Published: 10:43 AM - 10-18-11
Anthropologists at Texas State University are studying the skull of a Native American man that fishermen found at the edge of the water on Lake Georgetown on Monday.
The skull could be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years old, said Kate Spradley, an assistant professor of anthropology at the university who has examined it.
"It is likely prehistoric because of a number of features," she said.
The three molars remaining on the skull are "completely worn down due to a very gritty diet," she said. The diet would have consisted of unprocessed foods, she said.
The skull also has features that are very "male," she said, including a brow ridge and wide cheekbones, she said.
Spradley said she cannot determine how the man died but said that a side of the skull is missing.
"It looks like postmortem damage, but it's hard to tell if it was trauma associated with the death or it happened after death," she said. The man was probably middle-aged because some of the lines that form when the human skull grows together are obliterated, she said.
It's not unusual to find the remains of Native Americans in the area, she said. Lake Georgetown is near the famous Gault site, halfway between Georgetown and Fort Hood, said Steve Black, an anthropology professor at Texas State. Scientists have found thousands of artifacts at the Gault site, including spear points of the Clovis people, thought to be some of the earliest human inhabitants of the New World 13,000 years ago.
It is hard to determine what tribe the man might have belonged to, Spradley said. Historical records were not established until the arrival of the Spanish, who established missions near Rockdale in the mid-18th century, said Pat Mercado-Allinger, the state archaeologist for the Texas Historical Commission.
The fishermen found the man's skull Monday in a cove near Russell Park, on the north shore of the lake, about 1½ miles from a swimming area, Terbush said. Lake levels in that area are lower because of the drought, he said.
Police were notified at 1 p.m. Monday. Investigators initially regarded the case as a suspicious death, and one of the possibilities they later considered — before one of the Texas State anthropologists examined the skull — was that it might be related to the 2002 disappearance of Rachel Cooke, Terbush said.
Cooke, 19, was last seen jogging near where her family lives, northwest of Georgetown about two miles from where the skull was found, Terbush said. Authorities dragged the lake when she disappeared, he said.
Spradley said she thinks the skull was originally embedded in the bank of the lake.
"For something in the water to be that well preserved makes me think it was buried," she said.