Saturday, December 04, 2004

Benedict: No Bone Unturned - Prehistoric CSI


What do Kennewick Man, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Branch Dravidians at Waco and the first African-American have in common? Dr. Doug Owsley, chief forensic anthropologist for the Smithsonian Institution. Owsley has determined ethic background, age and sex for over 10,000 skeletons, including some of the oldest found in the U.S.

And surprise! The oldest skeletons do not belong to the same family as current Amerinds. They turn out to be closer in morphology to the aboriginal Japanese (Ainu) than to any Paiute, Pawnee or Souix.

In No Bone Unturned, Jeff Benedict tells the story of how the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Clinton White House and the Department of the Interior conspired to prevent Kennewick Man from being examined. It documents the short-sighted religious bias that defined - based solely on age - the ethnic origin of skeletons that turned out to be pre-slavery Africans, pre-Columbian European settlers, and Ainu; and then consigned them to unrelated Native American tribes for reburial in undisclosed locations. And it reveals the heroism required for scientists to sue the government to prevent it.

I won't tell you (in case you don't remember) what the final outcome for Kennewick Man was. But a half-dozen or more older remains have already been lost to science in this same battle. This is a fast read because you won't want to put it down until the exciting conclusion.

For more information on Kennewick Man and some other issues covered in the book, check out the Friends of America's Past.


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