Three human skulls donated to a Goodwill thrift store in Washington state last month have sparked an investigation into who exactly donated the remains and where they came from.
An unidentified donor gave the skulls — two of which appear to be adult craniums and one of which is in line with that of a Native American child — to a Goodwill shop in Bellevue, Washington, in June, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
But when employees there realized the bones were actual human heads, they turned them over to the medical examiner's office.
Officials said the smaller skull appears to be more than 100 years old, possibly from a Native American child who died at about 10 years old, the Seattle Times reported
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Kathy Taylor, a forensic anthropologist with the King County Medical Examiner's Office, told the Times that state law requires that the Native American skull be returned to its tribe of origin, but first more information is needed.
"The bone is very old, very dark, and very fragile," Taylor told the newspaper. "There were also cultural indications that matched Native American practices."
Taylor said Native American bones are found from time to time, but she admitted that having a skull donated to a Goodwill store is a bit unusual.
"Usually they are found when banks by the water or forests erode," she said. "In those cases we have provenance, or a place where we know they were originally buried to return them to. But when one turns up in Goodwill, we don't have that direction to give us an idea of where to go."
The two adult skulls appeared to have been previously used at a medical clinic or for instruction purposes, the Times noted, because they were bleached and wired together at parts.
"They looked like what you think of when you think about a skull in your biology class," Taylor told the Times.
Goodwill spokeswoman Katherine Boury told the Times that the skulls are one of the oddest donations for the thrift store, which has received its share of uncommon gifts.
"We get a lot of unusual donations," she said. "We get people's ashes in the urn. We get people's gold teeth. And, on a more positive note, last year we had someone bring in a Louis Vuitton trunk, but this is the first human skull I can remember."
The medical examiner's office is asking the person who donated the skulls to come forward to provide more details, but specified that there will be no penalty.
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