MEXICO CITY – Archaeologists said Thursday they have found 10 sets of skeletal remains that may belong to U.S. soldiers who died during a battle in the 1846-48 Mexican-American war.
The government experts said the shape of the skulls and bone measurements suggest the skeletons belonged to Americans who were killed in the battle of Monterrey on Sept. 21-23, 1846.
Archaeologist Araceli Rivera said the height of the skeletons -- between 5 feet, 7 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches -- and "Caucasian" skull features indicated they were Americans.
The finds made during digging between January and mid-May came in the same area of the northern city of Monterrey where a total of 10 other sets of remains have been discovered during excavations since 1995. The archaeologists are digging in the area because a construction company plans to build there.
Artifacts found near skeletons excavated in past years at the site -- including two half-dollar U.S. coins -- also suggested U.S. nationality.
"All the soldiers died in combat, but some have fractures, as is the case of skeleton Number 2, which was found with its left femur cut off, which indicates the leg was amputated," Rivera said.
Some of the bones had greenish stains, suggesting they had been in long contact with metal -- possible the bullets that took their lives.
While Mexicans also died in the 1846 battle, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said none of their remains had been found, probably because families collected their remains and buried them in graveyards.
The U.S. Defense Department's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is responsible for identifying U.S. service members from past conflicts, did not returns calls for comment on the latest find.
Diane France, a forensic anthropologist and director of the independent Human Identification Laboratory of Colorado, wrote that "determining whether the skulls are 'Americans' or Mexican soldiers would potentially be possible" but that more study is needed.
"It might be possible to identify which soldiers they are and ... repatriate them," France wrote. "The remains are pretty fragmentary but there might be some evidence remaining. The facial features and dentition (teeth), where remaining, may be significant."
The anthropology institute said documentary evidence indicates about 25 Mexicans and 30 U.S. soldiers died in the battle of Monterrey, which came during a war that saw U.S. troops sweep into Mexico and eventually capture Mexico City.
The war ended in a Mexican defeat in 1848 that, along with Texas' independence struggle, cost Mexico half its territory.