BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Ancient man in US court
A reconstruction from the skull of Kennewick Man
A reconstruction from the skull of Kennewick Man
A district court in the United States is due to begin hearing a case on the future of a 9,300 year-old skeleton found on the shore of the Columbia river five years ago.

American Indian tribes say the skeleton - known as Kennewick Man - is an ancient descendant, and should be buried with respect.

Anthropologists say the bones - one of the oldest and most complete skeletons ever found in North America - should be studied to learn more about the region's earliest inhabitants.

The bones were discovered in July 1996 in an eroding river bank at Kennewick, Washington, by two college students.

Scientists say the skeleton - bearing a stone spear point in the pelvis - has too much to tell about how human beings populated North American to be reburied.

'Not proven'

Their attorneys argue that the government has not proved that the skeleton is native American, which the Interior Department defines as anyone who was within the boundaries of the present United States in 1492.

Using a date alone to determine whether remains are Native American is wrong, they say.

Scientists believe the bones - now stored in the Burke Museum in Seattle - are the remains of a hunter aged about 40 with a prominent nose and heavily muscled legs.

Kennewick Man could support recent theories that the continent's earliest arrivals came not by a land bridge between Russia and Alaska - a long-held theory - but by boat or some other route.

These physical characteristics, they say, more closely resemble people from Polynesia and southern Asia than local Indians.

'Close call'

In September last year, Bruce Babbitt, then Secretary of the US Interior Department, ruled that Kennewick Man should be turned over to the tribes for burial.

At the time, Mr Babbitt called his decision a "close call", and said it was based mainly on the tribes' oral histories and the area where Kennewick Man was found.

The merits of that decision, along with the scientists' claims, are expected to be weighed up in the latest hearing.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

26 Sep 00 | Americas
Tribes win ancient bones battle
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories