The Skull

"Over here," Cessair said. We were in a shady glen, a grotto carved out into the bank of the creek, about fifteen feet below the street level. "There had been at least two skulls found here. The first in early 1922, in April or May, by a student named Bruce Seymore. He found the skull sticking out of those gravels right here" -- she walked across the creek to a bank of gravel and pointed up about 6 feet above the ground. Her hair had a faint carrot color and I found myself gazing at her as she stretched. There was something sad and even ironical in her voice, a distance and gentle courtesy; her largish body moved in a way that was almost mechanical, as if on command of that distant voice. It was evident that she was much in a separate world, and I found myself wanting to be part of it.

"He took the skull to Professor Willis of the geology department who advised a friend of his, Doctor Alex Hrdlicka, of the National Museum. It said:

"My Dear Doctor Hrdlicka: Although it is more than 12 years since you and I rejuvenated an ancient man in South America, you are, I notice, still interested in our older inhabitants and I would, therefore, call your attention to a skull, which we have recently found in the alluvial gravels of this immediate vicinity..."

"You memorized the letter."

"Well it just seemed to be a bit poetical. Don't you think that people wrote beautifully in those days. I mean just about everyday things...." She paused and poked at the gravel in the bank. There were bits of charcoal mixed with it. Carbon datable, I thought.

"Those were the days when your manner of speaking established your credentials to engage in scholarship. It was supposed to sound as if it were translated from latin."

"Anyway the doctor wrote back saying that he thought that the skull was probably not much older than ten thousand years, humans of those days being at best very scarce on the continent. Professor Willis had judged that the geological deposits in which the skull was found werer more than four thousand years old. Considering the scarcity of absolute dating in those days, these estimates, bracketing it between four and ten thousand yeasr old, are really very good, as subsequent events were to show."

"In the spring of 1963 part of a human vertabra was exposed on the other side of the creek, this side, at a depth of sixteen and a half feet. The skeleton was excavated by Professor Bert Gerow and some students who discovered it to be a young man who had been buried oriented North seventy degrees east and was buried with three points, arrowheads that is, of Monterey chert, two rodent incisors, an eccentric pebble of probable marine origin, and a fragment of the milk canine of a large carnivore, probably a bear. There was enough charcoal to date the burial at 4350 and 4400 years before present. He was buried sixteen feet below the level of the present ground. Has there been that much new gravel deposited here the last 4400 years?"

"2400 BC. A thousand years before the fall of Troy. Probably the sea level was a little lower, but not much. Sounds about right. So you are here to find some more evidence? Is that what you've been sketching?"

"To think about it some more, I guess. I guess something happened. On the face of it this guy was buried sixteen feet in the ground. I don't believe it though. They certainly didnt dig a grave that deep."

"I'm impressed. It makes one believe in the value of an education."

"Do you really think so?"

She was looking directly into my eyes, and I realized that until now she had been wearing dark sunglasses and now had taken them off. For a vertiginous moment it seemed that a door to another world had opened.

Photographs of the San Francisquito Creek skull discovered in 1922 (and rediscovered by Cessair in the University archives) were the subject of much scholarly correspondence between Bailey Willis of Stanford University and various archaeologists. One senses that an objective of this academic interest was to demonstrate the antiquity of man, thus denying the prospect of special creation. See Gerow for background on these finds.

We have since learned that applying a dendrology-based correction factor of 650 years to this date yields a calendar date of

Copyright 1996 Kirribili Press. Return to Scientific Summary Chronological Index Ignatius Donnelly and the End of the World