R E N O, Nev., Aug. 16, 2000 -- An ancient mummy at the heart of a dispute
between modern science and Native American culture is not
affiliated with any contemporary tribe or group, the Bureau of Land
Management said Tuesday.
“After more than four years of consultation with the tribe,analyzing the information and reviewing policy, I feel it’s time tomake this determination,” state BLM Director Bob Abbey said in awritten statement.
The partial, mummified remains were found by archaeologists 60years ago in Spirit Cave, in the Grimes Point area about 13 mileseast of Fallon. It has been housed at the Nevada State Museum inCarson City for much of the time since then.
Anthropologists and scientists say more study of the10,000-year-old Spirit Cave Man would provide valuable insight intowhat the first inhabitants of North America were like.
Wanted for BurialBut the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe claims the man is theirancestor and they want him returned for burial as outlined underthe Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act.
The act requires federal agencies to determine if remains foundon public lands are ancestral to any modern-day tribes. If so, theyare to be returned for burial.
But the BLM said there is no cultural, biological or physicalevidence to show Spirit Cave Man was an ancestor of the Paiutetribe.
“There is no geographic evidence indicating how long theNorthern Paiute have occupied the Spirit Cave area prior toEuropean contact in the early 1800s and none indicating who, ifanyone, lived there at any earlier time,” the agency said in areport released Tuesday.
It concluded that the remains “predate contemporary NorthernPaiute tribes and cannot reasonably be culturally affiliated withany of them.”
The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe did not immediately return atelephone call seeking comment.
No Mummy Studies YetBut Abbey said the agency’s preliminary determination doesn’tmean the mummy will be subjected to scientific testing in theimmediate future.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is reviewing recommendations onhow remains that cannot be traced to a particular culture should behandled, he said.
“I am keenly aware of the cultural sensitivity of the materialsfrom Spirit Cave and I have no intention of approving any researchthat involves invasive testing of the human remains until thesecretary acts,” Abbey said.
Abbey said anyone disputing the BLM’s preliminary finding can doso in writing until Oct. 2.