HUTCHINSON ISLAND — The bones stuck out of the sand.
Dakota Brady, 30, of Stuart, said he was with some friends when they found human remains Wednesday morning on Chastain Beach, following severe beach erosion from Hurricane Nicole.
“We know that this is a burial ground,” Brady said. “We know what we’re on, but we never seen them come out like that.”
Authorities learned of the remains soon after.
Investigators are examining what they said are likely human remains of the indigenous Ais tribe on Hutchinson Island.
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The remains are likely from an Ais burial ground, said Chief Deputy John Budensiek.
Budensiek said investigators found six human skulls as of Thursday afternoon. The bones are fragmented, so they don’t have a total count of remains.
It was the first time Brady had an experience like this.
“It was just surreal. Just to think that this is something that we walk on on a daily basis and nobody knows. Everybody’s oblivious to it,” Brady said. “This is a burial ground. Yes, it’s a public beach, but there’s history to it and now you see it.”
This isn’t the first time a hurricane unearthed Native American human remains.
“This actually is a site we’ve been to before,” Budensiek said.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused beach erosion that unearthed ancient Native American bones that were first exposed by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, according to TCPalm archives.
Officials a decade ago said the remains were reburied with a proper ceremony.
Budensiek said after carefully removing the remains, the Medical Examiner’s Office will send them to the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research. Testing is usually done to verify the bones’ origin.
The burial ground is federally protected and passersby are prohibited from digging up other remains, pottery or jewelry of the Ais tribe.