Bones Found Under Rochester's Main Street are Human, State Says

They appear to be from a prehistoric burial, according to archaeological consultant.

OUTSIDE DETROIT, MI -- Bones are now known to be human remains.

They appear to be from a "prehistorical burial," and the Oakland County Medical Examiner's office is helping archaeologists from the Michigan Department of Transportation to learn more about their origin.

"MDOT is consulting with Michigan Indian tribes about the remains and their proper treatment in accordance with federal and state laws," stated MDOT Archaeologist James A. Robertson in a press statement released Wednesday afternoon.

The bones were discovered during the ongoing Main Street Makeover, an effort to reconstruct downtown's Main Street, also known as M-150. The project began in the spring and will continue through fall. 

The bones were found near the corner of Third and Main streets, said Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino. 

When they were discovered, the city notified archaeologists from the state, who removed the bones and returned them to their facilities for testing. 

As part of the Main Street Makeover, water mains, sidewalks and the road itself are being completely replaced, meaning workers have had to dig far below the surface. So far, vintage soda bottles, horseshoes and other relics have been excavated and put on display for downtown visitors to see.

"This is a really great opportunity to learn about our town's history; it's not often you get to go 8 feet below a town," Vettraino said earlier this year, before the project began.

The possibility of an Indian burial ground downtown was recently documented by the history blog "Remember Rochester." 

The blog quotes from an 1899 newspaper account of a discovery near Third and Main streets. "Last Saturday morning workmen were engaged in deepening the cellar under the stone store. ... After they had taken up the stone they dug down and about two feet under the patched portion they unearthed two skeletons, one with the head to the east, the other to the west. The bones were gathered up and it was not long before the matter was noised about town and a large crowd gathered to view the remains. "

Read the complete story here.

Rochester Patch will keep you updated when we learn more about the remains found under Main Street.

Kristin Bull (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 05:12 PM
One thing to mention: the state clarifies that though the medical examiner's office is helping with the findings, the area where they were excavated is not being treated as a crime scene.
Patricia August 08, 2012 at 05:36 PM
We were known to have an Indian Burial Ground in the vicinity and that is considered sacred by the tribes. We had discussed earlier this very scenario happening. I am glad the City and the State are working together and are sensitive to this situation. However, if these remains are really really old and date back beyond the Indian Tribe, this would be a significant find.
William Munson August 08, 2012 at 05:39 PM
In 1979 I accidentally dropped a "Death to Disco!" key chain down a drainage grate in front of the doughnut shop at Main and University. Any sign of it?
Liz Ireland August 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Where is the display downtown of the things they have found under Main Street? Would like to take a look!
Tom Scheuer August 08, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Could it be Jimmy Hoffa?
David Gifford August 08, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I believe it is on the west side of Main near Haig's. That is where MDOT has set up headquarters.
Kristin Bull (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
307 Main -- the site of the future Talulah Belle boutique.
Kristin Bull (Editor) August 08, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Hmmm ... not sure if the 1970s could be characterized as prehistoric, Tom. But that's probably the first thing that pops into our inquiring minds, isn't it?
Joshua Raymond August 09, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Based on the questions my kids have asked me, 1970s is prehistoric to them. Did you have electricity when you were young? Indoor plumbing? Yes, we had those even if we didn't have personal computers and minivans.
Kathy August 09, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Yeah - what is prehistoric? 200, 2000, 20,000 years ago?
Joshua Raymond August 09, 2012 at 01:24 PM
From Wikipedia: The date marking the end of prehistory in a particular culture or region, that is the date when relevant written historical records become a useful academic resource, varies enormously from region to region. For example, in Egypt it is generally accepted that prehistory ended around 3200 BC, whereas in New Guinea the end of the prehistoric era is set much more recently, at around 1900 AD. ---------- Prehistory generally starts with the advent of humanity. Since many Native Americans did not have written history and Europeans didn't come to Michigan until the 1600s AD, prehistory for this area could be considered anytime before that.
Patrick McKay August 09, 2012 at 01:43 PM
This certainly is not a surprise. The archaeological survey of Oakland County completed in 1978 clearly identified the burial ground when the Home Bakery was built in the 1840s. All of this information was provided to MDOT 3 years ago when this project was being planned. What a great opportunity to see some of our community's earliest history. Patrick McKay Rochester Hills Museum
Janice August 09, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I'm confused. Are the skeletons the same ones they found in 1899? After they removed them, did they put them back and now they are just being found again? Can they tell if they are adult, children, male or female? Curious minds need to know.
Jennifer David August 09, 2012 at 05:09 PM
" Can they tell if they are adult, children, male or female? Curious minds need to know." I could be wrong (and please correct me if I am) but I'm pretty sure they can determine race, gender, and age from bone remains.
Fred August 09, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Why not save the taxpayers a whole lot of money and give the bones immediately to the Indians. (To do with as they wish.)
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Wow, some lawyer has a freat cold case wrongful death suit to follow up on.
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:26 PM
They found it, but they kept it as evidence to the body dump there.
Jennifer David August 09, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Probably because it's possible that they're not Native American remains. They'll probably also want to verify how old the bones are.
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Hey, I think you're on ta somethin'.
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:32 PM
For most kids these days, it's when their parents were growing up. "member way back when you was a kid mom? (or dad)? Back when you actually had to get up and change the channel, volume, power, on the TV by hand? OOPS, I'm kinda dating myself, arent I?
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:34 PM
...and it may be useful for the movie script also.
Robert Bruce Tucker August 09, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I hope no one was offended by my levity in these posts. I know that many people have a real interest and are trying to be serious, and I appologize to any who find my humor offensive.
Scott McKay August 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM
It's Jimmy Hoffa
Alan Stamm August 10, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Patch outpaces the media pack again, at least judging from belated catching up by MLive.com, a "news" site with this headline above a staff report today: "Road crews unearth potentially prehistoric skeleton in Rochester" But wait, there's more: It originally suggested the bones could be from "the age of dinosaurs." That was fixed after comments from two readers.
Tom May 13, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Any update on the bones that were found?


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