Skull found in Porter County yields clues; investigation continues
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent February 12, 2014 1:44PM
Updated: March 14, 2014 8:33AM
VALPARAISO — Archaeologists working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are finding some clues about a skull found last month at the Enbridge Pipeline site in Liberty Township, but will have to wait until the weather clears to learn more.
The skull belongs to an African-American who was 50 years old or older, though the gender can’t be determined, said Cathy Draeger-Williams, an archaeologist with the DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
Officials also haven’t determined whether the skull dates before 1939, which would make it an artifact, or after, which would put it back in the hands of Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris.
“Whether or not it’s a crime scene depends on what the skull tells us,” Draeger-Williams said, adding the skull does not show signs of trauma, though there is evidence of cavities.
Workers with Precision Pipeline, a contractor for Enbridge, uncovered the skull during excavation work on Jan. 20, being done west of Meridian Road, north of U.S. 6. No additional remains were found, and the sheriff’s department has said the skull was not linked to any missing person cases.
The skull does not appear to be recent, though it’s difficult to tell without additional artifacts, Draeger-Williams said.
“In the area where it was found, we will need to do further work,” to see if more can be found, Draeger-Williams said.
That won’t occur until the weather clears and the ground is dry enough to bring in the necessary equipment, she added, and also depends on work at the pipeline site.
An Enbridge spokeswoman said last month the pipeline was already in the ground and backfilled when workers found the skull. Crews were cleaning up at the time, and that work stopped with the skull’s discovery.
When archaeologists can return to the site, they will be looking for more clues, including coffin material and additional bones, Draeger-Williams said, adding her office is still reviewing the report on the skull, as well as consulting with pipeline officials and the county coroner.
“It’s still definitely a mystery who that person was and how they got there,” she said, adding there are frequently unrecorded burials with no headstone that may, at one time, have been marked with a wooden cross that has long since deteriorated. “Sometimes there are people who don’t have an identified marker.”
Depending on what further investigation reveals, Draeger-Williams said her office would be in contact with the coroner to determine what happens to the remains.
“Usually they’re buried in a local cemetery,” she said.