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Kennewick Man's Funeral: The Burying of Scientific Evidence

Elizabeth Weiss
Politics and the Life Sciences
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 13-18
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4236616
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Kennewick Man's Funeral: The Burying of Scientific Evidence
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Abstract

Kennewick Man, an early Holocene (9,000 years old) skeleton found in Washington State in 1996, has been a lightening rod for political discussion. Due to his alleged Caucasoid features, Kennewick Man controversially called into question who first peopled the Americas. A projectile point lodged in his hip also catapulted him to celebrity status. Spared the quick (within ninety days after an inquiry) repatriation typically required under the 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Kennewick Man was fully examined by a team of scientists chosen by the government who were forbidden to discuss their findings. Although the team concluded that Kennewick Man has cranial features associated with both Caucasoids and modern Native Americans, he is considered mainly to resemble modern Japanese Ainu, Polynesians, and Southeast Asians, as are other early Amerindian finds. Despite the resolution of early controversies, Kennewick Man continues as a symbol of the ideology of repatriation. In this article, I review the evidence for my belief that, taken to an extreme, the demand to bury aboriginal skeletons, not only in America but also around the world, poses a potentially serious impediment to scientific enquiry.

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