Fox News/by Todd Murphy - May 29 1998)
Ore. -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered that scientists be allowed to inspect remains
of an ancient human skeleton that some believe could shed new light on the continent's
early human history. At the same time, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jelderks laid the
groundwork for removing the so-called Kennewick Man from the custody of the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, which has been harshly criticized for its handling of the remains.
Jelderks issued the ruling after a series of incidents and disclosures that he said
"raised serious questions concerning both the physical security and scientific
integrity" of the nearly complete 9,300-year-old skeleton.
The bones, discovered in a muddy river bank in central Washington nearly two years ago,
are at the center of a battle between Native Americans, who want to bury it, and
scientists, who want to study it. Scientists were outraged by the recent disclosure that
Indian tribes -- possibly inadvertently -- took some of the skeleton's remains from the
closely guarded laboratory vault where they are kept and buried them with other unrelated
bones in a private ceremony.
Jelderks, in an oral ruling issued after a hearing, told the scientists and the corps to
agree on a neutral repository where the skeleton could be housed. And he ordered that the
bones be made available for inspection by independent scientists not connected with the
case, including anthropologist Jim Chatters who was the first to determine the age of the
skeleton after its discovery.
Scientists are intrigued by the Caucasoid features of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest
skeletons ever found in the United States. They believe the skeleton may be evidence of a
people that predated or coexisted with the ancestors of today's Native Americans. Tribal
leaders in the region, who call the skeleton the Ancient One, claim the bones are
rightfully theirs under a federal law that requires the repatriation of Native remains and
Paula Barran, a lawyer for the scientists, said her clients were happy with the order
allowing the bones to be inspected. She said she was confident the two sides could agree
on a neutral repository by a July 1 deadline set by Jelderks.
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