By Mason Jones
A horrified beachgoer was stunned to discover a HUMAN SKULL while walking her dogs.
Helen Frost, 57, found the body part – which could be the remains of a shipwrecked sailor buried in an ‘unofficial cemetery’ – on East Head beach in Wittering, West Sussex, on Monday (January 30).
The skull, which has now been sent for forensic analysis by Sussex Police, appears to be missing the frontal region from above the eyes down to the jaw.
Helen, from Fishbourne, West Sussex, regularly scours the beach for items to use in art projects and only realised what she had found after posting it on social media.
Helen said: “We were out walking the dogs when I saw it. I make art from used objects found on the beach so I’m always looking for things.
“When I first saw it, my immediate thought was ‘what is that?’ – I’ve never seen something like it before.
“It may sound fanciful but I thought it could be the shell of some creature from afar – I had no idea it could be a skull. I touched it with my foot and found that it was hard and brittle.”
Artist Helen, who lives with her husband Alan, contacted police after people raised their concerns on social media.
The beachcomber said the damaged skull, which appears to have become discoloured with age, was around six by eight inches in size.
Helen said: “They said that they have taken it to an anthropologist to date so I think they must think it is quite old.
“I’m a bit squeamish so I’m glad that I didn’t bring it home.
“The fact that it was a skull makes it a bit more disturbing than if it was a thigh bone – the fact that it once had a face and a brain.
“Some people were concerned that it could be recent – the skull of a missing person – so I’m glad that it is looking like it is quite old.
“About seven or eight miles away there have been lots of Roman discoveries so it could well be related to that.
“I have seen some odd plastic objects and a lot of rubbish but not something like this.”
West Sussex has proved to be a hotbed of archaeological discoveries, with three near-complete Roman houses being found under a park in Chichester in January.
The nearby village of Fishbourne is also home to a first century Roman palace which houses the largest collection of mosaics in the UK.
Since 1974, five human skeletons have been found have been found on beaches in West Wittering.
Examination of two of the skulls, found in 1974 and 1975, suggested that they had been buried for over 100 years and were both males in their mid-fifties.
A collection of 18th century buttons found in the same vicinity helped date the body parts, and local experts have several theories about the ‘unofficial cemetery’.
It is believed that the bodies may have been the victims of a historic shipwreck, and were buried on the beach because the local parish did not want to take responsibility for the deceased.
Another theory is that they are the remains of prisoners held on ships in the harbour and buried in the sand rather than in a traditional graveyard if they died.
James Kenny, Archaeology Officer for Chichester District Council said: “The key things are where did it come from and, crucially, the date.
“It does look very old and looks to be worn by the sea but the radiocarbon dating will tell us that.”
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “Police were called at 10.34am on Monday (January 30) after a human skull was discovered at East Head on West Wittering beach.
“Local officers attended and a Scenes of Crime Officer collected the skull at around 1.20pm.
“At this stage it is not believed to be linked to any suspicious circumstances but has been sent away for forensic analysis.”