Comments are grouped by article. All comments are from students in Dr. Ken Tankersley's Introduction to Archaeology class at Kent State Univesity. (posted as received)
Bones of Contention by Glynn Custred
After reading the three articles, "Bones of Contention," Burying American Archaeology," and "Battle of the Bones." It is difficult not to form a strong opinion on the subject matter. I feel though, that my opinion has been significantly swayed by only being exposed to one side of this argument; the side of science, while being told throughout the text, that whatever beliefs their opponents hold are wrong, and invalid.
This approach to proving a point bothers me to some extent as a reader. While I realize that the author is writing with the purpose of proving his point, and article such as "Bones of Contention" by Glynn Custard is so biased and strongly opinionated that he, to me, invalidated his contention with subjectivity more than the supported it. And in "Battle of the Bones," while the authors do readily admit that they are impartial on the topic, and do mention alternative sources on the subject, such as "Skull Wars" by David Hurst Thomas, they soon after attack its credibility, calling his treatment of the past "selective and largely one-sided." However, my opinion based on the information I have been presented brings me back to one question: Are the American Indians really trying to hide something? Or is it honestly their firm beliefs and personal wishes for the respect of their ancestors? Whatever the answer to that is - most likely both are correct - I believe that science and learning should be accomplished. We should have the opportunity to know all there is to know. And in order for this to take place, essentially, compromises must be made. As far as our national government is concerned in this dispute, I think that it is their responsibility to decide on what is right, and most beneficial. However, though the decision may seem obvious after reading these articles, it is to be remembered that when setting the standard for the country, it is also the responsibility of the government to be politically correct. I think though, however unfortunate it may be for science, the rights on the American Indians, if they be valid, must be taken into consideration. The argument can best be summarized in this statement from "Battle of the Bones,"
This is an easy statement to agree with, especially when only presented with one side of the argument. I think I will look into what David Hurst Thomas has to say as well.
I read the article Bones of Contention by Glynn Custard and found it to be very informative and highly entertaining. I can't understand how so many different groups of people could make a skeleton into a racial object. Now I can see how the Indians believe that they have a right to the bones because of religious reasons. They also have grounds for a case due to the fact that as far as anyone knows the Indians have the oldest living ancestors in that area. However it is a little sketchy that they won't even allow anyone to test the bones to find out if the bones even did belong to a American Indian.
On the other hand scientists do need to study artifacts to answer some of the questions that have been plaguing people's minds since the beginning of time; where do we come from and how did we get here? There is a yearning for knowledge that can only be satisfied through the study and testing of pieces of the past. So the only clear decision I can see is that we need to come to some sort of agreement over ownership of artifacts, that may not belong to Indian ancestors. They need to share, weather one first study's the bones and makes copies of them then returns them to the grave. Now I know this may sound stupid but if not this way then at least let the tests be performed to figure who has real ownership because these bones are not doing anyone any good locked in a room. So in conclusion I believe that this silly arguing needs to end and we have to start thinking sensibly about finding answers and protecting the beliefs of the Indians.
Ryan Collins writes
The whole Kennewick Man ordeal is a mystery to me. In my mind,
it seems that this is entirely a conspiracy between the Native
Americans and the United States government. According to The
National Park Service, any cultural remains found dated older
than 1492 is considered Native American. This skeleton is dated
at 9,300 years old, making it property of the Native American
via The National Park Service. This would be fine if the bones
were that of a Native American, but they more resemble those
of a Caucasian. Anthropologists should be allowed the time necessary
to study these bones so the truth about them can be told. The
United States Army Corps of Engineers quickly destroyed the site
where the bones were found, giving the reason of "stabilizing"
the river bank. This site will probably never be able to be completely
studied now. The bones are being held hostage while the court
system tries to decide whom the bones belong to. For some reason
the government does not want the truth to be known about the
bones. It looks like the government is giving back to the Native
Americans, maybe because of how they were basically wiped out
when we took over this land. If the bones ended up being that
of a Caucasian, all Native American legend could be false. In
return that would ruin their heritage. The United States government
does not want to damage Native American life anymore than we
already have. Because of this the bones may never be studied
thoroughly, and the truth about the
The article I read on Kennewick made me sympathetic and frustrated. First of all, I feel that scientists have every right to investigate Kennewick and the site that he was found in. All types of scientists have made amazing discoveries that have helped us know about our past and it is very important that we continue to learn more in the future. This discovery was amazing and could help us learn even more about our past. However, I understand that the Native Americans are upset and don't want us to discover that what we thought before (that Native Americans were the first people here). If Columbus had decided not to find out if the earth was round and believed that it was flat simply because "that's what people thought before" than life would be very different.
