GONZALEZ, Fla. (WALA) - A team of forensic anthropologists have been excavating a skeleton found under an oak tree in Gonzalez, Fla.
Rita Rose said she got the surprise of her life when the discovery was made.
"I really couldn't believe it, you know? It was really unbelievable. I could not imagine," said Rose.
Hurricane Ivan took down an old oak tree next Rose's house. Her fiancé Phil Fischler was hosing off the roots so they could clear it away when he hit something.
"One of the gentleman that was helping me reached down there and grabbed what we thought was a ball and when he pulled it out it was a human skull," said Fischler.
Fischler brought it inside so they could see it under the light. They were sure it was a human skeleton. Rose and Fishler's suspicions were confirmed when Rose went for a closer look under the tree the next day.
"I went out there, and I was looking at the roots of that tree, and I saw a set of teeth," said Rose.
Rose has always been interested in the history of her property, but she never thought she would come face to face with it.
"I've been here 40 years and I did not know that he was out there under the tree," said Rose.
Dr. Joanne Curtin, associate professor of anthropology at University of West Florida, and her crew have determined the skeleton is a male who died in his twenties. She said it is no more than a couple of hundred years old, but it is certainly historic.
"It's just incredibly serendipitous that it was ever discovered. If Mr. Fischler had not hosed the roots of this tree, the entire tree trunk would have been ground down and it would have been lost forever," said Curtin.
Rose is curious about what else lies on her property, but is not in a hurry to find out.
"I have definitely wondered about it, but I just hope they don't unearth anything else. One is enough," said Rose.
Rose's property was once part of the Gonzalez land grant and has several military connections. With the bones now at the U.W.F. lab, she is hoping to find out about her mysterious neighbor.
The anthropologists have recovered the skull, a number of teeth, parts of the vertebrae, some hip bones and a little bit of the shoulder.
Along with the bones they have found several brass buttons.
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