Federal Defendants' Notice of Radiocarbon Results and Notice of Determination that the Human Remains Are Native American
Lois J. Schiffer
FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON
ROBSON BONNICHES, et al., Plaintiffs
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants
FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' NOTICE OF RADIOCARBON RESULTS AND NOTICE
OF DETERMINATION THAT THE HUMAN REMAINS ARE NATIVE AMERICAN
As required by the Court's oral order of September 14, 1999, the federal defendants are submitting the final radiocarbon test results. In addition, as described below, the U.S. Department of the Interior has made the initial NAGPRA determination that the human remains at issue in this action are Native American.
A. Radiocarbon Results
The four radiocarbon dates of the samples from the metatarsal and left tibial crest have been competed by the Beta Analytic Labs, Inc., the University of Arizona, and the Radiocarbon Laboratory at University of California, Riverside. Two of the four dates are consistent with the 1996 radiocarbon date of the left fifth metacarpal submitted by Benton County. See Determination That The Kennewick Human Skeletal Remains are "Native American" for Purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Exhibit A) at Attachment 1, Letter from Darden Hood, Beta Analytic, Inc. to Dr. Francis P. McManamon, October 17, 1999 and Attachment 3, Letter from R.E. Taylor, University of California at Riverside, to Dr. Francis P. McManamon, December 20, 1999. The Beta sample data was reported as 8410 +/- 40 BP, a date almost identical to the 1996 Benton County date, and the University of California Riverside Sample was reported as 8130 +/- 40. Id. The samples from the tibial crest reported more recent, but still quite old dates. See Letter From Douglas Donohue, University of Arizona, to Dr Francis P. McManamon, January 10, 2000 at Attachment 4, and Taylor 1999 at Attachment 3. The University of Arizona laboratory dtated the sample from the tibial crest as 5570 +/- 1000 BP. The University of California at Riverside reported the date of its tibial crest sample as 6940 +/- 30 BP. The more recent dates on the tibial crest samples suggest that 'new carbon' from the burial environment entered and contaminated the tibia. See Determination That The Kennewick Human Skeletal Remains are "Native American" for Purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at p.4.
Indeed, the carbon in all samples was quite low and this low carbon may indicate that some of the samples were contaminated by more recent foreign carbon - not an unusual situation in human remains of this age. Taylor Attachment 3 at p.4 (1) The sample from the metacarpal submitted by Benton County in 1996 differs substantially from these samples in that the 1996 sample had a much higher carbon content in the bone sample. This difference may result from the fact that the metacarpal was found in tact sediments within the cranium; this may have protected it from the deterioration. See Statement of Dr. James Chatters, December 17, 1999 (Attachment 5); Taylor Attachment 3 at p. 3.
(1) University of California at Riverside is undertaking a further analysis of the sample that may assist the U. S. Department of the Interior in determining the source of the contamination. Taylor Attachment 3 at p.4
Nevertheless, all of the analyses performed to date are consistent in showing that the remains are thousands of years old. Moreover, the Department of the Interior has a high degree of confidence that the results of the radiocarbon dating of the metacarpal and the metatarsal are accurate given a number of factors including: (1) that the radiocarbon dates for both bones are almost identical (albeit tested with different levels of carbon); (2) that Beta has confidence in its date because of the good quality of collagen of its metatarsal sample; and (3) the dates are consistent with the supporting data from the 1999 non-destructive scientific studies. See Determination That The Kennewick Human Skeletal Remains are "Native American" for Purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at 3-4; Final Report of Non-Destructive Testing of the Kennewick Remains, February 1999 (Attachment 6).
B. Determination that the Human Remains are Native American as Defined by NAGPRA.
With the completion of the radiocarbon dating, the Department of the Interior has determined that these human remains are "Native American" as defined by NAGPRA. See Determination That The Kennewick Human Skeletal Remains are "Native American" for Purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at 6. As discussed in the determination memorandum, all of the scientific data collected on these human remains supports the conclusion that the human remains belong to a culture that pre-dated the arrival of Columbus. Id.
Dated this 12th day of January, 2000.
Lois J. Schiffer
(signed) by ts
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