Mummy found in south Lake County could be 2,000 years old

Forensic anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki and University of Indianapolis graduate students look for clues as investigators seek to identify bones at an excavation site in Hammond in 2011. He's been called in to investigate mummified remains that were found at the site of the Singleton Quarry southeast of Lowell.

John J. Watkins | The Times

Land surveyors discovered a mummy that could be 2,000 years old on the site of the controversial Singleton Stone quarry in south Lake County, and archaeologists will investigate whether they stumbled onto a Native American burial ground.

And that wasn't even the only set of old remains to turn up in Lake County. A Highland man was digging in his yard at the 8100 block of East Fourth Place on Friday when he found what appeared to be remains, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

At this point it's unclear what type of remains the Highland resident dug up, but the coroner's office and the Highland Police Department are investigating.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office got called out Friday by archaeologists digging at the site of a planned quarry at 18900 Clay St., southeast of Lowell in Eagle Creek Township. South Lake County farmers and residents long have vocally opposed the Singleton Stone quarry, which Rieth-Riley intends to mine for a concrete aggregate that's used in road construction and which also would be used as a giant retention pond when the Singleton Ditch gets too full.

A team of archaeologists at the site found what appeared to be mummified human remains that have been there for hundreds of years. 

"They're saying it could be 500 to 2,000 years old," Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said. "They could distinguish a head and a torso. It could be a Native American burial ground."

The archaeologists who found the remains had been hired by Cardno Environmental Consultation Co. to search for pre-historic artifacts at the site, which is required in order to get permits for such excavation projects. The sheriff's office and coroner's office were called out to the scene and quickly established the possible human remains were not related to a crime scene, Coroner Merrilee Frey said.

"I contacted and consulted with Dr. Krista Latham and Dr. Stephen Nawrocki, both board certified forensic anthropologists with University of Indianapolis, and together they determined the findings appear to be older than 1940, therefore neither the Lake County coroner's office or criminal investigations will be involved in this case," she said. "The artifacts found at the scene have been determined by the Cardno archaeologists at the scene to possibly be human remains but the exact age is still unknown at this time."

The state's archaeology department, which is part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is now handling the investigation, Frey said.

Even if a crime had been committed, it potentially would be hundreds of years too late to do anything about it, Buncich said.

"We handed it over to DNR because it's their bailiwick," he said. "They took the remains, and they're dealing with it now."

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.