The Discovery Site Revisited
In the summer of 1996, the discovery site was a wide flat bank of the Columbia River, in a city park in Kennewick, Washington. The Kennewick Man skeleton washed out of the terrace along the bank during hydroplane races. (Picture: J. Chatters). In the spring, 1998, the Army Corps of Engineers covered the bank to the level of the original terrace and planted trees.
October 23, 1999
Our thanks to E. Laurent, Films A Trois, Paris for these recent picture of the discovery site.
No independent scientists have been allowed to investigate the site. Repeated requests for ARPA permits have not been granted, despite recommendations from the Corps own geologists that more study is needed. No reports of site studies allowed when permission was granted to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation have been released to the public.
Visiting the site on October 29, 1998
by Cleone Hawkinson
While in Richland for the premove inventory of the Kennewick Man skeleton, Dr. Douglas Owsley, Division Head of Physical Anthropology, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and I took the opportunity to visit the discovery site. After the inventory, we drove to Kennewick, a few miles from Richland, and followed the road along the river through Columbia Park. The directions promised a path down to the bank, but it took us several tries to find a way through the brambles, brush, bushes, and dense trees.
To "save" the site from erosion, the Army Corps of Engineers filled in the area from the river bank to the upper terrace. The entire area is now completely covered with tons of rock covered by dirt and dozens and dozens of young trees. It's difficult to imagine the original features. The willows and cottonwoods that were planted during the spring of 1998, just inches apart, are already well over five feet tall.
The site was a shock. The ground was marshy and in places completely water logged. This picture is of the "path" we followed from the upper terrace (now filled in) to the bank.
The fiber logs and fill dirt have almost completely covered the rip-rap rock. Almost none of the lower bank remains. As we walked along, we stepped from fiber log to fiber log to avoid the patches of rocky mud.
If we hadn't seen pictures and video tape of the area, we wouldn't have believed the discovery site could have ever existed. All hope is lost for recovering any more bones of the Kennewick Man skeleton or information related to his context at the site. Perhaps archaeologists and geologists will be able to work on the upper terrace, but it appears the conditions have been altered beyond recovery. Certainly time is critical, as the roots of all those trees penetrate deeper.
We left the site feeling a deep sense of regret for its loss. We are more determined than ever to resist the government's plan to limit the study of the skeleton. The government has allowed a few people to do only the limited studies the goverment believes are necessary.
We must all continue to insist that all qualified scientists
have an opportunity to study, discuss, compare, and publish their
results freely, so we all can learn as much as possible about
the ancient past.
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