Skull found on beach likely centuries-old

by Mark Arehart on February 8, 2013

This past September, a human skull was found along a beach near Toksook Bay. The skull was turned into the Alaska State Troopers and examined by an AVCP anthropologist, who determined the skull is likely hundreds of years old.

The Alaska State Troopers were the first to receive the skull, found on a Nelson Island beach.

“I went up there to the troopers, looked at the skull in their possession and made some assessments of it just from kind of a brief look at it,” AVCP Staff Anthropologist Steven Street said.

Street said he knew pretty quickly that the skull was not from modern times: the teeth were a big giveaway.

“Actually dentition is usually pretty indicative of native American people from here. People used to wear their teeth down quite a bit using them as tools. By the time they were young, middle aged their teeth were worn quite a bit more than in a modern context would wear their teeth down.”

Street said it is difficult to know exactly which community the skull could have come from. There are several old villages in the area, including Umkumiute.

“Knowing pretty much where that skull had been found, it’s adjacent to a couple of well known historic sites that are actively eroding into the water. So people are frequently finding artifacts and human skeletal remains over the many years.”

Street said the skull could be quite old.

“Having a pretty good familiarity with those historic places right there on Nelson Island; I’ve spent a lot of time out there. I suspect it’s the later time period. You know it’s probably late historic, probably within the last 200-300 years.”

Little else is known about he skull.

It was buried by a priest in Toksook Bay on Tuesday.

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