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The Kennewick Man Case | Court Documents | Affidavits & Declarations

Plaintiffs' October 1, 1999 Status Report to the Court


Alan L. Schneider, OSB No. 68147
1437 SW Columbia Street, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97201
Telephone: (503) 274-8444
Facsimile: (503) 274-8445

Paula A. Barran, OSB No. 80397
601 SW 2, Suite 2300
Portland, OR 97204
Telephone: (503) 228-0500
Facsimile: (503) 274-1212
Attorneys for Plaintiff





USDC No. CV 96-1481 JE

County of Multnomah


I, James C. Chatters, being first duly sworn, do depose and state as follows:

1. I am an anthropologist and owner of Applied Paleoscience in Richland, Washington. I am also a Deputy Coroner for Benton County, Washington. I was the first professionally experienced observer to examine the Kennewick skeleton. Further details of my professional background, including my connection with the Kennewick skeleton, are provided in my earlier affidavits that have been filed with the Court. These include my February 26, 1997 affidavit in support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Order Granting Access to Study.

2. Press accounts have contained reports that the government's study team observed the presence of red ocher on the skeleton. I question the claim that ocher is present. Over the course of my career, I have examined human skeletal remains that were both covered in ocher and very lightly stained with it. Its presence on those remains was unmistakable. I am also familiar with the scientific literature describing the use of red ocher by prehistoric peoples on this continent and elsewhere throughout the world. During my examination of the Kennewick skeleton in 1996 and in October 1998, I did not observe any material on the skeleton that resembled ocher. If it were present on the skeleton in any appreciable quantity, I am confident I would have detected it.

3. Upon learning of the government's claims, I rechecked my color photographs of the skull and other bones. Again I saw no evidence for the presence of ocher. With the exception of the government's study team, none of the other observers who have examined the skeleton have reported the presence of ocher. These include Dr. Madeleine Fang, Dr. Trimble and his curation team, and Ms. Julie Longenecker who reportedly inventoried the skeleton for the Army Corps. If the government believes that there is red ocher on the skeleton, samples of the suspect material should be analyzed for proper identification. Until that has been done, acceptance of the government's claims should be withheld.

4. I also understand that the government's study team has concluded that the Kennewick skeleton was intentionally buried at the discovery site by other humans. Such a conclusion is premature.

Further investigation of the skeleton and its discovery site are needed before reliable conclusions can be reached as to the cause of its deposition. Conclusions of this kind should be based upon an evaluation of all possible lines of evidence, and not just a few ambiguous factors.

5. The absence of carnivore damage and the relative completeness of a skeleton are not conclusive indicators of a human burial any more than their converse is proof of deposition by natural causes. I recently worked with a large skeletal collection (more than 80 individuals) in which the overwhelming majority of the bones showed signs of carnivore damage. In most cases, the damage was so severe that articular ends of long bones and the faces of skulls had been entirely consumed. Despite this extensive damage, geologic evidence and the association of the bones with numerous high quality grave offerings demonstrate that the remains had been intentionally interred by other humans. I can cite at least three other instances (12 individuals) where less severe carnivore damage had occurred before interment.

What the presence of carnivore damage means is merely that scavenging animals had access to a body before it was covered by sediments. Its presence does not speak to the means of coverage. Conversely, the absence of carnivore damage indicates only that the body was covered by sediment before any scavenging could occur. Complete, unscavenged skeletons of ancient animals are constantly being recovered in settings, such as ancient river floodplains, where there is no possibility of ceremonial interment. For example, I recently recovered the articulated remains of a Miocene deer (approximately 6 million years old) that lacked any noticeable evidence of postmortem carnivore activity. This deer was not only unscavenged, but those portions of it that were recovered were so complete that even the tiny bones of the dew claws remained. We can be reasonably sure that human beings had no part in that burial.

6. Human beings, just like the Miocene deer mentioned above, can die and be buried by geologic processes. One such occurrence is a human skeleton that is virtually the same age as Kennewick Man. This skeleton was found near Gore Creek, British Columbia in 1975 (J.S. Cybulski et al., Canadian Journal of Archaeology No. 5, 1981). Like the Kennewick skeleton, it was nearly complete but geologic evidence indicated that "the person was probably killed and buried by a mudflow" (p. 53).

