Examination by a forensic specialist provided more clues about the origins of a skull and other bones from a Haines Highway gravel pit, but a more advanced study using statistical computer programs may help make some conclusive determinations, local archaeologist Dr. Anastasia Wiley said last week.

Kassie Sugimoto’s preliminary results showed the skull exhibited characteristics that were both male and female, although male traits seemed stronger, Wiley said. Those included a “pronounced brow ridge” suggestive of males and a larger “external occipital protuberance” or bump on the back of the head.

Everyone has such a bump, but it’s more pronounced on males, Wiley said.

Missing lower sections of the skull, including jawbones, would have added a level of certainty to determining sex. Similarly, two sections of leg bones – a right femur and tibia – each lacked one end, preventing a full measurement of stature, she said.

Wiley said computer modeling that compares bone sections to skeletons of known populations may help complete the picture of the person found. Using a sophisticated, statistical program, Sugimoto may be able to determine stature using the leg fragments.

The same technique could help identify the skull. “Putting the skull in a model may help. (Sugimoto) is going to massage the data. We don’t have those kinds of programs, archaeologists don’t, but forensic archaeologists do,” Wiley said.

Wiley will present information gleaned through the more sophisticated analysis Feb. 5 at the Sheldon Museum.

Wiley said Sugimoto found “robust” muscle attachments at the front of leg bones. “So the person had very strong legs.”

The sutures connecting the skull pieces were fused, suggesting the individual was over 20-25 years old (skulls grow tighter during the aging process) and the condition of the tooth – an upper premolar which did not have the crown totally worn down – suggested the person was a young adult or middle aged, Wiley said.

“Not 50, but maybe 35 or 40,” Wiley said.

The tooth also could shed light on the person’s diet, she said. Isotopic analysis of teeth can reconstruct the diet of a person. Teeth also can provide information on age and ancestry, she said.

Diet can be an important element in identifying remains, she said. A skeleton once thought to have been Christopher Columbus was determined to have been Columbus’ brother, as examination showed the remains were of a grain-eater and Columbus would have eaten fish.

“A chemical imprint is left. You are what you eat, they say… They can read it in your bones,” Wiley said.

Wiley said she would talk to Chilkoot Indian Association tribal members about carbon dating of the bones as soon as Sugimoto’s statistical results are done. A DNA analysis could be attempted but Sugimoto felt bones were too degraded to get a sample because they had sat in water for a long time.

“It’s not something she’d recommend unless we were really dying to know,” Wiley said.

Similarly, a four-inch-long section of pelvis bone was too bloated from water damage to be useful in identifying the age and sex of the person.

The three-day class included about 20 hours of lecture and hands-on instruction with human skeletal remains and was attended by 10-20 local residents.