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[whitespace] Human jawbone discovered in Cupertino yard

Bone believed to have belonged to a prehistoric Native American

Cupertino--While digging in the garden of her Cupertino home on Rae Lane, Maureen Sykora discovered a jawbone that looked suspiciously like that of a human being.

She reported the bone to the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff on June 19 .The Sheriff's Office transferred the bone to the county coroner's office, where Medical Examiner Marie Robinson inspected it. She decided that it most likely came from the remains of a prehistoric Native American, and gave it to anthropologist Lorna Pierce for further investigation.

Pierce said she couldn't say for sure yet whether the archaeological find in Sykora's garden represents a disturbed site, an instance of a transplanted bone, or a primary site. According to Mark Eastus, public information officer for the Sheriff's Office, the garden "doesn't appear to be the burial site." Eastus said the homeowner had recently bought some fill dirt, and thinks that the batch of soil may have contained the bone.

The jawbone, according to Pierce, contained three molars, each very worn. The wear pattern does not fit the typical pattern seen on the dentition of California prehistoric Native Americans, she says, but the wear does suggest a prehistoric diet. Because of this, she has suggested that the bone go to the California Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento, which normally deals with recovered Native American remains.

Pierce said she has not dated the bone, and added the decision lies with the commission and whomever they appoint to handle the remains.

Larry Myers, executive secretary for the commission, said in cases like these, the commission determines a "most likely descendant," and turns the remains over to them. According to Myers, missions kept extensive records of the lives of indigenous peoples, and the commission has used these records to trace lineage and determine the most likely descendants in cases like this one.

Once the commission has decided on the most likely descendant, that person makes a suggestion to the property owner on how they should handle the matter, which the property owner can either accept or reject.

Myers said the suggestion usually involves reburial on tribal land. However, if the property owner rejects the proposal, "the law calls for the remains to be reburied on the property in a place that won't be disturbed in the future," Myers said.
Kevin Fayle

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