Skull discovery surprise for beachcomber

Beachcomber Alan Clark, of Greenhills, points to the pile of rocks which now covers the spot...
Beachcomber Alan Clark, of Greenhills, points to the pile of rocks which now covers the spot where he came across a cranium (the top part of a human skull) along from Omaui Beach towards the former signal station pilot’s house at the entrance to New River Estuary. PHOTOS: JENET GELLATLY
A Greenhills man was taken aback when he discovered a human skull while out walking with his family at Omaui Beach.

It was meant to be a quiet Boxing Day ramble for Alan Clark, his daughters and spouses who were visiting between Christmas and New Year.

A beachcomber for many years, Mr Clark said although he had walked along the stretch of rocky coastline from the beach towards the former signal station pilot’s house near the entrance to New River Estuary regularly, he had felt drawn to the spot where he discovered the cranium exposed to the elements — on an eroded bank.

"It wasn’t an area I would normally look at.

"Normally I would walk straight past, but this time I went straight to it ... I was drawn to it."

Protruding from the eroded bank was the top of a human skull.

While Mr Clark was shocked, his daughters, Sally and Sara, were "quite excited about it".

Along from Omaui Beach where the human skull was found protruding from the exposed earth  bank....
Along from Omaui Beach where the human skull was found protruding from the exposed earth bank. The area to the right of the photo has since been covered by rocks.
"Sally phoned the local police officer [Constable Peter Jenkins] in Bluff."

He then travelled to the Omaui car park, and walked down a farmer’s driveway to the spot to investigate, Mr Clark said.

"He came with a plastic bag, presumably to take the skull away."

However, although the skull was exposed, part of it was encased in the bank.

"The officer cordoned the site off for the night for other police to come down later."

It was then they removed the skull, he said.

Detective Sergeant Chris Lucy confirmed the skull was of a pre-European.

Nothing was considered suspicious, "other than it’s come out of the ground due to erosion".

Although unsure what procedure police undertook at the time of skull’s discovery, Det Sgt Lucy said in the past photographs were normally sent to pathologists to seek recommendations, to identify what species the bone belonged to and roughly date the items.

Police did not find a jaw bone or any other bones in the area where the skull was found, he said.

A police spokesman said the site appeared to be an ancient burial ground and the skull had been given to Te Rau Aroha Marae Te Runaka O Awarua Kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga in Bluff.

Mr Whaanga was unable to be contacted.

Opposite the long, expansive Oreti Beach, separated by the entrance to the New River Estuary, the peaceful village of Omaui and surrounds which now had up to 40 cribs and permanent residents had previously been inhabited by humans for hundreds of years — from Maori to European whalers.

However over the past few years, the beach, 25km south of Invercargill, and coastline had been continually eroded.


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