Piece of skull found in Louisiana lake in 1985 turns out to be thousands of years old

In 1985, a piece of human skull was found near Lake Pontchartrain, the body of water on the north side of New Orleans.

At the time, the coroner could tell that it belonged to a woman between the ages of 25 to 35, according to a news release obtained by McClatchy News on April 27 from the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, but it was impossible to tell how old the bone was with the technology at the time.

The bone sat unidentified for decades, until 2009 when officials tried to test the bone for DNA, the coroner’s office said.

The bone was confirmed to belong to a woman, but Coroner Charles Preston said in the release the “mystery continued” since there wasn’t enough DNA to enter into a national database.

A photocopy of an inventory sheet at the Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services from the 1980s was found earlier this year, according to the release. The sheet listed the bone as “unidentified, parish of discovery unknown.”

Preston then opened the case again.

The bone was sent to an analytical laboratory in Florida that used carbon-14 dating to determine its age, the coroner’s office said.

The woman wasn’t the victim of a decades-old crime or a missing person. In fact, she wasn’t even from the past few centuries.

The results showed the woman lived between 1634 and 1504 B.C., according to the release, which would have been during the Late Archaic Period in Louisiana.

The woman likely lived at the same time as those at the Poverty Point archaeological site, the coroner’s office said, one of the most significant sites in the United States from that time.

The age of the bone and the location points to an indigenous origin, and the bone was collected as part of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The coroner’s office told the Louisiana Intertribal Council about the find and met with leaders from the Choctaw Nation and United Houma Nation.

“I often say that no coroner’s case is ever closed,” Preston said in the release. “It took a while as science progressed, but we have been able to identify the historical origin of this woman to the extent possible, and have taken steps to properly honor her life.”

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