On the other hand, I can sympathize with the Native American's attempt at keeping the body "sacred." It must be hard to be in their position and have to argue for people to understand their beliefs. It must be hard feeling that someone will not be given eternal bliss if his body is not returned to the earth, even knowing that it could be useful to all mankind to be studied. I think they don't want the government to study it because if they were not the first people in America, they would lose their Native American protection laws, reservations and casinos, meaning that they would have to find an alternate source of income. I don't agree with how the government handled the situation, by being secretive and covering up the site. I think that since they kept it secretive, that maybe they are trying to cover up something. Otherwise, they would have made their decision and that would have been the end of the situation. As "X-Files" as it sounds, if you have not done something wrong then you shouldn't be hiding the truth.
The Discussions in the article Bones of Contention evaluate the arguments for who rightfully owns the bones found near Kennewick, Washington. There are several groups working for the ownership of Kennewick man, (named for the town in which closest he was found). The two organizations fighting for ownership in the article Bones of Contention is between the Indians of that area, and a group of anthropologists. The Indians feel that this man was a part of the Indian culture a while back, while through testing of the bones anthropologist seem to feel this man has more of a similarity to the Caucasian race. Examining the opinions of both, I feel ownership of these bones is going to be quite difficult to find, but I feel that the Anthropologists deserve the right to examine the bones. This is not just an activity for anthropologists to play with, the information we could discover from these bones could tell us more about that area than we have ever seen before. I understand how the Native Americans might feel about us destroying the bones of one of their ancestors but the tests have not shown Kennewick Man to be of Native-American culture. Keeping that fact in mind I feel even stronger that the Anthropologists should win the right to the body for whatever they may want to do with it. As for the land in which Kennewick Man was found, that to should be given over to the anthropologists. The possibility for excavating either more bones or even relics from that time period could help to find more about where Kennewick Man came from. The Native Americans should not be opposed to the idea because if there was an Indian relic found that could decide whether or not he was a Native American that would guarantee them rightful ownership of the body.
After hearing the story of Kennewick Man and watching the
segment on sixty seconds, I became interested in this specific
case. Therefore, I am writing my opinion on the article "Bones
of Contention," by Glynn Custred. I feel like both sides
have a strong case and I am bias towards the scientists point
of view, but because the National Park Service declared that
any cultural material older than 1492 is "Native American
(Custred 3)," I feel that it is the law that the skeleton
is repatriated to the Indians. Like most people, ancient culture
and prehistory interest me and I would like to learn about ancient
culture and people as much as possible, but since there is such
a law then it is only fair that the remains are given back. Because
this skeleton could have helped the scientific explanation of
"man," I feel that they could have been generous to
give some time to the Scientists to study it thoroughly but I
understand their standpoint how their the Indians culture is
offended by such an action. Although the fact of what kind of
person the skeleton was is undetermined, I think the best thing
to do in this type of situation is to compromise. The Indians
are not going to back off and The Scientists do not plan on giving
up so the only logical thing for the two groups to do is to see
what happens in court. I honestly would like the scientist to
have their time with this ancient artifact to study it but I
think in a court the judge would have to take the side of the
Indians. Besides, the law is the law, so I think
Joshua V. Ginley
This may not sound nice but it seems that from the video we viewed
in class and this article that Indians seem much more preoccupied
that someone will find earlier inhabitants and eventually realize
that they might not have been the first inhibitants in North
America but rather coming here to escape persecution somewhere
else. This could very well prove that Native Americans
However, no matter what your opinions are you must respect the
Native American Graves and Repatriation Act(NAGPRA) and the interests
they protect under these laws. With the destruction of the sight
where the Kennewick Man was found, it is now impossible to find
out anything further about the culture, the lifestyle, and the
composition of not only the Kennewick society but that over the
entire region as well as the world. I would hope that if nothing
else came out of this situation, that people learn that there
is a time and place for customs and one for history and knowledge.
I'm writing in response to the article Bones of Contention. The bones of the so-called Kennewick Man should be tested as much as needed for scientific purposes, and then given back to people of it's own heritage. These people may or may not be of Indian heritage, they may be of Asian heritage. The Indians would not want someone not of their religion to bury a fellow Indian so it's not morally right for them to bury someone who may or may not be of their blood. Scientists aren't trying to prove or disprove any one religion; they are just trying to find out more about the past.
