Work has been ordered stopped on the pipeline project in Liberty Township,
after a human skull found there on Monday was determined to be of pre-1940
origin and therefore a matter for the Indiana DNR’s Division of Historic
Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA).
According to a statement released late Monday by the DNR, forensic
anthropologist Dr. Stephen Nawrocki of the University of Indianapolis
believes the skull to be of a pre-1940 origin.
IC 14-21 specifically grants jurisdiction to the DHPA in the case of “burial
grounds,” that is, sites where human remains were buried prior to Jan. 1,
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Chesterton Tribune today
that he sent Nawrocki photographs of the skull, shot from a variety of
angles. Nawrocki, in turn, judged the age of the skull to be older than 74
years based on “the erosion” of the bone, Harris said.
Nawrocki had no further information on the skull, as to its actual age, its
sex, or its ethnicity, Harris added.
In any case, the skull is “now out of the my office’s jurisdiction,” Harris
noted. “It’s not like it’s a cold case.”
The skull--complete but for a missing mandible or lower jawbone--was
discovered around 9:45 a.m. Monday by an employee of the Precision Pipeline
Company, a contractor on the Enbridge Inc. project, Sgt. Larry LaFlower of
the Porter County Sheriff’s Police told the Tribune. It was found
beneath a skid trailer approximately 250 feet west of Meridian Road, between
C.R. 900N and U.S. Highway 6. “Whether it was partially buried or totally
unburied, I don’t know.”
Work was immediately halted, PCSP detectives and technicians responded to
site, and the area was treated as a crime scene, LaFlower said. No other
human remains were discovered, however.
With the DHPA’s assuming jurisdiction in the case, LaFlower said, the PCSP’s
“investigation is closed.”
The DHPA has now taken custody of the skull, has “instructed the Precision
Pipeline company to cease excavation where the skull was uncovered,” and
“will be analyzing the remains to determine the age and origin of the
skull,” the statement said.
Under IC 14-21, DHPA may authorize the continuation of “ground disturbance
activity”--after a burial ground has been uncovered--“with or without
conditions.” Such authorization may require “that ground disturbance
activity be in accordance with an approved plan.”