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 -; ]
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."