Them bones: Not illegal to sell or donate, but police still question

We have heard of a few strange and valuable items donated to thrift stores. This is a new one. Human skulls.

Human skulls donated to thrift store; donor sought.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office in Seattle is asking for the public’s help to find who donated three human skulls to a thrift store.

There is no information about who donated the skulls to a Goodwill in Bellevue, Washington, or how they came to be in the donor’s possession.

The third skull is very old and appears to be the fragile remains of a Native American child.

According to Washington state law, the Native American skull must be returned to its tribe of origin, but the medical examiner needs more information to identify the correct tribe.

The two other skulls were from adults and used in medical training. The donor is asked to come forward to provide more information about the skulls, and will not face any penalties for it. Surprisingly, there is only one explicit federal law that prevents the trade in human remains, and that is for Native Americans. The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act protects against looting Native American gravesites. No federal law prohibits the disturbance of the burial sites of other people. Only New York, Georgia and Tennessee laws restrict trade in human remains. However, if the remains come from a criminal case or are obtained by grave robbing, then that is problematic in general.

Ebay has a policy about human remains saying “The sale of humans and human remains is prohibited by law, and sellers can’t list them on eBay.” But that is not accurate.

UPDATE (21-July-2014) Skull-donation mystery leads others to turn in human remains | Local News | The Seattle Times. No word on whom the remains belong to but others have turned in human bones to make sure they get proper treatment.

  2 comments for “Them bones: Not illegal to sell or donate, but police still question

  1. brian
    July 11, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    Funny, because I was thinking about this today, since I work at Goodwill. A few months ago I found cremated remains in a box, which my coworker dumped in the prairie dog field next to the store. Grampa got donated and is now part of the circle of life. Apparently another one was found before I’d worked there which somebody put a price on and put on the floor (don’t know what happened to that one). No actual bones or body parts though (yet).

    Also, the link to the original story isn’t working.

  2. Ben Radford
    July 11, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Interesting… thanks, Sharon!

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