book jacket

Naomi Sherer reviews...

Skull Wars

David Hurst Thomas


With so much information, how can we make sense of what we think we know? One false fact can become the pivotal point in a controversy no one understands. Geology and archaeology contribute more than their share of confusion. A naive racial statement echoed around the world.

A human male skeleton was discovered along the banks of the Columbia River in July 1996 and without careful study was naively identified as a Caucasoid dating back 9,000 years. The bones are widely known as The Kennewick Man. Based on the sketchiest of evidence, wild theories were framed by journalists and archaeologists about Native Americans and earlier settlers of North America.

Ownership of the bones was demanded by local Native American Peoples for reburial. The US Corps of Engineers which had jurisdiction over the river bank covered the location of the find by tons of rock, effectively preventing further excavation of the site. The examination procedures and original possession by a local archaeologist were questioned and became a furious controversy between Native Americans and archaeologists.

The pivotal issue is not about religion or science. It is about politics. The dispute is about control and power, not philosophy. Who gets to control ancient American history - governmental agencies, the academic community, or modern Indian people?

David Hurst Thomas explores what really went on between archaeologists and Indians with suggestions on how the two groups can work together in the future.

This book is good historical investigative journalism and ethnography that chronicles the rise of antagonisms among Indian, Anthro and Bureaucrat tribes. It is packed with fascinating, shocking, controversial, and moving stories that present a sweeping picture of American archaeology and anthropology.

Skull Wars treads on delicate and controversial historical ground avoided by many scientists. Read it and see for yourself.

Buy it Now

A Peter N. Nevraumont Book
Basic Books
10 East 53rd Street,
New York, NY 10022

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