7. As the above examples illustrate, the completeness of a skeleton and its lack of obvious carnivore damage do not establish the cause of deposition. Intentional burial by other humans is one hypothesis that could account for the Kennewick skeleton's condition, but it is not the only one. Rapid burial by natural geologic processes is another equally plausible alternative hypothesis that can be derived from the known evidence. Acceptance of either hypothesis should be deferred until all relevant data has been obtained and evaluated. Such data can only be obtained through a complete taphonomic examination of the skeleton and comprehensive geological investigation of its discovery site.

8. Our ability to resolve these questions may have been compromised by the government's first phase studies. It is my understanding that those studies included removal and analysis of sediments from the skeleton. This procedure reportedly included the mixing of sediments from different bones. When I packed the skeleton for delivery to the Benton County Sheriff's Office, there were extensive sediments still adhering to the skeleton and lodged in various cavities (the cranium, medulary cavities, fractures, etc.). Some of these sediments were original deposition sediments (i.e., sediments from the skeleton's deposition in the ground before it fell into the river). Observation and analyses of these sediments might have provided important clues concerning the skeleton's position in the ground and the circumstances of its original deposition. Whether there are sufficient sediments remaining to permit such observations and analyses can not be determined without inspection of the skeleton.

9. I also have concerns about the state of the skeleton's preservation. I was recently given copies of CT scans that are reported to be copies of the CT scans taken of the skeleton during the government's first phase studies. One of the scans is an anterior three-dimensional image of the skull.

Attachment l is a copy of this scan. Attachment 2A is an expanded section of that portion of the scan that displays the crack through the right frontal bone mentioned in my November 23, 1998 reports. See Exhibit 2 to Plaintiffs' Supplemental Report on Transfer of the Skeleton. Although I cannot be certain because of the poor resolution of the scan, this crack appears to have widened since my examination of the skeleton only four months earlier. It is definitely wider than it was in August 1996. Attachment 2B is a copy of a photograph taken of the same portion of the skull in August 1996. At that time, the crack was only a hairline fracture.

10. Dr. McManamon is reported to have stated that the bone I sent to the University of California, Riverside for radiocarbon dating was not appropriate for dating. Among other things, questions were raised as to whether this bone was from another individual and not from the Kennewick skeleton. It was not from another individual. The bone I sent to UC Riverside was the fifth metacarpal of the left hand. It was found inside the cranium in what appeared to be intact sediments. Its size and physical characteristics closely matched those of the corresponding bone from the skeleton's other hand. Because the bone was so intimately associated with the skull, and matched a bone from the opposite hand and since no evidence has been found of a second individual at the site, it is reasonable to conclude that this bone was from the Kennewick skeleton. Even the government's study team apparently agrees that the present collection represents only one individual. It is beyond all reasonable possibility to argue, as does Dr. McManamon, that of more than 350 bones and bone fragments found at the discovery site, only one of them (and no other) was from a second individual, and it somehow happened to end up in the Kennewick skull. Scientific conclusions should be based on more substantial grounds.

11. I am alarmed at the rate at which the Kennewick skeleton is being lost and destroyed while in government hands. In August 1996, I handed over a nearly-complete skeleton, with two almost complete legs. First, the government "lost" most of both femora. Then they allowed a rib fragment to be removed. Now, in their belated attempt to obtain additional radiocarbon dates for the skeleton, they have removed samples almost 15 times larger than the sample I sent to UC Riverside in August 1996. The sample I submitted for radiocarbon dating was a single metacarpal weighing only 2.7 grams. Only 0.7 grams of this bone was used by UC Riverside for its radiocarbon date, leaving more than enough bone for DNA testing at UC Davis (which the government later stopped). It is my understanding that the radiocarbon dating samples taken by the government on September 8, 1999, weighted over 30 grams. To obtain these samples, they have reportedly cut up a metatarsal weighing over 18 grams, and removed a section from the upper left tibia of the skeleton. The left tibia was the only remaining complete major long bone from the skeleton's legs. The fragment used by the government for sampling contained important landmarks that other scientists would want to observe and measure. Attachment 3A is an image of the lower part of the skeleton showing how much was present when it left my control. Attachment 3B shows what is now left of the leg bones.

12. It was not necessary for the government to destroy these two bones. Had they used appropriate care and judgment, they could have obtained their samples from among the many small fragments of bone in the collection that are not likely to be needed for other scientific studies. The government's reckless approach to sampling is an affront to science and to everyone who cares about this skeleton.

DATED this 14th day of September, 1999.

James C. Chatters

SUBSCRIBED and SWORN to before me this 14th day of September, 1999.

K F Kudrna
Notary Public for Oregon
My Commission Expires: 2/5/02

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