Skull found in crabpot in 2014 determined to be 2,300 years old

Unusual ‘catch’ landed off Westport

Scientists have determined that a skull found in a crab pot off the coast two years ago dates back about 2,300 years, Grays Harbor County Coroner Lane Youmans said last week.

The skull was discovered by a fisherman in late February 2014 about three miles offshore and southwest of Grays Harbor and was turned over to the FBI for DNA analysis. A sample of it was sent to Beta Analytics in Miami for radiocarbon dating. An earlier report indicated the DNA profile showed the sample was from a female.

Returning to descendants

“The lab analyzed the sample and determined it to be approximately 2,300 years old … around 360 to 400 B.C.,” Youmans said. “The remains will be turned over to Dr. Guy Tasa … the Washington State Physical Anthropologist in Olympia … so he can release them to the appropriate tribe.”

Tasa, Youmans said, researches where remains are found and compares that to the information he has gathered on where various Native American tribes were living so it can be returned to the proper descendants.

Youmans said there have been several other Native American remains recovered over the years from the coastal area, most notably when the Quinault Beach Casino was putting in a sewer line and uncovered a burial site. But none of the finds are as old as the skull found near Westport.

“I was told those remains were 800 to 1,200 years old,” he said.

Additional information on the placement with the appropriate tribe will be released when it becomes available.

Skull finder

While on what would normally be a routine trip out to harvest his crab catch on Feb. 21, 2014, Westport resident Phil Westrick pulled a pot that contained a bizarre surprise in the form of the human skull.

The pot was a little more than two miles off the coast at a depth of 90-100 feet, and according to Westrick, had been on the bottom for about a week.

He owns the charterboat Ultimate that he skippers during the recreational fishing season and then uses for crab fishing during the winter.

Immediately following his discovery, Westrick called Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor to report the find. The station shared the information with the Westport Police Department, which then notified the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy met the Ultimate when it docked to take possession of the skull.

According to Undersheriff Dave Pimentel, the skull was then sent to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office where it was verified as human. It is believed to have belonged to a younger person who has been deceased for some time. The King County Medical Examiner sent the skull on to the FBI for further analysis and priority DNA testing, which then resulted in the skull sample being sent to Beta Analytics.

Rumors rampant

As news spread of Westrick’s find, rumors ran rampant throughout Grays Harbor County that it could be the skull of McCleary resident Lindsey Baum, who went missing June 26, 2009 after leaving a friend’s house in her neighborhood. She was 10 at the time. That case has yet to be solved.

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on April 4, 2014, that DNA analysis by the FBI determined that the skull was female, but did not match that of the missing girl. The DNA profile also was entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), but no matches were found.

Westrick relieved

Westrick was relieved and delighted to learn that the origin of the skull has been determined.

“There was so much speculation back then,” he said. “People thought up all kinds of crazy things. Some said it had to be Lindsey Baum, some speculated that it came from a crewman who fell off a cargo ship and some even believed that it came from one of the graves at the old North Cove Cemetery that was washed away many years ago.

“To find out where the skull actually came from is cool and to know that it will now travel full circle and be returned to whatever tribe it came from is a really good thing,” he said.