Scientific Analysis of Kennewick Man to Begin

Article excerpt

According to an AP wire story dated February 25, 1999, following a heated controversy over what should be done with the remains of Kennewick Man, considered the oldest and most complete human skeleton found in the Northwest and one of the oldest in North America, a team of six anthropologists and archaeologists will be allowed to study the bones to determine the ancestry of the 9,300 year-old man. According to team leader Francis McManamon, an archaeologist for the National Park Service, "Today really does mark an important achievement, the reaching of an important milestone, as we begin to establish a scientific baseline for answering some of the questions that relate to these remains."

The problem for scientists has been that the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act allows Native American activists to demand the reburial of remains before their scientific analysis. (See Kenneth Feder's article on "Indians and Archaeologists" in Vol.5, #3.) For some Native Americans, their ancestors were "created" separately in North America and are not related to other human groups. Their "evidence" for this belief is Native American creation myths. Thus, the scientific study of ancient human remains potentially threatens these creation myths, and therefore NAGPRA gives them a legal means to prevent scientific research. …