Hurricane Nicole may have unearthed a Native American burial site dating back hundreds of years on a Florida beach, authorities said.
Six skulls and other smaller bones turned up on Chastain Beach on South Hutchinson Island, said Martin County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy John Budensiek.
Beachgoers found the remains, Budensiek said.
“Our medical examiner’s office is saying that they believe the bones are in excess of 200 years of age,” he said, adding that investigators believe they may be the remains of Indigenous people.
The bones of Native Americans were discovered in the area after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“We do believe based on other findings over the years along that area that it’s likely to be an old Indiana burial site,” he said. “When we are dealing with remains like this, we try to preserve history. We are not exploring and digging any further into the area where the remains were found. We only recovered what’s been exposed by the water.”
Budensiek said he has been in touch with the Seminole Nation of Florida about the discovery. If the site is a Native American burial site, it is federally protected, and criminal charges will be pursued against anyone who tries to disturb the area, Budensiek said.
No one with the county medical examiner’s office could immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Hurricane Nicole made landfall on Florida’s Atlantic Coast early Thursday near where the remains were found.
The storm landed just south of Vero Beach around 3 a.m. ET on the east coast of the Florida Peninsula on North Hutchinson Island with sustained winds estimated at 75 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Graham Lee Brewer contributed.