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Human remains, pottery found at Mission San Juan

Remains likely buried between 1780-1825 during active period at mission

SAN ANTONIO - Archaeologists are working to unravel the mysteries behind historical human remains and artifacts found at Mission San Juan.

The discovery was made in early summer but wasn't announced until just recently.

Rhe renovation project was originally meant to keep the Mission San Juan church from crumbling.

Walls were cracking and soil was shifting so major foundation work was underway.
However, the project came to a temporary halt when skeletal remains were discovered.

Turns out, back in late 18th Century, the church was also a burial ground.

"At least a number of those individuals were descendents of Native Americans, basically, who would have been brought into the missions by the Spanish," said Steve Tomka, director of the University of Texas-San Antonio's Center for Archaeological Research.

Researchers believe there are remains of 20 to 25 people, including infants and teenagers.

The remains date back from the 1780s to about 1825, a time when the missions were at the center life and culture in the San Antonio area.

"People were tyring to start farming and trade and so it's very important in the beginning part of our city growing," said Lindy Martinez, UTSA research scientist assistant.

By law, the bones can't be removed from the burial site, but the artifacts that were found nearby were taken to the Center For Archaeological Research at UTSA.
The artifacts are mostly pottery from Spain and Mexico.

The church hasn't decided what to do with them yet.

However, the human remains will be reinterred at a different site at the mission, after Native American and Catholic burial rituals are performed.

"They established a cemetary on that property and they will be re-buried in that cemetary," said Tomka,

Researchers will meet with Native American groups to talk with them about what was learned.

Eventually, there will be a technical report to be distributed to groups that are interested.

The archaeological research did put renovations at the mission behind schedule; however church officials say they hope the work will still be complete by Christmas.


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