Friday, December 09, 2005

"Numb3rs" episode; December 9, 05 -"Bones of Contention"

I'm a fan of the CBS show, "Numb3rs". Tonight's episode had me a little concerned; because, as usual, a little knowledge can be a bad thing.

Numb3rs home
Main castmembers of 'Numb3rs', c/o CBS.

Main castmembers of 'Numb3rs', c/o CBS.

Graham Greene; Wiki entry
Graham Greene; costarring on 'Numb3rs'.

Graham Greene; costarring in 'Bones of Contention'.

"Bones of Contention" is based upon an actual Anthropological find, "Kennewick Man",from the headwaters area of the Columbia River in Washington state.

Update. The following synopsis is about the actual archaeological find, and not the TV show:

The essential problem being: the skeleton was initially radiocarbon-dated to about 9300 years ago, but the skull appeared to have "caucasian" characteristics. In fact, the clay reconstruction of the face was famously compared to "Jean-Luc Picard" from STNG (actor:Patrick Stewart).

Patrick Stewart; Star Trek the Next Generation.

Patrick Stewart; Star Trek the Next Generation.

Kennewick Man clay reconstruction.

Kennewick Man, reconstructed by Jim Chatters and Thomas McClelland

Skirting, for the moment, the arguments about whether or not the skeleton belongs to an ancestor of "European origin", "Asian origin" or of "North American origin"; any skeleton in North America that is over 9 000 years old is likely to have contributed genetic material to the people who were "here" at the time of first historic 'Old World' contacts (From a millenium ago with the Vikings, through several hundred years ago (possibly) with Basque fisherman and lost Chinese/Japanese mariners to the 'discovery' of the West Indies in 1492). Therefore, ancestor; unless he dropped from the sky, by himself, and was killed by the impact before reproducing.

Scientists wishing to study the remains, petitioned the US Army Corps of Engineers not to return the remains to the local tribes (to comply with The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act [NAGPRA]), because:

(from the Tri-City Herald, story link)

"The anthropologists want to:

-Stop the corps from transferring the remains to the Indians.

-Study the remains to verify they are related to any Indian tribes.

-The anthropologists argue no proof exists the skeleton is related to any present tribes in the Mid-Columbia."

Essentially, the scientists were arguing that since the skeleton may be "European in origin", it should not be subject to NAGPRA, while the tribes were claiming that any remains that old in the area would necessarily be an ancestor.

Is it irony when proponents of the most progressive of sciences are arguing for (indirectly) retroactive racial purity and non-miscegenation (Wiki link)?

This, partially, answers the question: Why would Native-Americans and Tribal Governments oppose this kind of study?

-Even sympathetic scientists and researchers inadverdently undermine hard-won rights and dignities, because of the previous wording of laws such as NAGPRA.

For example:"Lineal Descendant - An individual tracing his or her ancestry directly and without interruption by means of the traditional kinship system of the appropriate Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization or by the common law system of descendance to a known Native American individual whose remains, funerary objects, or sacred objects are being claimed..."link
blah,blah,legal blah...

Regardless of the other reasons to oppose the continued "studies" of Kennewick man and other Native American remains, one huge and undeniable complaint/reason hangs over the debate: The gross historic and ongoing contemporary disrespect shown towards our B-U-R-I-A-L-S.

I need to spell it out, because even the most enlightened amongst the "greater society" just don't get it, sometimes.

It is bad enough in Canada, but in most of the USA, a human B-U-R-I-A-L on your private property belongs to the property "owner", along with any associated "grave goods" (the "treasure", if you will). This situation may have been partially addressed by NAGPRA, but only in a diminishingly miniscule way.

The skeleton was recently studied by a researcher at the Burke Museum in Seattle; so a report clarifying some of the remain's affiliations may be forthcoming.

By the way: One of the characteristics cited as an argument for "European origin" is the dolichocranic nature of the skull (meaning relatively "long", as opposed to "wide"). There are numerous Precolumbian examples of artificially elongated skulls created by the "binding" of the head, as a child. Presumably, a careful examination of the skull may provide evidence of such a practice with Kennewick man. If that evidence were found, it would be doubly amazing for perhaps tying a North American individual of great antiquity to relatively recent (classical Maya) cultural practices in Central America.

Ahhhh. Idle speculation.


Anyways... It was a good episode. I didn't guess the bad guy.

Update. An article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; July, 2005.

Some main sources:

-Tri-City Herald "Kennewick Virtual Interpretive Center"

-Smithsonian Inst. article, by James C. Chatters


-US Dept. Interior - Bureau of Reclamation

-NOVA; online


In an unrelated note:

I'm watching a report on CNN, about deer attacking people in California. It had to be either a Whitetail or Mule deer buck, but the graphic on the screen showed a Fallow deer or Red deer stag (European species).
One of the deer-attack victims was a holocaust survivor, attacked in his own living room (The deer crashed through a window; it may have charged its own reflection). What a drag that would be; survive the camps but lose it to a hormone-raging buck, in its rut.

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Anonymous said...

its a fairly regular thing over here for moose to attack there own reflections in windows during the rut. this fall a moose raised all kinds of havoc in the activity room of an old folks home.

Hoka-shay-honaqut said...

I have attacked my reflection on occasion, so I too can empathize with the cervid members of my audience.

Anonymous said...

did i mention that the guilty moose looked like he was the offspring that would result if picard would have been boned by graham green (the cool indian, not the lame author)?

Anonymous said...

and thank god for miscegenation.

Picard102 said...

pfft, didn't you see the episode where Picard goes back in time.

Hoka-shay-honaqut said...

That's what you get when you screw with the time continuum and prime directive. Friggin' Jean Luc Picard fossils muddying up my ancestral lineage.