(WINTER GARDEN, Fla.) — The discovery of two skulls in a Florida backyard sparked questions of intrigue and murder when they were found in January, but now investigators say the origin of the bones is even more mysterious than they thought.
The two skulls, of a 10-year-old boy and older man, date to 1200 to 1400, and show signs of being from Peru or South America, thousands of miles and a millennium from Winter Garden, Fla.
“The mystery is how they ended up there,” medical examiner Jan Garavaglia said Monday. “We don’t have any way of finding out.”
The skulls were discovered in January when a plumber installing an in-ground pool came upon a piece of bone and reported it to the police.
Garavaglia determined immediately that the bone was from the face of a young child, aged 10 or 11, and alerted authorities that because of human tissue found still intact on the bone, it could be a recently-deceased child, buried illegally. The skulls were found with shards of pottery and textiles and a scrap of newspaper dated 1978.
The bones, it turned out, had a lengthier history than the 30 years or so since they were buried in Florida. When x-rayed by the medical examiner’s office, it was clear that the bones were hundreds of years old, and that the human tissue on the cheek of the skull had been mummified. The skulls featured an “Inca bone,” a telltale sign of a human from the Incan culture of Peru, Garavaglia said.
“This was clearly a secondary burial site,” she said.
Garavaglia enlisted the help of archaeologists and anthropologists from the University of Central Florida and Yale to try and trace the origins of the skulls. Researchers identified cloth items found with the bones as that of primitive slings and purses made of woven materials and non-human hair.
What the researchers cannot figure out, and Garavaglia says they probably will not figure out, is how the items came to be buried in Florida.
The archaeologists and anthropologists will continue to research the bones, which will become part of published scientific studies. Ultimately, the skulls could be returned to Peru.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio