Message #184: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Unanticipated Discovery Situation Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 14:05:10 -0700 [ No mention in the AZ Republic article if the Arizona Burial Law was followed and ASM contacted - http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/41/844.htm; http://www.swanet.org/burial.html ] http://www.azcentral.com/sev/news/senews.shtml Skull days - John Dingman might have expected to find something like this on an excursion in the desert. But a human skull buried beneath a neighbor's tree was never a possibility. Until Sunday. No skulduggery here: Ancient head unearthed By Judi Villa The Arizona Republic May 13, 1997 - Finding a human skull buried underneath a neighbor's tree was unusual enough for John Dingman. Finding out it was a hundred years old and a possible Indian relic was downright bizarre. "I looked down and my mind was telling me, "That looks like a human skull. No, it can't be," ' Dingman said Monday. "I was having this little mental battle with myself: Something telling me, "Yeah, that's what it is,' and something telling me, "No, it can't be.' "It was strange, I'm telling you." Dingman made his "unbelievable" find Sunday evening while digging up a rotting Italian Cypress tree in a Mesa neighbor's front yard. He and his wife, Kelly, are thinking about renting the home in the 1500 block of West Seventh Place and had volunteered to help clean it up. Dingman had pulled the tree stump over and was wiggling it around, preparing to smack the root ball with a pick, when he spotted the skull imbedded in the ground where the roots had grown around it. "It'd be easy to dig with a pick and shovel and smash something like that," Dingman said. "It was just right there." He tapped the bone with his fingernail then touched it. He picked up a piece that looked like an eye socket. "Then I realized it was a human skull and I dropped it real quick," he said. "There was no doubt in my mind that was a human skull. "Wandering around out in the desert, you always wonder if you're going to find a body out there. (But) no, it's right down the street. It's under a tree." Dr. Laura Fulginiti, a forensic anthropologist with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office, confirmed that the skull was human and at least 100 years old. "The first thing I always do is smell it," Fulginiti said. "There was no odor of decomposition." The characteristics of the skull and the quality of the bone contributed to her determination that it was "prehistoric." It's likely male and Native American. The skull, Fulginiti said, had naturally broken into two parts: the back of the head and one side with an ear opening that kind of resembles an eye socket. The skull was being stored Monday at the Mesa Police Department but was to be turned over to the anthropology department at Arizona State University. The home where the skull was found was built in the late 1950s and bought by Nadine Singleton in 1981. The tree was already grown by then. The neighborhood is about 1/4-mile from a canal that once was used by the Hohokam Indians and might sit on an old burial ground. "I don't know if they'll decide it's anything at all, but something that old is just kind of interesting," said Singleton, who lives in Tempe and rents out the home. "It could have been from a wagon train that came across or it could be anything. We could make up all kinds of interesting scenarios." Because the state is home to so many prehistoric burial grounds, including a site underneath the science library at ASU, the find is not considered rare. But it is unusual that the skull was found in someone's yard. Dr. Charles Merbs, a forensic anthropologist at ASU, said the school gets a couple skulls donated each year. The skull will be listed on inventory forms so that Native American tribes can claim it for reburial, if they want. If the skull isn't repatriated, it will be used by students. "Unless you know the whole context, it's of relatively little value except as a teaching specimen," Merbs said. It wasn't known Monday if ASU archaeologists would dig up other parts of the yard in search of more bones. But that didn't matter to Dingman, who isn't about to shy away from renting the home just because of a couple of old bones. "I don't mind if there's a bunch of people buried there," he said. "Just get 'em out."