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  • Popplestone, Ann
    Scientists to Begin Studying Kennewick Man By WILLIAM McCALL, Associated Press WriterWed Jun 29, 9:44 AM ET After nearly a decade of court battles, scientists
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2005
      Scientists to Begin Studying Kennewick Man

      By WILLIAM McCALL, Associated Press WriterWed Jun 29, 9:44 AM ET

      After nearly a decade of court battles, scientists plan to begin
      studying the 9,300-year-old skeleton known as Kennewick Man next week.

      A team of scientists plans to examine the bones at the University of
      Washington's Burke Museum in Seattle beginning July 6, according to
      their attorney, Alan Schneider.

      Four Northwest Indian tribes had opposed the study, claiming the
      skeleton could be an ancestor who should be buried. The Interior
      Department and the Army Corps of Engineers had sided with the tribes.

      But a federal judge in Portland, backed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
      Appeals, ruled that the researchers could study the bones to determine
      how the man died and to find clues to prehistoric life in North America.

      "What they're getting is absolutely essential baseline information that
      has never been obtained for this skeleton," Schneider said Tuesday.

      The bones quickly attracted attention from scientists after they were
      found in 1996 on a Columbia River bank near Kennewick, Wash.

      The skeleton is one of the oldest and most complete skeletons ever found
      on the continent. The long, narrow shape of the skull shows
      characteristics unlike modern American Indians, raising questions that
      researchers hope to answer with extensive study.

      "Understanding human variation is really critical," said Cleone
      Hawkinson, Portland anthropologist who founded Friends of America's Past
      to support scientific access to the ancient remains. "We can't close off
      an entire chapter in history."

      She noted the eight anthropologists who filed the original lawsuit
      seeking access had to pay for their legal costs and the research, or
      seek funding for it. No government money was involved.

      "It's all coming out of the scientists' pockets," Hawkinson said.

      The researchers plan to do what is called a "taphonomic" examination of
      the skeleton, taking measurements and making observations about the
      processes that affect animal and plant remains as they become
      fossilized. Further study is planned based on the initial findings,
      Schneider said.

      "Taphonomy is really a forensic examination," Schneider said. "You try
      to determine everything that has affected the skeleton from day of death
      until you study it."

      A coalition of four tribes - the Umatilla, Yakama, Colville and Nez
      Perce - claimed the bones were covered by the Native American Graves
      Protection and Repatriation Act and belonged to the tribes.

      U.S. District Judge John Jelderks and the appeals court, however, ruled
      the tribes could prove no direct link to the bones and the act did not

      The tribes have appealed the most recent 9th Circuit ruling, but
      attorneys involved in the case and Jelderks' office said a decision
      still is pending. Calls to tribal officials were not immediately

      Legislation remains under consideration in Congress that would allow
      federally recognized tribes to claim ancient remains even if they cannot
      prove a link to a current tribe.


      On the Net:

      Friends of America's Past: http://www.friendsofpast.org

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