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Mar 7, 2017

Two and a half hours drive from where I live is a small city called Kennewick. It is similar to other towns in Washington State that are east of the Cascade mountains; it is dry, flat, and has a climate that is close to that of a desert. In this area, at a park next to the Columbia river, two men came across an intact(1) skull just ten feet from the shore. The whole skeleton was excavated soon afterwards. As scientists studied it, they found that it was the most intact and well preserved skeleton of any ancient tribesman of the Americas. But who was this man, and which tribe had he belonged to? Five Native American tribes claimed that he belonged to one of them, and therefore legally the skeleton needed to be returned to his land of origin and given a proper burial. These tribes are: the Colville, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Wanapum. A court case developed because of this. The man had been found on federal land, and so the 'Kennewick man', as he was named, became the property of the U.S Army Corp of Engineers. However, Native Americans have a lot of legal rights, especially when it comes to excavations(2) of bones or artifacts(3) on land that used to be theirs. Years went by, and many studies were carried out on the skeleton. Some scientists believed that the man was one of the early natives who had originally crossed the Bering Straight ice bridge from Russia. Others believed that he had come to the Americas by sea from Asia. So who was right? The case came to an end after the Corp of Engineers had scientists in Copenhagen, Denmark study the skeleton using the latest DNA testing. The results were that he was about 8,500 years old, and genetically closest to Native Americans such as the Colville Indians. This discovery was a victory for the native tribes, and so, with reverence and satisfaction the Kennewick man was reburied in tribal territory. 

1. 'Intact' means 'altogether' or 'in one piece'. A verb that we often use with 'intact' is 'to remain'.

a. When we bought the old house, we found very old documents in the attic. They were all intact.

b. Even after our terrible argument, my dignity remained intact.

2. 'Excavations' from the verb 'to excavate'. This noun and verb are used in contexts of archeology and construction.

a.The land must be excavated and leveled before the concrete is poured for the main floor of the house.

b. Excavation will continue at Stone Henge because of the recent, extensive discoveries.

3. 'Artifact' is another archeological word meaning an object that was made or used by man.

a. In the local museum, you can actually find many artifacts used by Native American Indians.

b. York is a place where artifacts are being found all the time because of its rich and ancient history.

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