Undesired find (13/15)
While experiencing history is a major motivation for detecting it is not the only one. Many of us seek adventures that a 9 to 5 job just cannot offer. Well, I had my adventure on that hill. Let me mention a totally unexpected find of the undesired kind.
I suggest that readers with young children looking at the screen stop reading NOW and check the rest of the chapter alone before resuming.
On that particular day I searched the western part of the search area. This spot was totally blank. My detector was so quiet that I checked it from time to time using the metal parts of my boots. No, the detector was fine. There were just hardly any metal parts in the ground.
Every detectorist will be familiar with this situation. As time goes by the attention wanes and you enter the “robot mode” mentioned above. You lose all track of time. Swinging the coil from left to right.. was it a good idea to search this lonely place?…right to left… you could have fun elsewhere instead of wasting your time here…left… the productive areas of these hill are probably all harvested… right…there is a round grey object of coconut size on the ground…left… wonder why someone hides 25 nails under a stone plate … right … something seems to be different …. but what? ….stop ….STOP. Good, you are awake. Now, what was this object? A children’s plastic ball maybe?
Here it is. An unknown round object, bright brown-grey, size of a big coconut.
Hmm, no, it is not a ball. Does not seem to be plastic either. Oh. I have an idea. But it cannot be, can it? I bowed down, took the object and turned it.
It was indeed a human skull.
What a bizarre situation. I was standing there with a human skull in my hands. But this was not Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this was reality. 30 seconds ago everything was normal and now nothing was normal anymore. Of course, I stopped detecting immediately. I went to my backpack, took the camera, made several pictures of the find and the scene, covered the skull with leaves, left the hill, went to the parking lot, and called the police.
Twenty minutes later a police officer arrived. We climbed up the hill. He asked whether I was a mushroom seeker and replied I was a relic seeker. Metal detector, World War 2, SS, several finds, blablabla. We arrived at the spot. When he was convinced that it really was a skull he called a senior officer. So we climbed down the hill and waited for this man to arrive.
I used the waiting time to call some friends over the cell phone and played the “You have 10 questions to find out what I found. I may just answer yes or no” game. Some succeeded while most did not-
45 minutes later the senior officer arrived. Again, we climbed the hill. He made some pictures and took the skull. I noticed he made the find scene pictures from the same angle I did. Again, I told my story and the historical background of the site. He was impressed by my find map and my scientific approach.
I also mentioned the two rib bones I had found weeks earlier and he wanted to see the find spot. While we went there I gave him a sort of historical sight seeing tour. On the right you see some foxholes, on the left I found an US combat knife etc. I was glad that I was able to assist the authorities.
On that day I learned a lot about police work. He told me that two people were missing in the county. Often people go to lonely places to commit suicide. They are usually found in the fall by mushroom seekers.
None of us had an idea concerning the age of the skull. He said that since summer 2003 was so very hot the soft tissue disappeared very quickly.
The find was made on a Saturday. It was crucial that the forensic lab had all human evidence Monday morning. So I agreed to turn in the rib bones the next day, Sunday. They thanked me and we parted.
When the policemen saw how carefully I marked all find spots on my map they agreed to let me know the outcome of the examination given that there are no legal obstacles. On Monday afternoon 4 pm, two days after the find, I received a message from the senior officer on my cell phone mailbox. I called back and learned that the case was solved. No war victim, no suicide, no crime. The answer was very simple. Workers from a cemetery disposed the content of an old grave “in an incorrect way”. While that did not strengthen my trust in cemeteries I was happy that there was no dark secret. In contrast, the speed of the police work was impressive. And yes, the rib bones were human and had the same origin.
Though after the find I acted in a rational way I cannot say that the experience did not leave any traces. It needed several days until I was able to sleep properly again. I kept asking myself what to do in case I am offered the skull since it was too old to be of interest for the police. I would have brought it to a lonely slope facing to the east so he could “see” the rising sun. But the problem did not arise. The skull was buried by the authorities and the hill got his name.
(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.