|14 August 2004
Scientists wait to examine Kennewick Man
For a few days last week, the top forensic anthropologists in the United States thought they were finally going to get their chance to study Kennewick Man. The eight-year legal battle over the 9 300-year-old bones, one of the oldest skeletons found in North America, appeared finished after five northwest Indian tribes decided not to pursue their case to the US supreme court. The tribes claimed that Kennewick Man was an ancestor and should not be desecrated by scientific study.
Two courts ruled in favour of the eight plaintiff scientists who believe the bones, discovered in 1996 along the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington, could yield insights on the earliest inhabitants of the Americas. The skeleton, in one preliminary study, was found to have some Caucasian features, suggesting that groups other than Asians may have migrated to the continents thousands of years ago.
But soon after the scientists' apparent victory, a new legal obstacle emerged late last week, this time from the federal government. The US army's engineers corps, which has custody of the skeleton and which sided early on with the tribes, has objected to so many aspects of the scientists' study plan that a new round of litigation is probable, according to Alan Schneider, the scientists' attorney. The earlier court battles focused on whether Kennewick Man should be subjected to scientific study. The new legal battle will be about how his bones will be studied.
Sources: The Sunday Independent (8 August 2004)
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