The state archaeology office has determined that the top part of a human skull found in the Chilkat River near 9 Mile last month was from an adult who died at least 10 years ago.
The skull fragment is too weathered to be tested for DNA, said archaeologist Joan Dale, who studied photos of it sent by Haines state trooper Josh Bentz. "We don’t know its exact age, but it’s not really recent. If there was more of it and it was in better shape, we might be able to make a racial affinity test of it," Dale said.
The fragment will be returned to local Natives, most likely to the Chilkat tribe, Bentz said this week. Dale said it was not unusual for skeletons to wash out of riverside gravesites and the fragment was "heavily water-rolled."
Resident Scott Ramsey said he was walking along the river with his wife and dog April 3, looking out for things his dog might carry away, when he spotted the bone in a dry river channel. It was about the size of his hand, with a distinctive center seam and vein-like impressions on the inside. Except for a corner buried in sand, it was bleached white.
"I was looking for things I didn’t want (the dog) to get into. It looked like it had been bleached for a couple years, and the mice had been chewing on it," Ramsey said.
Because of its size and shape, it looked pretty surely to have come from a human, Ramsey said. He gave the piece to a friend with a scientific bent, who turned it in to troopers.
Some who heard about the skull postulated a connection between it and the disappearance of resident Jason Allgood, who presumably drowned last June near 25 Mile. Dale said the skull was far too worn and pitted to have been in the river only a year.
Allgood’s body never was recovered, despite efforts with search dogs and dragnets.
Though the skull appears small, Dale said she believes it was that of an an adult because of a partial closure in the sagittal suture, a seam that runs from the top of the skull back toward the neck muscles.
The fragment was the part of the skull from the top, down to near the ears, she said.