SAN MIGUEL ISLAND, Calif. — The mystery behind the skull of an ancient man discovered in the eroding coastline of a remote Southern California island has been laid to rest along with the bones unearthed by researchers.
But much of the story of the Native American who died 10,000 years ago will remain unknown.
After more than a decade of study, the bones of the so-called Tuqan Man were recently returned to San Miguel Island and buried by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians that had claimed him as their own.
"We made it a priority to ensure that our ancestor was laid to rest with a proper burial," tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn said. "Protecting the final resting places of our ancestors is of paramount importance."
The skull was inadvertently discovered during an archaeology survey by researchers from the University of Oregon in 2005.
Because the remains were exposed and in jeopardy of being lost at sea as the shoreline eroded, the National Park Service consulted the Chumash tribe and decided to excavate them.
The island 120 miles (193 kilometers) west of Los Angeles is one of the Channel Islands, also known as the North American Galapagos, where climate change is feared to be eating away at the beaches and sea cliffs and washing away cultural relics. Five of the isles form Channel Islands National Park.
Testing of the Tuqan Man, as he was called according to the Chumash name for the island, took years. Ultimately, the testing couldn't determine if he was a Chumash ancestor.
Analysis found the prehistoric remains to be Native American with a significant relationship to the culture found on the islands for more than 13,000 years, the Park Service said.
The Chumash was granted custody of Tuqan Man and reburied him in late May in a ceremony that included singing and burning of white sage.
"We're very happy that we could lay this man to rest," Kahn told the Ventura County Star .