If you happen to dig up a bone on your property, Alf’s advice is to keep quiet about it.
Especially if it is a somewhat bigger bone than your dog might have buried.
The trouble with finding bones is that they might be human.
And the trouble with finding they might be human bones is that you will then have an army of busy-bodies crawling all over your property, mumbling prayers, engaging in anthropological digging and otherwise being a pain in the arse.
It is understandable that the cops should want to show an interest. Who knows what foul deed might have been committed?
The cops, of course, will have to call on a pathologist.
But a small army of other tossers will want to invade your patch, too.
That’s what has happened in Hamilton in recent days, although Alf is happy to concede that in this case the property-owner is relaxed about the home invasion triggered by the discovery.
The Herald tells the story here.
Two children playing at their Hamilton home discovered what could be a 100-year-old human bone.
Sarah Nathan said she was surprised when her children presented her with the bone, which they had found in a dirt bank at their MacDiarmid Rd home in Beerescourt while playing on Monday.
They initially thought it was from an animal but a pathologist said it was a human thigh bone.
“It is just in an area under the house where we store building materials,” said Ms Nathan.
“The kids were digging around in the dirt and it was just sticking out and they pulled it out.”
Hmm. Naturally, the cops will want to establish whose bone it is, how old it is and anything else to explain how it got there.
At this stage of the investigation, obviously, we don’t know if this is a Maori bone or a non-Maori bone.
With luck, the bones you are dig up on your property will be recognisable instantly as non-Maori bones.
If they are Maori bones, all sorts of iwi demands are likely to be made of you.
In this case, where the identity of the bone is a complete mystery, the local iwi default position seems to be to treat it as a Maori bone, anyway.
Alf makes this observation because –
Ms Nathan said a kaumatua went to their home yesterday morning and said a karakia to bless the site.
The Herald report does not tell us if Ms Nathan and/or her husband are Maori.
Nor does it tell us if she had felt a powerful urge to have the site blessed, and a kaumatua happened to be passing by, or whether he turned up uninvited.
But whatever the cleansing powers of the kaumatua’s prayers, the Hamilton City Council was taking no chances.
They sent in a bloody building inspector.
And he checked the site to ensure it was safe for an ESR forensic team to examine the scene.
Police are consulting a number of experts who they hope will help aid in determining the age and identification of the bone.
Detective Senior Sergeant Karl Thornton, from the Hamilton CIB, is on the case.
He tells us one of the key challenges faced by the inquiry team is that initial analysis gives no clues about the age of the bone, which appeared to be between 20 and 100 years old.
“Coupled with that we are not aware of any burial sites or missing persons that could be directly linked to this discovery,” said Mr Thornton.
But will anyone else become involved?
Mr Thornton said the Historic Places Trust has been advised and the bone would be subjected to further analysis by a forensic anthropologist.
In the report on this carry-on at Stuff, Ms Nathan is described as Mrs Nathan and we learn her husband’s name is Hamish.
She is quoted there as saying she was as surprised as anyone to find a bone removed from a dirt bank underneath her Beerescourt home.
“It’s certainly an extraordinary thing that has happened and we will be as interested as anyone else out there to learn the origins of the bone and if there are anymore remains to be uncovered.
“While conscious that this is an unusual event we ask that our privacy be respected, after all this is a person’s remains and we would like this person to be treated with the dignity they deserve.”
Mrs Nathan seemed remarkably grateful for the home invasion.
This was an unusual situation to find oneself in, she said, but the information provided by the various agencies involved had done a lot to ease her family’s mind.
“A Kaumatua came to our home and provided a beautiful blessing of the site this morning and the Police and other agencies have been fantastic to deal with in relation to informing us what was taking place and what was likely to occur from here on in.”
Personally, Alf would have wrapped up the bone in plenty of newspaper and put it in the rubbish bin to avoid fuss of this sort.
One day, perhaps, someone would have dug up the bone at the local rubbish dump.
And then the cops could have done their thing, and the kaumatua could have delivered his blessing, the building inspector could have done his inspecting, and the pathologist could have done his examining, and the anthropologists could have dug up the whole of the tip.
But none of that would have disturbed Alf, unless he had been careless enough to leave some DNA evidence on the newspaper when he wrapped the bone.