And, for the (Fossil) Record...

MORE THAN OTHER sciences, archaeology progresses at the mercy of chance. A wading teenager comes across a skull; a farmer out plowing turns up fragments of pottery; a cowboy riding fences spots something white in the side of a flood-cut arroyo. For every such happenstance discovery reported, how many more pass unrecorded, lost through incomprehension, indifference, or greed? Maybe because the very stuff of archaeologists' livelihood is so dependent on the vagaries of chance, a lot of people who take up the profession are, if not driven, at least remarkably focused personalities. Think of Schliemann, calmly convinced that Homer's Troy lay open for the digging beneath an unprepossessing hillock in Turkey, conjuring away doubt and contrary evidence though sheer concentration, determination, resolution. "Kennewick Man" came to light by chance. What followed upon his discovery would surely have been different, and certainly far less riven by controversy, had the first examination of his remains fallen to someone other than James C. Chatters, PhD. The more on learns about what Hollywood calls "the back-story," the more the tale of Kennewick Man comes to resemble a kind of epic tragicomedy, with a protagonist seemingly shaped by fate to play the lead role in just such a drama. From Riddle of the Bones: Politics, Science, Race, and the Story of Kennewick Man. Copyright 2000 by Roger Downey. Published by Copernicus Books, an imprint of Springer-Verlag. $25. Available in bookstores.

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