A five-inch portion of a human skull was found by a recreational diver on Monday morning, police said.
The skull fragment includes part of the upper jaw and several teeth with what appears to be gold bridgework, said Capt. Tom Porter of the Juneau Police Department.
The diver was diving off the steamship wharf in about 40 feet of water. It's a popular diving area, because of material discarded from cruise ships such as bottles and plates.
"He found more than he expected," Porter said. "He found what appeared to be a cranium. After he examined it on the lightering dock, he called us at 11:20 a.m."
The skull appears to be more than a few weeks old, but less than a century old, police said. No identifying material was found near it.
The police department has taken the skull for investigation. Their initial inquiry will start locally, then expand.
"If we don't get anything from local dentists, we will spread out," Porter said.
DNA testing is a possibility, he said. Existing missing-person reports didn't mention gold bridgework. The police will check old files and unsolved Alaska homicides. Finally, officers will comb federal missing-person reports.
Su Lachelt of Channel Dive Center said that Southeast Aquatic Safety, Juneau's volunteer nonprofit dive rescue team, will cooperate with the police in an attempt to find more remains in the area where the skull was found.
The diver who found the skull was a member of a pod of SEAS divers diving together, said Joe Graham, city port director.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.