- Toe bone connected to the foot bone
- Foot bone connected to the leg bone
- Leg bone connected to the knee bone..
In the previous installment, I listed several classes of evidence that suggest very strongly that cultural exchange, commerce, and genetic material crossed the oceans long before Columbus did. One of the classes I mentioned was skeletal. Funny thing about bones, a forensic pathologist or forensic anthropologist can discern many things about dead people's bones, including what ethnicity the living person was.
Dem Bones or Dry Bones or Dem Dry Bones is a well-known traditional spiritual, often used to teach basic anatomy to children (although its description is far from anatomically correct). The melody was written by James Weldon Johnson . Two versions of this traditional song are widely used, the second an abridgement of the first. The lyrics are based on Ezekiel 37:14, where the prophet visits the Valley of Dry Bones and brings them to life by mentioning God's name.
Sticks and stones
Enter Kennewick Man, The Power of First Impressions
James C. Chatters was the first person to conduct a scientific examination of the skeletal remains that became known as Kennewick Man. The following is quoted from the web page at the Smithsonian Institute linked at Mr. Chatters' name
"On July 28, 1996 two young men encountered a human skull in the Columbia River at Kennewick, Washington. That evening I was contacted by Coroner Floyd Johnson, for whom I conduct skeletal forensics. I joined him at the site and helped police recover much of the skeleton. During the next month, under an ARPA permit issued by the Walla Walla District Corps of Engineers, I recovered more wave-scattered bones from the reservoir mud. Throughout the process, I maintained contact with the Corps, which interacted with two local Indian Tribes.
"The completeness and unusually good condition of the skeleton, presence of caucasoid traits, lack of definitive Native-American characteristics, and the association with an early homestead led me to suspect that the bones represented a European settler."
That first impression was most likely correct. Kennewick Man probably was what Mr. Chatters surmised, but several millenia before there should have been a white European along the Columbia River.
What first tipped off James Chatters to the skull's possible European traits was how the nose projected. As the forensic anthropologist looked closer, he found other clues: how the face itself projected between the eyes and upper lip and how narrow the face was; the delicate lower jaw; the long, narrow cranium; and the absence of flaring cheekbones. Photograph by James Chatters/Applied Paleoscience.
A leaf shaped projectile point was detected embedded in the pelvis of Kennewick Man's skeleton. This was Mr. Chatters' first clue that the skeleton in question was not a settler in historic times. Calcification around the projectile indicated that it was not the wound that killed KM, but it certainly was evidence that KM was probably much older than the historic settler era of that region of Washington. The projectile design and manufacture was common and consistent to those found in the Columbia River basin.
"I first began to question this when I detected a gray object partially healed within the right ilium. CT scans revealed the 20 by 54 mm base of a leaf-shaped, serrated Cascade projectile point typical of Southern Plateau assemblages from 8500 B.P. to 4500 B.P. However, similar styles were in use elsewhere in western North America and Australia into the nineteenth century."
"We either had an ancient individual with physical characteristics unlike later native peoples' or a trapper/explorer who'd had difficulties with "stone-age" peoples during his travels. To resolve this issue, the Coroner ordered radiocarbon and DNA analyses."
That's when the remains became controversial. The radiocarbon dating showed that KM died 8410 +/- 60 B.P (conducted late summer 1996). With that age of the bones verified by accepted dating techniques, how could KM have been anything other than a native American and thus subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA)?
Without reiterating all the gory details of that dogfight, multiple lawsuits ensued about who would have custody of those remains. Would KM be reburied by one of the tribes, be studied by scientists, or even be honored as a European ancestor by American Pagan groups?
The Federal Government pulled out all stops to get the bones into the hands of the tribes for reburial in a secret location that would halt all further efforts that might result in KM being proven anything other than a Native American, all under the auspices of NAGPRA.
Scott L Malcomson wrote a brilliantly insightful and in-depth article for the New York Times as to why it was important for the government to pursue that course of action and he interviewed the other interested parties (no interviews with government officials were granted). It boils down to racial issues and related laws. Mr. Malcomson also acquired a new appreciation for the natural beauty of both that part of the country and of the people who live there. As did I, just by reading his article.
As to Mr. Chatters, he has become somewhat resentful of some of the attention. Before the discovery of KM, he enjoyed a truly good, friendly relationship with the tribes in that area (where he lives and whom his business supports). Since the discovery, some tribe members are cool towards him and his work. He misses them as friends, but he stands by that first impression that KM does not have the skeletal features usually attributed to Native Americans.
James Chatters: The forensic anthropologist who sparked the controversy. Photograph by Eve Fowler for The New York Times.
Patrick Stewart Face
Jim Chatters also undertook a reconstruction of KM's face using accepted techniques. You can find a Quicktime (c) 3D view here.
And then there is the DNA evidence. Or rather, the lack of it. Examination of the reports of this testing seem to indicate that no matter how many times they repeated the test, the results were unacceptable -- always showing caucasoid origins. So they blamed it on contamination of the tools by one or more of the investigators. These reports are, of course, prepared by the agencies of the Federal Government.
In reality, contamination of samples is a very real problem in the type of DNA testing used. The replication of sequencing tends to "grab" any foreign genetic material and replicate it in the billions while doing the same for the test sample. It's just the nature of the process.
However, in reading those reports, and in my related research regarding lab techniques as reported, it seems these were very careful, professional people conducting these tests. The whole contamination issue seems very reminiscent of the arguments involved in the so-called "cocaine mummies", and those arguments still sound lame to me for both cases.
Why all the hubbub, Bub?
As Mr. Malcomson so aptly stated it, if KM is caucasian (or anything other than American Indian), then the implications affect many current social, cultural, and legal points and ultimately upsets the status quo. KM's ethnicity can even throw into question the validity of current recognition of tribal rights and national legal status.
Furthermore, KM as Caucasian upsets all the archeaological, historical, anthropological, and even "right of discovery" applecarts.
Even among the more adventurous scientists in the field, the consensus is holding, for now, that all or most pre-Columbian Americans came from northern Asia and, at the outside, Southeast Asia. However, the public imagination, and to a degree the scientific imagination, has tended to fasten on the possibility of ancient Europeans reaching America prior to the ancestors of Native Americans. Within the scientific literature, ancient European migration is in a contest with African migration for last place. Nevertheless, when the lead plaintiff in the scientists' lawsuit, Robson Bonnichsen, tried to explain in a court affidavit why Kennewick Man deserved careful study, he said current science suggests "that the earliest inhabitants of this continent may have no modern descendants. . . . Multiple colonizing groups appear to be represented and many of the oldest studied skeletons have strong Caucasian skeletal features."
That's a lawyer explaining to a judge on behalf of a bunch of scientists what all us lay diffusion people knew all along. He uses virtually the same language that Dr. Myron Paine uses to describe his "Many Model"; Many peoples, at many times, from many places. And his arguments were successful. KM is now an object of scientific study rather than filling an unmarked grave. Stay tuned. This story won't end here. The best we can hope for is that KM gets the respect and attention that the scientific community payed towards "Otzi", the 5,000 year old "iceman" discovered in the Alps. From the point of view of forensics, the two sets of remains had suffered arguably similar physical injuries. Otzi, however, never suffered the same indignities.
Dr. Paine will be my guest on the radio show on March 29th
Links to the latest shows on the Oopa Loopa Cafe on blogtalkradio.com,
Interveiw w/ Fred Rydholm of AAAPF
Visit w/ Judy Johnson of AAAPF
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