Physical Anthropology

An Overview of Prehistoric America



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"Archeology and Anthropology in Court:
The Battle for the Kennewick Man"



For centuries the battle between science and cultures has been waged all over the world in courtrooms. The findings of anthropologists and archeologists vs. the tribes and cultures of the lands, which they excavate. One such battle has been steeping for almost a decade here in the United States. It's the battle over "The Kennewick Man".

This is a case where a prehistoric body was found and scientists wish to study this rare find, "because limited studies to date could not establish the link to modern peoples," (BBC par7) and the Native American Tribes of the Washington Area which to preserve their rights and traditions through properly burying the remains with ceremony and solace. The desecration of the body would be a black mark of the traditions of these tribes

The "Kennewick Man" was found purely by accident in 1996 when two boaters "came across the human remains in the shallows of the Columbia River in Kennewick, WA." (miller par1) Forensic specialists were called to examine the remains in hopes of discovering the origins of this person. The evidence would create a stir in the legal system nine thousand years in the making and would tie up the courts for more than ten years. The discovery was that of a mongoloid male that was believed to have inhabited the lands he was found in long before the pyramids were formed.

This discovery was important to scientist, as it would give them a "vital look at the prehistoric settling of North America." (miller par3) One of the questions on their mind was "What was this person doing here so long ago?" (miller par3) Scientists may never get a chance to have their questions answered.

In 2000 "the most important anthropological discovery ever made in the United States" (miller par2) had been put on hold and the stormy battle is still currently in court. As important as it is for scientists to study him, it is also important for the tribe of Native American Indians, who claim he's their ancestor, to bury him. This is the age old battle over one cultures traditions and beliefs vs. science.

In 2004 the "U.S. appeals court gave permission to scientists to study the 9,000 year old skeleton- despite the objections of some Native American Tribes". (BBC par1) Judge Ronald M. Gould who addressed that the bones "could only be considered Native American if they bear some relationship to presently existing tribes, people or culture" . (BBC par5) summarized the courts decision.

The war over the Kennewick Man still rages today as the decisions made in the Ninth Circuit Court are being considered for a rehearing. Who will win this tug-of-war, and how much longer will it continue? We will have to wait and watch.



Work Cited

BBC News/Americas, "Science wins ancient bones battle." BBC News., (2004).
MSN.com. Manatee Community College. Venice, Fl. 21 Jan. 2005
par1-18.

Miller, John J, "Save Kennewick Man!" N.Y. Post., (2000). FreeRepublic.com. Manatee
Community College. Venice, Fl. 21 Jan. 2005
par1-16.

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