When he is not studying ancient skeletons, Doug Owsley is enlisted by the State Department and the FBI to identify remains. He has worked on some of the most notorious tragedies in recent history - Bosnia, Waco, 9/11 and Jeffrey Dahmer's victims among them. When an anthropologist in Kennewick, Washington, calls Owsley to help study a 10,000 year old caucasoid skeleton, he gets caught in a battle against the Justice Dept and Indian tribes who claim the skeleton is Native American and should be buried and not analysed. Owsley, backed by scientists worldwide, filed suit against the US government and is now at the forefront of a landmark case - currently pending a ruling in the US District Court - that may alter repatriation laws and have a significant impact on the classic views of Native Americans, migration patters, and anthropology, as well as our understanding of prehistory.
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Dr Douglas Owsley, curator for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and forensic scientist "reads bones like most people read books". He also gains as much knowledge from them. In No Bone Unturned: The Adventures of the Smithsonian's Top Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons, Jeff Benedict presents a double story: a sensitive portrait of this extraordinary scientist and a thorough reporting of the landmark 1996 lawsuit, Robson Bonnichsen et al vs US et al. Benedict admits that his initial plan was to focus on the lawsuit, in which a group of scientists sued the federal government for the right to study the remains of 9,600 year-old Kennewick Man--the oldest complete human skeleton to be found in America and claimed by the Umatilla Native American tribe for reburial, but shifted his focus after hearing about Owsley. The result is a fascinating account of how one man's commitment to science and knowledge could help rewrite North American human history.
Owsley is among the country's leading authorities in skeletal research and physical/forensic anthropology. In addition to curating the Smithsonian's vast Native American skeletal collection, he has assisted various government agencies to identify remains in historic cases ranging from the war in Bosnia and Waco to September 11. By reviewing Owsley's input in these cases, Benedict shows how his involvement in (and impact on) the Kennewick man case is a logical outgrowth of his professional standing and brilliance. Part detective story, part thriller, the lawsuit at the heart No Bone Unturned provides captivating reading. Benedict tells this high-stakes story, replete with legal twists and high-powered political maneuvering, clearly and dynamically. One might think that a story about a scientist and a lawsuit could be, well, as dry as the bones Owsley studies. Far from it--No Bone Unturned makes the case for donning a lab coat and fighting the good fight. --Silvana Tropea, Amazon.com
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