Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Skull of pre-1940 origin; DNR on the case; pipeline work stopped

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Work has been ordered stopped on the pipeline project in Liberty Township, after a human skull found there on Monday was determined to be of pre-1940 origin and therefore a matter for the Indiana DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA).

According to a statement released late Monday by the DNR, forensic anthropologist Dr. Stephen Nawrocki of the University of Indianapolis believes the skull to be of a pre-1940 origin.

IC 14-21 specifically grants jurisdiction to the DHPA in the case of “burial grounds,” that is, sites where human remains were buried prior to Jan. 1, 1940.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Chesterton Tribune today that he sent Nawrocki photographs of the skull, shot from a variety of angles. Nawrocki, in turn, judged the age of the skull to be older than 74 years based on “the erosion” of the bone, Harris said.

Nawrocki had no further information on the skull, as to its actual age, its sex, or its ethnicity, Harris added.

In any case, the skull is “now out of the my office’s jurisdiction,” Harris noted. “It’s not like it’s a cold case.”

The skull--complete but for a missing mandible or lower jawbone--was discovered around 9:45 a.m. Monday by an employee of the Precision Pipeline Company, a contractor on the Enbridge Inc. project, Sgt. Larry LaFlower of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police told the Tribune. It was found beneath a skid trailer approximately 250 feet west of Meridian Road, between C.R. 900N and U.S. Highway 6. “Whether it was partially buried or totally unburied, I don’t know.”

Work was immediately halted, PCSP detectives and technicians responded to site, and the area was treated as a crime scene, LaFlower said. No other human remains were discovered, however.

With the DHPA’s assuming jurisdiction in the case, LaFlower said, the PCSP’s “investigation is closed.”

The DHPA has now taken custody of the skull, has “instructed the Precision Pipeline company to cease excavation where the skull was uncovered,” and “will be analyzing the remains to determine the age and origin of the skull,” the statement said.

Under IC 14-21, DHPA may authorize the continuation of “ground disturbance activity”--after a burial ground has been uncovered--“with or without conditions.” Such authorization may require “that ground disturbance activity be in accordance with an approved plan.”

 

 

Posted 1/21/2014