The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office is investigating a case close to home. Earlier this month, a local woman brought a human skull and other skeletal remains she had found in her garage to the University of La Verne’s anthropology department.
The woman brought the remains to ULV anthropology faculty, who then turned them over to the La Verne Police Department on Sept. 10, according to La Verne Police Officer David Chavira.
When Chavira received the skull it was in an old white cake box, wrapped in bubble wrap, twine rope and red ribbon. It had “MT” engraved on the back.
There was a label taped on to the skull and a tooth was taped to the label, and next to the skull was a single rib bone.
The label read “Tarahumara Skull 1900s – Basihuare Creel, Mexico, State of Chihuahua,” Chavira said.
The Tarahumara people were indigenous people of Mexico and inhabitants of the state of Chihuahua.
“I thought it was another bogus call, because it had been the fourth call I received about bones, but it wasn’t,” Chavira said.
“There is no doubt it was a human skull.”
The La Verne Police Department then notified the Coroner’s Office. Coroner officials have not yet identified the age or gender of the remains, but they have concluded that the cause of death was not homicide.
With the jaw missing from the skull, it will take forensic anthropologists longer to examine the remains.
“It wasn’t a homicide,” said Lt. Fred Corral of the Coroner’s office.
“It was probably used for instructional purposes, but every time this happens, it must be turned in to us for investigation.”
The woman who was not from La Verne was able to turn in the skull to the University due to ULV’s “open door policy,” which lets people turn in objects for archeological purposes.
Felicia Beardsley, professor of anthropology, said no one knows who the woman was or why she had the remains – the woman wanted to remain anonymous, Beardsley said.
“To an anthropologist, this is not shocking,” Beardsley said.
“There was a time where there was a rage to collect oddities,” she said.
“To me, it wasn’t a big deal, but others were spooked and were curious about the human skull,” Chavira said.
Chavira and Beardsley both said they followed protocol.
Alejandra Aguilar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.