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Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Kennewick Man Gets His Day in Court
21 February 1997 7:30 pm
EUGENE, OREGON--A group of scientists has won a round in a legal battle over a 9300-year-old skeleton that could hold important clues to the peopling of the Americas. The researchers brought suit last November against the Army Corps of Engineers after the agency, which has jurisdiction over the bones, decided to hand them over to Northwest tribes before scientific tests could be completed. The corps filed a countermotion to dismiss the suit, but this week, a federal judge in Portland, Oregon, ruled that scientists have a right to present their case to study "Kennewick Man," as the skeleton from the banks of the Columbia River is known.
The embattled skeleton has captured the attention of researchers because "it's extremely well preserved and has Caucasoid-like features," says Robson Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Oregon State University in Corvallis, one of the scientists who filed the suit. "Kennewick Man could have been part of a different migration" from those of the ancestors of today's American Indians, he says.
To investigate that possibility, researchers at the University of California, Davis, began to analyze the skeleton's DNA from a sliver of bone provided by the corps in October. But a few weeks later, the corps called a halt to this research and ordered that the skeleton be turned over to a coalition of Northwest tribes who had laid claim to it under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Bonnichsen's group then filed what amounts to a counterclaim, although he says "we don't want the skeleton itself, only the knowledge it contains."
The corps's efforts to have the scientists' suit dismissed failed this week, when U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks ruled that federal courts can intervene in these disputes. "I expect the next step will be [for the court to] determine what studies will take place," says Alan Schneider, the scientists' attorney, who has argued that preventing scientists from studying the skeleton is a violation of their First Amendment rights. For now, Kennewick Man remains locked up in a corps vault, waiting for the court to decide his fate.