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Human remains found at Oregon Zoo

Sun., Sept. 8, 2013, midnight

Nine bodies believed to be more than 100 years old

PORTLAND – Archaeologists have recovered the remains of nine people since construction crews digging a trench on Oregon Zoo property found a human skull in mid-August, zoo officials said Friday.

After that initial discovery, the zoo notified the Oregon State Historic Preservation office. Construction work in the area was halted during the investigation and recovery effort.

The remains are believed to be residents of a poor farm operated by Multnomah County more than 100 years ago, said Heidi Rahn, director of the Better Zoo Program, which oversees construction funded by a 2008 zoo bond.

Officials hope to rebury the remains close to where they were found, she said.

The Hillside Farm was a 160-acre poor farm that operated from 1868 to 1911 in a portion of Washington Park now occupied by the zoo, an arboretum and a forestry center, the zoo said.

Jim Mitchell, zoo construction manager, told the Oregonian that crews found not only skulls but also arm and leg bones, a full outline of a coffin and a nearly complete skeleton.

The unidentified remains are people of western European descent, zoo officials said.

Human remains were also found in 2008 when the zoo built its Predators of the Serengeti exhibit. Those remains were buried nearby.

The latest excavation is part of initial construction on the new Elephant Lands habitat, due to open in 2015.

Rahn said the zoo is following the direction of state and local officials.

“Our work in that area is almost complete now and we don’t anticipate changes in our construction schedule,” she said.

Collection of the remains cost $50,000 to $70,000, Mitchell said.


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