOT's archaeological team examined ancient remains found in an earthen wall during a bridge inspection in July.

Indian tribes with possible ties to Frio County around 1,000 years ago are being contacted by state officials to determine what to do with the remains of a Native American found under a bridge, according to the Anthropology Center at Texas State University in San Marcos.


The Texas Department of Transportation officials said it routinely consults with 26 federally-recognized indian tribes when archeological discoveries are made during road or bridge work, including the Kickapoo and Alabama-Coushatta tribes of Texas.

TxDOT spokesman Hernan Rozemberg said a bridge inspector working for the agency came across the remains in July. Rozemberg declined to disclose the location of the bridge due to privacy concerns.

“He saw what seemed to be protruding human bones from underneath the bridge and this set off this whole episode,” he said. “Initially, it was thought to be a cold case of some sorts, so obviously law enforcement got involved. We got the Frio County Sheriff’s Office.”

Rozemberg said a team of experts from the highway department quickly determined the bones were closer to a 1,000 years old.

“We have a 10-person archaeology team with the Texas Department of Transportation,” he said.  “A lot of people don’t know that, but this has been very rare for them because they usually come in the beginning — you know, pre-construction — to determine that everything is good to go. There is no remains there to halt construction."  

“So this is why it’s so different because the bridge was already constructed and everything was done," he said. "They are not used to coming in at the later stages of things like right now.”

Credit Contributed photo / Texas Department of Transportation
Texas Department of Transportation
Members of TxDOT's archaeological team crowd around ancient human remains found under a Frio County bridge in July.

Texas State University’s anthropology center in San Marcos is also assisting with the dig. The department’s director Daniel Wescott says the Frio County remains to appear to be that of a man who was buried at the location after his death. He said he was found resting on his back, partially on his left side and knees up, a common burial position at the time.

Wescott said what is known as an Edwards projectile point, from a spear or arrow, was found next to his body.

He said the remains haven’t been fully examined so questions remain about his age, cause of death, and tribal connections.

The shallow grave does not appear to be part of a larger Native American burial ground, he added..

He said the bones will not be disturbed for further research without permission from Native American groups.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org