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No Bone Unturned by Jeff Benedict

The Adventures of a Top Smithsonian Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons
By Jeff Benedict
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0060199237
Pub Month: April 2003
Price: $25.95
Pages: 320

One of the best forensic anthropologists at work today, Doug Owsley has conclusively identified human remains from news-making crime scenes, decimated war zones, and politically contested archeological sites around the world. The Smithsonian Institution scientist is renowned for his work with pre-Columbian mummies and skeletons, but he is also frequently called in by the State Department, FBI, and other federal agencies when modern remains need identifying. Mild-mannered and intellectually brilliant, Owsley never expected to become embroiled in what would become a precedent-changing legal wrangle that pitted him and his straight-arrow scientific principles against a formidable opponent-the U.S. Department of Justice.

The controversy and ensuing lawsuit concerned the Kennewick Man, a 9,600-year-old skeleton that surfaced in a park in Washington State. As detailed in Jeff Benedict's new book, NO BONE UNTURNED: The Adventures of a Top Smithsonian Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons (HarperCollins Publishers; April 2003; $25.95), this major prehistoric find suggested that accepted theories about the first human habitation of North America are wrong. But before Owsley and his colleagues could study the remains to determine their origins, the Army Corps of Engineers seized the skeleton and indicated that it would be returned to Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest for reburial. Based on preliminary evidence, Owsley did not believe the Kennewick Man was a direct ancestor of a known Native American tribe, but without access to the skeleton, this major anthropological breakthrough would never be verified. With no other recourse, Owsley and seven fellow scientists filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

When Jeff Benedict, an investigative journalist, began the research into the court case that is the lynchpin of NO BONE UNTURNED, he became fascinated by Owsley, the leading plaintiff. He discovered that the down-to-earth scientist was probably the world's top expert on human skeletons. Owsley had played a vital role in identifying the remains of David Koresh and many others in Waco, those of murdered American journalists in Guatemala, over 150 Civil War soldiers, and countless Native American remains as well. Benedict's focus changed slightly as the story of the Kennewick Man case expanded to embrace the story of Owsley's remarkable career achievements.

Benedict spent many months during a three-year period in Owsley's company, observing him in his specialized work. Supplementing this unhindered access, he pieced together the rest of the story-from Owsley's Wyoming boyhood and the first inklings of his passion for forensic anthropology through the final outcome of the court case with extensive research and interviews with friends, family, colleagues, and attorneys. Benedict's colorful account accompanies Owsley to the jungles of Central America, to the morgue in Waco, to postwar Croatia, and to numerous Native American, colonial, and Civil War-era archeological digs.

Even beyond the Kennewick Man mystery, Owsley's work is filled with intrigue. On a trek through the Guatemalan jungle he uses his knowledge of soil to discover that he and the victim's families are being deliberately misled by gun-toting local politicos. A skeleton extracted from a Jamestown gravesite is not Native American as long believed, but African, raising questions about the first arrival of black slaves in the first colony. In a jawbone unearthed from the Bull Run battlefield, Owsley investigates a tooth with a twentieth century filling-clearly not a remnant of the Civil War .

The closing pages of NO BONE UNTURNED report on the latest court decision in the Kennewick Man case, a triumph that will help ensure opportunities for studying other ancient skeletons from North America.

What other's say about this book...

"No Bone Unturned is an engaging book capturing the Smithsonian's Dr. Douglas Owsley, one the world's foremost Physical Anthropologists. It is also a valuable exploration of the highly controversial Kennewick Man case and the U.S. Government's efforts to control and contort scientific research for political purposes. Benedict gives an insider's account, detailing previously undisclosed government shenanigans that took place." Dr. Dennis Stanford, former chairman, Anthropology Department, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian.

"Doug Owsley is in a league of his own. He dares to go where no scientist would go. Compulsively curious, relentless in his search for truth, and armed with a mind that works frighteningly fast, he is uncovering the deepest mysteries contained in America's skeletons and revolutionizing our view of the past. No Bone Unturned is a riveting story of Owsley's life and provides an intriguing look at the world of forensic science." Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the Body Farm

About the Author:

JEFF BENEDICT is an investigative journalist and the author of four books, including Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL, and Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World's Largest Casino. He is a frequent public speaker and lecturer, and lives with his wife and children in Connecticut.

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