No one person knows everything about the past. The past is told thru stories and books. Not a lot is known about the past from before when stories were documented. One way to find out more about the past before written proof is to dig up remains and see if bones or artifacts are found. This was done in the case of the Kennewick Man. The Scientists who decided to run tests on the Kennewick Man were not looking to disprove any on religion's beliefs, they were just looking for the truth. The truth just happens to lie in the bones of the Kennewick Man.
The government had no right covering up the site where the Kennewick Man was found. The skeleton may not be of Indian ancestry so in truth there is no telling if the NAGPRA ruling should prevail. This case should be ruled out properly in the court system. Bones of the Kennewick Man should then be given to their rightful owner. Maybe someday soon this will all be over and we will know all scientists can tell us about Kennewick Man, until then we just need to wait it out.
I decided to read the Bones of Contention article because I find this whole debate very fascinating. The whole argument over the bones just seems very ridiculous to me. Why stop these scientists from learning more about our past? I don't believe the Indians want to repatriate the bones for religious purposes either. I believe the whole purpose of getting the bones back is to deny the scientists the time to prove that the Indians might not have been the first people on this continent.
The Main question I have to ask after reading this article is why is this a religious issue? Is it really disrespectful to study bones that are nine thousand years old? Its not like the scientists are excavating grave sites from twenty or thirty years ago. These bones have the opportunity to tell us so much information about our ancestors of the past and how they lived their lives. We can figure out how they lived and how they looked. I just don't understand how people cant find interest in learning how our ancestors lived so long ago.
The scientists involved aren't being treated fairly. There was no reason whatsoever for the Army Corps of Engineers to cover up the excavation sight. In the process they also destroyed any remaining bone or artifact that could be studied by the scientists. The part of the story that really makes me angry was when they discovered that the bones weren't even of American Indian descent. I just want to know why the Indian tribes feel they have the rite to re bury bones of people that had nothing to do with them. This just blows my mind. I believe it would be fair ifthe Scientists would have been allowed to take DNA samples earlier to decide if Kennewick Man was of Native American descent.
Altogether I feel that Kennewick Man should not be sent back to the Indian tribes for reburial but be examined further by Scientists who have the opportunity to uncover priceless information about our past culture.
Matthew Amer writes
After reading "Bones of Contention" and "Battle of the Bones," I believe that the United States government has dealt a great injustice to the archaeology world in the case of Kennewick Man. The amazing scientific discovery that took place in the Columbia River almost five years ago has been virtually decimated by the government's interference in the case. Government officials have mishandled the case of Kennewick Man so badly that any previously unknown knowledge of our prehistoric past could be lost forever.
When anthropologist James Chatters had completed his preliminary
study of the ancient remains, it appeared as though American
history was not what we had thought it was. There was substantial
evidence that the bones of Kennewick Man were those
of a Caucasian male; not an American Indian. It raised several
interesting questions and made scientists wonder if white men
had, in fact, settled there before American Indians. I feel that
this is quite possible, even though it goes against all previous
scientific notions, as well as Indian beliefs. History was about
I am not surprised that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quickly destroyed the excavation site in an effort to prevent any future discoveries. It was a nervous, hasty, premature action that should have been thought out first. Or was the government trying to cover this up? I feel that the Army Corps dumped rock and gravel over the shorelinefor a very significant reason. Some might believe they were just trying to give justice to the nearby Indians, but I feel that this was a direct attempt to slam the door on any future scientific discovery in this region.
In conclusion, I feel that the archaeologists had a right to excavate the area after such a remarkable discovery, and the government deliberately took this right away from them. It was politically motivated because it kept the American Indian population happy, however it cost our nation great historical knowledge that may remain unknown forever.
I am writing in response to several statements made in relation to the Washington state case of the Kennewick Man, who is also referred to as the Richland Man by James C. Chatters. As stated in Bones of Contention, Native American peoples of this region have laid claim these remains under the provisions of the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, which was enacted by Congress in 1990. I have come to understand that this act was intended to apply to materials of cultural affiliation. This act, however, is further befuddled by the additional declaration of the National Park Service that any cultural material older than 1492 is to be considered Native American and can be claimed by these peoples. What I do not understand is what scientific fact was their declaration based on. Secondly, how are they justified in arbitrarily modifying a Congressional Act that has to meet standardized voting criteria in order to pass?
