Undone: The Ancient One
November 16, 2016 8:29 AM - Subscribe

In 1996, two teenagers stumbled across some very old human remains. The struggle to identify them and determine who owns them kicked off a fight that has lasted 20 years -- and is finally about to be resolved.

The remains they found belonged to Kennewick Man, and the decades long fight is over who Kennewick Man belongs to.
posted by sparklemotion (3 comments total)
I found myself kind of frustrated with the ending of this. It seems like the more detailed study found that Kennewick Man was more related to the particular tribe that donated their DNA than to non-natives.

But it also seems like the study was flawed in not looking at other native north american groups that would better fit in with the findings of the previous study (for example, if he really did have a seal heavy diet, isn't it possible that he was more related to First Nations people of British Columbia, or the NW Territories?) It seems like everyone is overselling the question of whether anything has actually been "resolved."

In general though, I also didn't like the show's uncritical take on the value of oral tradition evidence, or the necessity of following modern burial practices regarding the remains of a person who lived so long ago that no one alive knows the name of anyone who might have heard of him.

That's where this case seems so different than the egregious and disgusting history of the mistreatment of Native American and First Nations remains and burial sites. No one should have to sit guard at their father's grave to make sure it isn't robbed. No one should have to worry about seeing their great-grandmother's uncle displayed in a museum (if that wasn't what the uncle or the family wanted).

But I do think that there's a cutoff (say something like 500 years, so we aren't making exceptions for Richard III) beyond which we need to be able to privilege the knowledge that humanity can gain from unearthed bits of history above the religious beliefs of distant relatives.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2016

Science is about probability. A pre-neolithic skeleton has European cranial features!

Great! Fun!

Find us another this side of the Rockies, would you?

You can't? Re-inter, respectfully, and come back later with more science and a polite request.

True Forteans are nodding and packing another pipe to ponder the next legit weird question.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:00 PM on November 16, 2016

I think that this show is promising, although this episode didn't really do it for me. Interesting story, but I didn't feel invested in it.
posted by radioamy at 7:53 PM on November 20, 2016

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