Archaeologist uncovers human bones from Yukon River sandbar

Posted: Friday, September 15, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An archaeologist combing land near Eagle found human bones that may be more than 50 years old, Alaska State Troopers said.

Parts of the skeleton, including a skull, a few buttons and part of a leather shoe, were uncovered earlier this month from a sandbar in the Yukon River three miles upstream from Eagle, said trooper James Gallen.

''According to the buttons and the boots there, it's an old timer,'' he said.

The bank was eroded during spring breakup and the bank sloughed off just enough to expose the bones, Gallen said. Based on the soil deposited on top of the sandbar, the archaeologist surmised the bones had been there for more than 50 years.

Eagle City was formed in 1897 by miners looking to get out of Dawson, Yukon Territory, after gold was discovered, said Elva Scott, president of the Eagle Historical Society.

''There was about 1,700 people here the first winter,'' she said. But the town shrunk because miners didn't find much gold around Eagle. The population trickled down to roughly 350 because most left to try their luck elsewhere.

A few prospectors remained because there was enough gold to keep them interested. In 1899, the U.S. Army moved about 150 soldiers into town and built Fort Egbert.

''The Army left in 1911, but it never became a ghost town because it was a trade town for the upper region,'' Scott noted.

By the 1930s only a few store keepers, mail carriers and a school teacher remained. In the early 1950s, only nine people remained. An estimated 143 people live in Eagle today.

Gallen traveled to Eagle Tuesday to retrieve the bones. He then mailed the bones to the state medical examiner's office to determine the age, gender, identification, ethnic origin and how long ago the person was alive.

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