Jawbone likely not that of Ka Loko victim

A human jawbone was discovered on Anahola Beach Saturday morning.

Randy Charter and his wife, Sylvie, were on their normal Saturday morning stroll looking for sea glass when they noticed something unusual at the waterline.

“It was at the low tide line, just sticking out of the sand,” Charter said. “At first we didn’t believe it.”

Charter, an Anahola resident, said he picked up the object with his T-shirt and later placed it in a Ziploc bag.

“It’s definitely human,” said Nancy McMahon of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

McMahon is the DLNR’s lead archeologist to Kaua’i and Molokai.

Specifics of the object will not be known until McMahon has had a chance to conduct an examination, though she said she does not think it is from one of the four missing victims of the Ka Loko dam break last month. “My first guess would be that it is from an ancient Hawaiian burial,” she said.

The mandible, or lower jaw-bone, still contained six molars that appeared to be in good shape, a condition that would be unusual for Hawaiian burials, McMahon said.

“Worn-down molars would (suggest) a Hawaiian burial,” she said. “They chewed a lot of root crops.”

However, several other signs pointed to an older object, such as it’s dark color and the fact that the front teeth appear to have fallen out post-mortem, McMahon said.

Looking at color, moisture, structure and the condition of the tooth sockets, McMahon can often determine the approximate age of the bone, as well as the age and sometimes the sex of the deceased.

If the object is less than 50 years old, it goes to the police for comparison to any missing persons files. If it is older than 50 years, McMahon will begin the painstaking process of trying to determine its origin.

McMahon said there are several ancient burial sites in and around Anahola and that her office gets calls about bones “all the time.”

Though nine out of 10 turn out to be animal, she said the recent high winds and surf have probably disturbed several ancient burial grounds in the area.

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