Forensic DNA testing  of human remains reveal more clues

Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker and Deadwood City Archivist Mike Runge help at the archaeological survey of 66 Taylor Ave. when the skeletal remains were discovered. Pioneer file photo

DEADWOOD — It’s a break in the case of the unknown former Deadwood resident. With the final report in on the DNA analysis from the set of human remains unearthed in Deadwood’s Presidential neighborhood in 2012, historic preservation officials say they are a few steps closer to finding out the identity of the burial from 66 Taylor Ave., discovered during a retaining wall replacement.

At the meeting of the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday evening, Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker said that the DNA tests were performed to help determine race, ethnic heritage and other identifying traits.

“We now have it narrowed down to 24 individuals, based on historical records, as we moved forward” Kuchenbecker said. “If the families of those 24 individuals came forward and gave DNA, we could probably match them and find out who he is.”

Kuchenbecker said the individual was formerly being called “Jackson,” as he was found near Jackson Street.

“Based on this report, we should probably call him ‘McJackson’ as he is of Irish descent,” Kuchenbecker said. “With skeletal casting, the next step is to do an artist’s rendition.”

In April, 2014, the city of Deadwood hired Dr. Angie Ambers, a DNA analyst and forensic geneticist at the Institute of Applied Genetics in Fort Worth, Texas, to perform the DNA tests.

As part of the project, DNA samples were recovered from two molars in the mandible and a portion of the left femur.

The samples were then subjected to a series of tests that included Y chromosome, DNA analysis, mitochondrial DNA and pheotype-information SNP analysis.

“Combined, these tests helped to determine the race, ethnic heritage and eye and hair color of the unknown individual,” said Deadwood city archivist Mike Runge. “Based on the DNA results, the unknown individual came from a Western European ancestry reaching over 80 percent of the population in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, western Wales, the Atlantic fringe of France, the Basque country and Catalonia. Based on the SNP test, the unknown individual likely had light red hair and light brown eyes when alive.”

The DNA lineage results are consistent with the findings of a previous anthropological report which determined that the remains belong to a male of European ancestry (Caucasian).

A cranial reconstruction and dental analysis have also been performed on the remains, as well as isotope testing.

In 2012, construction workers unearthed a fully articulated coffin burial while replacing a retaining wall at 66 Taylor Ave. In addition to Deadwood Historic Preservation officials being onsite, South Dakota state archaeologists were on hand to exhume the burial. The remains were then transported to Dr. Diane France who compiled a forensic report on this individual. Anthropologists have established the unidentified remains to be that of a male.

“One of the interesting features associated with this burial are the number of dental fillings performed on this individual,” Runge said. “Three gold and six tin/silver amalgams.”

“Evidence of dental work and the composition of the filling matter are indicators that this individual may have had some sort of wealth or elevated status in society,” said Kuchenbecker.

Upon completion of this project, the individual will be interred at Mt. Moriah Cemetery and the data will be used to develop an exhibit and facial reconstruction for the Mt. Moriah Cemetery Visitor Center.

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