Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Golden Mean

At last, they are beginning to do tests on Kennewick Man. Meanwhile, footprints have been discovered in Mexico, the tenative age of which throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the Bering Strait theory.

Kennewick is important to study because of its age, relatively good condition, and, controversially, its surprising morphology.

All this is interesting stuff for just the science of it, but also, to me, for the sign that a happy legal medium may have finally been reached with regard to Native American interests in repatriation, and science's interest in studying ancient human remains.

Kennewick is so old that modern NA tribes simply don't have a cultural claim to it. I have about as much right to demand that Lindow Man be immediately redunked in "our" bog or that Otzi the Iceman be reburied on "our" mountain ASAP.

The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act was a necessary thing. For one, it was a good tool to use against genuine graverobbers, and for another, far too many universities and museums were stuffed full of skeletons that no one cared to ever study, and precious few that were exhibited. But then the NAs abused the law, and tried, through it, to get every human remain possibly construed as NA reburied double pronto -- even something unique like Kennewick. Maybe the latest ruling means that the legal pendulum is now at rest.

*Edit: Fixed link.