News

Skull saved from auction isn't from Battle of Gettysburg

Written by WITF Staff Report and The Associated Press | Feb 6, 2015 9:09 AM
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Photo by Tim Lambert/WITF

(Washington) -- Smithsonian Institution anthropologists are throwing dirt on the notion that a human skull saved from an auction last year belonged to a Civil War soldier. 

Experts who examined the skull believe it belonged to a young Native American man who lived about 700 years ago in Arizona or New Mexico. 

The skull was among some purported Civil War artifacts offered for sale in Hagerstown, Maryland, last June.

Auctioneer Tom Taylor of Hershey says the skull came with a notarized document stating it was found two miles north of Gettysburg near a barn that was used as a field hospital during the 1863 battle.

“When we learned of these remains in June we were immediately interested in their respectful treatment, whether they were from a soldier who died at Gettysburg or not,’ says Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Ed Clark. “This result is not what we expected but we stand by our commitment to be respectful of these remains, fulfill our responsibilities, and find the best course of action for their final resting place.”

The auction was canceled amid protests from the National Park Service and others.

The National Park Service at  Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Foundation are determining Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act responsibilities and the appropriate disposition of the remains.

“Our intent has always been to do the right thing with and for the remains,” says Joanne M. Hanley, President of the Gettysburg Foundation. “When the Foundation accepted the skull as a donation, it was the right thing to do to protect it from auction on the open market. We will continue to do the right thing with its future disposition to ensure respect and dignity.”

NPS special agents and law enforcement rangers from Gettysburg National Military Park conducted an investigation to determine the provenance of the remains and it continues pending any new information that may come forward.

An examination of the 13 artifacts that were to be sold with the skull determined that a number were not authentic to the Civil War period, including a Louisiana stamped metal hat or cap plate which was post war, most likely made for souvenir purposes.

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