Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 6, 2019
Leisurely walk turns into anthropological discovery
by Monique Labbe
Darby French is one of a handful of neighbors at Oak Point, at the end of Reach Road, who were privy to an anthropological investigation last month after one of those neighbors found a bone protruding from the ground along the water while on a walk.
“We’ve had so much rain, and the ground has been eroded, which was why the bone was sticking up the way it was,” said French.
At first sight, it was difficult for the untrained eye to determine if the bone was animal or human, so a photo was taken and sent to the Maine State Police. A deputy came by to take a look the following day and said that it was human, and the next day a team was on site to do a further investigation.
Forensic anthropologist Marcella Sorg was part of that team. A research professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maine in Orono, Sorg is the one called in by the State Police when situations like this one arise.
The crew was there for about four hours, according to French, and discovered not only the leg bone that had been found originally, but also a skull cap, hip bone, and a couple others. Preliminary findings were that the bones were of Native American descent, and female. It is also thought the bones could be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.
The bones have since been sent for further examination to the University of Maine, where Sorg will work with Dr. Arthur Spiess to solidify their origins, as part of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner’s investigation, according to Sorg. Spiess is an archaeologist with the State Historic Preservation Office.
“At that point, if the final determination is that they are Native American, Dr. Spiess will make the appropriate contacts with the Wabanaki community,” said Sorg.
For French, the story is not only about the discovery of the bones, but of the history of the land she and her neighbors live on.
“Over the last few days, it has made me love this spot that we have even more,” she said. “It’s like we’re on sacred ground. It’s a pretty cool thing.”