Claims for the Remains
D. Gentry Steele
Texas A&M University
I strongly believe in the importance and value of the scientific examination of
our earliest prehistoric ancestors. Today's study of humanity's natural history
has clearly documented the recency of human conquest of the last of Earth's
landmasses. While we can trace our human lineage more than two million years
back in time, the colonization of the New World, and the islands of the Pacific
Rim—the last chapters in our global dispersal—are relatively much more
recent events, having occurred within the last several thousand years in the
case of the Pacific islands.
The actions of these last pioneers were inexorably interwoven with and
dependent upon those who went before, and because of this, are an integrated
part of our life history. When and how the last of the Earth's landmasses were
occupied, by whom, and how the processes of biological change marked humanity's
last global pioneers are questions of interest to all. I also strongly believe
that understanding our shared life history will ultimately help us appreciate
The recovery and interpretation of our prehistory has been accomplished through
scientific investigation of those biological and cultural remains that have
survived the erosion of time. Without the scientific investigation of this
first line of evidence, we would have no knowledge of our prehistory, yet the
most ancient remains are too few, and typically incomplete or even fragmentary.
Because we view our ancient past through the destructive filter of time, each
new site where human remains are recovered is of incalculable importance.
Therefore, the scientific study of remains such as Kennewick Man, Wizard's
Beach, and Spirit Cave should be thorough, carefully done, and verified by
investigation of early remains such as Kennewick Man (part of whose skull is shown
above), we would have no knowledge of our prehistory, Steele maintains.
Verifying our analyses is the foundation upon which all science is built.
Without verification, the analyses are suspect at best, and at worst, ignored.
This process of verification does not imply a lack of confidence in the work of
the initial scholars. Rather, it is recognition that scientists gather and
interpret scientific evidence within the context of a particular theoretical
framework and perspective. Verification of a scientist's studies provides
assurance that data supportive of alternative interpretations are gathered.
Without this verification, scientific analysis is incomplete.
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