Ancient skulls found in Winter Garden puzzle experts

At first, it appeared to be a discovery with sinister implications: Two skulls unearthed by a swimming pool contractor in a Winter Garden neighborhood.

Now, the human remains are the focus of an archaeological mystery.

The skulls, about a dozen pottery shards and textiles were discovered in the sand in January— a finding that left a team of anthropologists and archaeologists scrambling to figure out how the items came to rest there.

Experts have learned a lot about the artifacts since they were found, but a key question remains: How did they get there?

“This is definitely a secondary burial site,” said Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia.

Pieces of shredded English-language newspaper, dated March 16, 1978, were found alongside the artifacts and added to the mystery.

“We know that they were not placed in that location until after that date,” said Dr. John Schultz, a University of Central Florida anthropology professor who assisted Garavaglia with the remains.

Garavaglia and Schultz examined the skulls a day after they were discovered and knew almost immediately they were not dealing with forensic remains, but something much older.

They contacted Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research to obtain permission to keep the remains for further study.

The bones held clues about their origin. An extra bone present in the back of one of the craniums is known as the “Inca bone.”

The smaller cranium had bits of mummified tissue affixed to it. Both pieces of evidence pointed to South America.

After X-rays were taken, Schultz and Garavaglia determined the skulls belonged to an older man and a child who was about 10 years old.

The textiles — an intricately woven purse, a sling and a netted carrying bag — and the pottery are consistent with the Chancay culture of coastal Peru and date back to between 1200 to 1470 A.D., Schultz said.

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