After reviewing Mr. Chatters observations, I feel that it is apparent that there are many documented observations that refute the claim of "cultural affiliation" (http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/kennewick_man.html). Chatters found that the man lacks definitive characteristics of the classical mongoloid stock to which modern Native Americans belong. The skull is dolichocranic rather than brachycranic, the face narrow and prognathous rather than broad and flat. Cheekbones recede slightly and lack an inferior zygomatic projection; the lower rim of the orbit is even with the upper. Other features are a long, broad nose that projects markedly from the face and high, round orbits. The mandible is v-shaped with a pronounced, deep chin. Although, many of these observations are characteristic of Caucasoid peoples, Mr. Chatters also pointed out that some characteristics, like the orbits, were typical of neither race. Some characteristics even showed similarity to certain Asian cultures.
Unfortunately, instead of being a modern breakthrough in the field of archaeology and a period of new enlightenment on the origins and the proliferation of the human race, politics have effectively squandered the benefits of science, in order to appease the few in the name of political correctness. Science, which can be constantly revised with the advent of new discoveries, gives way to the folklore of peoples who have only been in the region for a few hundred years. Without the findings of science, we would still think that the Earth was the center of the universe or that all species in the world were fixed and unchanging. Discoveries, such as Darwins theory of evolution, while controversial in their origin, are vital in the advancement of human learning and understanding of who we are and the environment in which we live. Darwins idea was so controversial for the time that he did not publish his idea for 17 years.
As mentioned in Battle of the Bones, with the emergence of
new analytical methods like DNA typing and refined radiocarbon-dating,
it is now possible to accurately determine the ages of
skeletal remains, as well as to classify the various human ethnic
groups far more precisely than ever before without harm
to the environment. It also allows for maximal preservation of
the remains themselves. According to Chatters, since the DNA
was well preserved, it is possible, through restrictive enzyme
analysis and detailed sequencing, to ultimately learn this
mans relationship to other peoples of his time and ours.
I only hope his vision is someday realized.
Jeremy J. Polter
I chose to read Bones of Contention, which outlines the details of the Kennewick Man. I take the science approach to this issue, not one of race, or politics. If somebody found evidence of life on Mars, we wouldnt argue which one of these new Marscian races was more superior, or which one was there first. We would study it and determine how old it was and, what its culture was like. Likewise here on Earth, if we find a skeleton that is different from others that we have found, I dont think it should be covered up or fought over. I think the site where the skeleton was found should be extensively examined, not dusted under the mat like it was. The skeleton should be put in a museum or university for others to study.
I dont think that great Archeological finds should become a matter of whom the skeleton belongs to, but instead becomes a symbol of which time period and culture it came from. If the skeleton is over 9000 years old then I doubt the same family is living at the same settlement that is was found at. I think that this skeleton should be used as a piece of the puzzle of life, and not as an issue of race and superiority.
Kristin B. Tarase
Archaeology is a humanistic science that seeks an answer to
the ultimate question we as humans have asked ourselves throughout
time: who are we? With the sweeping changes and advances today
in modern technology and the vast array of opportunities given
to us as scientists, so many more things can be accomplished
today that were not able to be done decades ago. With these
It seems that as we have made our progression into the twenty-first century, the need to know who we are, and where we came from, has been replaced by opportunistic and self-serving people who are more afraid of their own stubborn pride and what other people think of them. In the article, "Bones of Contention", by anthropologist Glynn Custred, the issue is raised that people are more concerned with the fairy-tale and fanciful stories of their past. People fear the unknown, and people are almost always reluctant to accept a digression of the norm. People are afraid that by finding out the truth instead, they will find out that instead of being uniquely different from another person, group, or culture; they are more alike one another than they ever thought before.
I can certainly understand that the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is there to preserve Native American culture and history that approximately a hundred years before was almost wiped out by white men. However, I think that the guidelines of the NAGPRA and its standards need to be reexamined by the government and those tribes who want it so strongly upheld. If you can't without a shadow of doubt prove that it belongs to you, then should have no right to lay claim on it. Many Native Americans can only trace their history back only a few hundred years, and who is to say that a dead man found 9000 years later than their history is their ancestor let alone any other man's ancestor. Hey if I found a dead man in my back yard I wouldn't just lay claim on him and call him my dead ancestor just because he was found in my yard.
