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Scientists Attempt To Link Kennewick Man DNA

Sam Eaton
04/26/2000

A SCIENTIFIC TEAM OF BONE CHEMISTRY EXPERTS, ANTHROPOLOGISTS AND ARCHIOLOGISTS ARE PICKING THROUGH THE REMAINS OF KENNEWICK MAN AT SEATTLE’S BURKE MUSEUM THIS WEEK. KUOW’S SAM EATON HAS MORE…

IT’S BEEN FOUR YEARS SINCE THE BONES KENNEWICK MAN WERE DISCOVERED ON THE BANK OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER. THE DEBATE OVER THEIR CUSTODY HAS BEEN FRAMED AS ONE BETWEEN SCIENTISTS WHO WANT TO STUDY THE BONES AND AMERICAN INDIANS WHO WANT TO BURY THEM. NOW, IF DNA TESTING SUCCESSFULLY LINKS KENNEWICK MAN TO GENE SEQUENCES UNIQUE TO THE AMERICAN INDIAN, SCIENCE MAY PROVE TO BE THE SAVIOR OF TRADITION. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ARCHIOLOGIST, FRANCIS MCMANAMON IS DIRECTING THIS WEEK’S STUDY OF THE KENNEWICK REMAINS. HE SAYS THE PURPOSE IS TO FIND CLUES… EITHER THROUGH PYSICAL MARKINGS ON THE BONES OR DNA TESTING… THAT LINK KENNEWICK MAN TO AMERICAN INDIANS, DISPELLING ONCE AND FOR ALL THE NOTION THAT HE CAME FROM EUROPE. Given the fact that there continue to be inferences drawn or interpretations of ancient Europeans wandering around North America as part of the initial or early colonization of N. America we felt that it was appropriate to try to be specific that this individual actually represents an ancestor of american indians as well as being native american. IF THE BONES CAN BE GENETICALLY LINKED TO AMERICAN INDIANS THEY’LL BE RETURNED TO THE COLUMBIA BASIN TRIBES UNDER FEDERAL LAW. BUT MCMANAMON SAYS IT’S NOT CLEAR YET IF THE BONES HOLD ENOUGH UNCONTAMINATED PROTIEN TO YIELD AN ACCURATE DNA TEST. AND HE SAYS EVEN IF THEY DO, THE RESULTS MAY NOT BE CONCLUSIVE. Even if we’re able to derive a set of ancient DNA it will tell us a certain amount about the individual and the association between that individual and modern populations but it is not going to answer each and every question even though it’s a quite legitimate scientific enterprise. THE TEAM OF SCIENTISTS WILL BE IN SEATTLE THROUGH THURSDAY OR FRIDAY AND HOPE TO LEAVE WITH LIST OF POTENTIAL BONES THAT CAN BE USED FOR DNA TESTING. SAM EATON, KUOW, 94.9, PUBLIC RADIO.
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