Human Remains Unearthed at Riven Rock Estate

Partial Skeleton Shows Possible Signs of Chumash Origin

The partial skeleton was found at a home in the 800 block of Riven Rock Road in Montecito. | Credit: Courtesy

A landscaping crew unearthed human skeletal remains while working at an estate on the 800 block of Riven Rock Road in Montecito, initiating what promises to be a long investigation into who they belonged to and from what time period they originated. 

The buried bones were stumbled upon at about 5:15 p.m. on May 25 and were found in soil between two and three feet deep. A Sheriff’s deputy was called, work stopped, and Coroner’s Office staff arrived at the scene. According to Sheriff’s spokesperson Raquel Zick, the remains were partial and appear to be those of a small-sized adult. 

Based on the coloring of the bones — and the wear and tear on the teeth — Zick suggested they probably date many years back. People who ate acorn mash, for example, and lacked access to fluoride in their water supply or any other modern dental hygiene manifested dental wear-and-tear differently. 

Zick said a forensic anthropologist would be arriving sometime next week to assess the bones for age and origin. If the bones prove to be Chumash in origin, they would be turned over to the Native American Council for safekeeping. As it is, she said, the council has already been notified and a stop-work order is in effect on the property pending a conclusive determination. No clothes or boots were evident in the site accompanying the bones, but Zick said that’s not necessarily unusual. 

Zick would not confirm the exact address of the property in question other than to say it was somewhere on the 800 block of Riven Rock Road. The whole area was once part of a major development built first by a former newspaper writer from Wisconsin who settled in Montecito in the 1870s and then later taken over by the McCormick wheat thresher dynasty. 

Zick also stressed that the property in question has no connections to the former members of the British royal family who moved into Montecito digs a year ago, very close to where the bones were found. “We’re only confirming it was on the 800 block,” said Zick, “and that it’s not associated with the royals.” 

If the bones are not Chumash in origin, they will become the basis for what will become an exceptionally slow-moving investigation. “We will have to get out our magnifying glasses,” Zick stated.


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