OCEAN SHORES — In Greece the philosopher Socrates was compelled to die by drinking hemlock and Aristotle was born. Invading Gauls plundered Rome. London got its start as a small Celtic village. Buddha died, according to some historians. The years from 360 to 400 BC were loaded with fabled people and events.
Half a world away on a coastline that wouldn’t begin to be mapped for another 2,100 years, a woman died somewhere in the vicinity of Grays Harbor. On Feb. 21, 2014, Skipper Phil Westrick aboard his Westport-based charter boat The Ultimate pulled up a crab pot from a depth of 90 to 100 feet about 2.3 miles west of Ocean Shores and found most of her skull.
“The FBI lab determined it was a female, and DNA was extracted, but the profile didn’t match any missing persons,” Grays Harbor Coroner Lane Youmans said Thursday. “A piece of the skull was sent to a private lab [Beta Analytics in Miami] in Florida for radiocarbon dating. The lab determined that the skull is from 360-400 B.C.”
Since it is not related to a modern crime or missing-persons case, the skull was forwarded to State Physical Anthropologist Guy Tasa in Olympia on Thursday.
Tasa’s boss, Allyson Brooks, Ph.D., state historic preservation officer in the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, said in response to news media inquiries late Thursday, “We just received the skull five minutes ago. We will not be speculating on anything for a few days until Dr. Guy Tasa does his analysis. We don’t want to give out misinformation.”
Speculation is inevitable. Was she a Coast Salish bride? Could she have been a slave from outside the area? Did she die in childbirth, by disease, by drowning? Was her skull in the ocean for many hundreds of years, or was it washed out to sea by some recent storm? Could an ancient skull have been transported from somewhere else and disposed of in local waters? We may start getting some answers as early as the middle or end of next week.
Youmans told Aberdeen’s The Daily World that Tasa researches where the remains are found and compares that to the information he has gathered on where various Native American tribes were living so it can be returned to the proper descendants.
“Skeletal remains represent the physical remains of once living individuals and as such should be treated with the utmost care, dignity, and respect,” the State Physical Anthropologist’s website states.
The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation holds jurisdiction over all human skeletal remains that are not part of criminal investigations that are found in the state of Washington on non-federal and non-tribal lands. It also has the primary responsibility for the notification of appropriate cemeteries and affected tribes when non-forensic skeletal remains are discovered.
Charter captain Westrick has been fishing for over 30 years, according to his website. In the winter, he fishes commercially.