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17 October 2007
Prehistoric skull found at Malibu construction site

A human skull unearthed at a construction site in the Malibu (California, USA) has been officially declared a prehistoric Native American find, and the wheels have been put in motion for the remains to be handled in accord with state law. Workers preparing the foundation for a new mobile home in the beachside discovered the skull during routine digging and contacted the sheriff’s department. Capt. Ed Winter of the Operations Investigations Bureau of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said the discovery was not surprising because there have been a number of finds of prehistoric Native American artifacts in the Paradise Cove area.
     The team’s consulting forensic anthropologist, Elizabeth Miller, a faculty member at Cal State L.A., said when she made the determination that the skull was a prehistoric artifact, that action took the matter out of the Coroner’s Office’s hands. Miller said her analysis was based on the age of the remains, first determined visually by "its brittleness, the morphology of the face’s ethnic characteristics and the wear on the teeth." The anthropologist said the teeth of most California Native Amer­icans in pre-recorded history 'are worn down to little nubs' because of the 'large amount of grit in their diet.'
     Miller’s determination of artifact status resulted in the skull being referred to the California Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento, which did its own analysis of authenticity and, also having determined the skull to be Native American remains, has taken over its official disposition.
Larry Myers, the executive secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission, said there are a number of options for ways to honor human remains of Native American ancestors. The skull is presently protected in the location where it was found until disposition has been resolved. The skull could be buried in the spot it was found, placed somewhere else on the site and covered by construction, or it could be moved to a different location for a ceremonial ritual. Miller said there probably will be a request to do further excavation at the site, but she added, "Most property owners do not allow this."

Source: Malibu Surfside News (14 October 2007)

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