SOUTH BEND - A group who spent a recent afternoon hoping to find antiques buried deep in the ground such a bottles or old coins were, instead, greeted by a human skeleton.
One that possibly could have laid undisturbed for more than 100 years.
The diggers uncovered the skeleton Oct. 6 behind a home in the 100 block of South Chapin Street near Studebaker National Museum.
IUSB archaeologists are currently examining the bones and will report their findings to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at a later date.
Archaeologists confirmed the skeleton possibly could date to the late 1800s or early 1900s and was likely used as a medical specimen to, perhaps, teach students.
Although police made the scene, the investigation was quickly turned over to archaeologists.
“Everyone agrees that it’s historical, not sinister,” South Bend police Capt. Phil Trent said.
Archaeologists determined the skeleton was likely used as a teaching tool because bones were tied together with copper wiring, coupled with the fact they were painted a yellowish color, likely to help preserve them.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources also made the scene to investigate, as well as IUSB archaeologist professors and students, led by James VanderVeen. Two members of the IUSB faculty are on the state’s list of licensed and approved archeologists.
At the request of the DNR, IUSB took the bones from the site to the archaeology department.
VanderVeen said Thursday archaeologists at IUSB are continuing to analyze the recovered material - including the skeleton and the skull - for a report to be sent to the DNR at a latter time. The examination will determine the sex, age at death, descent and any other information necessary or available, he said.
VanderVeen added such investigations are legally required at such finds.
IUSB first made the site with a permit and excavated several bones, which were laid out on a tarp.
Three students and two colleagues accompanied VanderVeen in recovering the skeleton, and other associated burial goods, which included the remains of a wooded box with hardware and lined with a fabric that served as a casket.
Many of the bones, VanderVeen noted, were drilled with holes and copper wire, while the skill was sawed in half.
VanderVeen said he believes the skeleton was isolated, and added there is no reason to believe other skeletons are at the site. There are no future plans to dig there, he said.
The hole, which was more than 10 feet deep, police said, has since been filled in.
Amy Johnson, an archaeologist with the DNR, said they receive several reports each year of such finds.
Johnson encouraged people to contact the DNR when discoveries are made.
“Discoveries can happen just about anytime,” Johnson said. “There are a number each year reported to our office. It can be a variety of different things. The initial investigation (in South Bend) appear does not appear to be highly unusual or unique in terms of a unique archaeology site.
“But archaeologist have a lot of study to do on the human remains. They’ll do some historical research on the history of the property And this time, it doesn’t appear eligible for state or national registry.”
The Victorian house, just south of Copshaholm, was built in 1879 and was featured two years ago on NBC’s “The Today Show” highlighting South Bend’s bargain house prices.
According to a police report, the diggers who uncovered the skeleton included South Bend police officer Jim Wolfe, who is known to search for rare antiques.
It is unclear who currently owns the property.
Staff writer Tom Moor: