Since its discovery in 1996, the issues surrounding Kennewick Man have grown ever more complicated and controversial. Out of this fracas comes Skull Wars
, David Hurst Thomas's masterful contribution to the debate. The book is sure to stir passions even as it seeks to offer a better way for archeologists, anthropologists, and Native Americans to work together in the future. When it was determined that Kennewick Man, a skeleton with Caucasoid features discovered near Kennewick, Washington, was estimated to be more than 9,000 years old, it effectively lobbed a grenade into the already tense arena of the origins of the pre-Columbus peoples of the United States. Thomas, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, leads the reader through the development of American anthropology and archeology, the many reinterpretations of Native Americans by non-Indians, an assertion of native rights, and the eventual intercession of the federal government, ironically, as protective party. Skull Wars
is a gripping account of the way race, scientific practice, history, and politics converged around an ancient skeleton. --Julia Riches
From Publishers Weekly
Is there a greater paradox in North American history than the Indian? Labeling them either superhuman or subhuman, noble or savage, we've had a hard time placing the people that Columbus mistakenly called "los Indios." When Native Americans began disappearing after centuries of maltreatment, scientists promoting bogus racial theories arrogantly collected Indian cultural artifacts and physical remains, robbing graves and decapitating those killed in battle, before packing off their religious items, skulls and bones to museums. Is it any wonder that many Indians today bitterly resent and mistrust both anthropology and archeology, referring to them as "vulture cultures"? In 1996, one of the continent's oldest and most complete skeletons, Kennewick Man, was unearthed in central Washington. When some scientists claimed it possessed Caucasoid features and openly questioned the origins of the continent's early inhabitants, Indians were incensed and demanded the return of the remains, setting off yet another furor in this ancient tug-of-war over history written in bone. Thomas, an eminent anthropologist, deftly describes the ongoing battle over Kennewick Man and past stormy relations between Indians and the scientists bent on studying them. With wit, logic and much reasoned sympathy for Native Americans, he lambastes science for failing to see Indian peoples as they really are, while exploring the sensitive and difficult question of who ultimately owns history. Thomas's impassioned plea for mutual respect is a welcome bridge across a dark chasm of American history. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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