Archaeology shouldn't be about who controls whom or what find belongs to who. Archaeological findings should belong to the human race, not one individual culture. The discovery of the Kennewick man is an important find because it helps gives us clues to our past. It is sad that the people have resorted to immature "recess" fighting over the race of a prehistoric man, who scientists have discovered is neither Caucasian nor Native American but instead resembles a Japanese. People can't begin to lay claim on the past when not one man or culture owns the past or even a part of it; we all share the past.
Hopefully as science advances, man can also in this millennium advance in the way of unbiased thinking and understanding. Until we as humans learn to forget our own biased opinions for a time period and learn to understand our past as one human nation, then these catfights will sadly continue.
The article "Bones of Contention" is simply another case of different ethnic and racial groups arguing over what is thought to be ancient remains and artifacts of those group's ancestors. The odd thing about this story is that no one wants to follow previously passed laws, scientific evidence or government protocol, including the government.
The native tribes of the area who want to claim Kennewick Man as their ancestor don't seem to want to let scientists prove its origin or background, and it seems the government and United States Army Corps feels the same way. If some type of cover up by the government is occurring, the question anyone has is why. Why would the modern American government take such drastic action to keep scientific findings of a near 9,000 year old man covered up. It has no connection with any of the country's history of the past 225 years, but just of the speculation that European settlers may have been here before Native American tribes. Even if that were true, wouldn't our government, whose country they built by taking those native tribes' land without a second thought, want to be on the side of science in proving that our country has been inhabited far longer than even those tribes could have thought.
The group who I feel is dealing with the most adversity is the scientists who are trying to do both the government and the tribes a favor in determining Kennewick Man's origin. Laws that were passed to benefit them, like NAGPRA, have been seemingly ignored by the government with no argument from the Indian tribes.
The case of Kennewick Man's origin will most likely be debated even after it is returned to its "rightful" ancestors, by proof or by the demand of the government in keeping with its efforts to keep the truth from ever surfacing. If that happens, the tribe who receives the remains probably won't be to objective.
In July of 1996 when the remains of the Kennewick Man was found, it created a federal and institutional stir. The remains of the 9,300 year old man found by archaeologists were to be turned over to the appropriate tribe, although the man was thought to be Caucasian. The NAGPRA forced archaeologists to turn over the bones, but no native community can be traced past 600 years ago, technically the Kennewick Man falls out of the laws' bounds.
The bones were really never properly examined, that lead to identification problems, when it was later discovered the man resembled the people of southern Asia. When the bones were turned over to native Americans, they were miss treated and used for rituals, damaging and losing parts of the skeleton.
The government agency Army Corps was wrong to destroy an archaeological site. The site was quickly covered with rocks, dirt, gravel, trees and logs. The Kennewick site should have been left intact for further excavation. Destruction of the site left many questions unanswered. Are their any more of his kind? Where did he come from? How did he die? and the most puzzling, what was the stone projectile in his pelvis? Most of these questions will never be answered because of the destruction of the site.
Denying scientists' access to the bones and site was a mistake by the federal government. Turning over the bones before being certain of their ancestry was a juvenile mistake by NAGPRA. Unfortunately scientists and NAGPRA are still in court battling for the right to the bones. The Kennewick Man should be in a museum so he can be properly examined, preserved and remain intact for another 9,300 years.
I feel that archaeology is a very important feild. I also feel that native cultures should have a right to what is theirs. I would like to think that their is a way for both archaeologists and natives to both study and respect the past cultures without upsetting one another. When bones of human are found that appear to date back before Columbus was even born I think they should be able to at least be studied. How would we ever learn anything about the prehistory if we could not study the remains found from the past. I also think that the remains should be returned to the proper tribe they belong to out of respect. I hope that there is a way that both natives and scientist could be happy without having to involve the government. If this could be done the scientist would be able to find more information on the past while the native culture will still have artifacts and features from their past. This would rid the involvement of the government and the corruption of it in this feild. I feel that sites should not be destroyed and favors not be granted, especially when dealing with the prehistory of our country. How would anyone know about the past if that was done everytime something was found that was controvery. I feel that both parties could work together if they worked out a method. The past could still be learned and the different cultures would still be able to keep their past.
Amanda Shields, email@example.com
Im writing in response to the article Bones of Contention
Why did the government do this for? Maybe because the
Indian activists were up in arms because they felt that the
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