SUBLETTE COUNTY – An unidentified “rockhound” out for a walk on May 30 chanced upon an unexpected find – a human skull laying out in the open on public lands.
A rockhound is an amateur geologist who studies and collects rocks, fossils or minerals.
The man, who was hiking on flat land near Sublette Springs – in southern Sublette County and on Bureau of Land Management land – called the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and waited nearby until an officer arrived, said Sgt. Travis Bingham.
He declined to release many more details while lead detective Ian Allen conducts an active investigation.
Initial reactions from an expert forensic anthropologist who looked at photos suggest the skull might be quite old. The photos are not available.
“Right off the bat she felt it was a female Native American that had been there awhile,” Bingham said.
The skull is being studied for further analysis; no other bones or artifacts were found in the area, he added. Bingham said more information could be released as the investigation continues.
Clint Gilchrist, director of the Museum of the Mountain Man and lifelong historian, said that area was likely traveled through for centuries if not longer.
“In general, Sublette Springs was named during the emigrant wagon train era and heavily used,” he said in an email. “But there is no doubt natives used it for probably thousands of years.
Sublette Springs was one of the few waterholes crossing the 50-mile desert, he added. “Natives would have tended to follow creeks, but if they knew the spring was there, the trip would make crossing the valley much shorter, so I am sure they would have used it,” Gilchrist said. “The find is very interesting.”