Official Responds to Scientists' Concerns on Human Remains

Archaeologists and anthropologists are concerned that a new rule implementing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, covering human remains and cultural objects that can't be culturally affiliated with a particular tribe. They have written the Department of Interior asking that the rule be changed. Sherry Hutt, program manager for the National NAGPRA Program with the National Park Service, responded to some of the scientific concerns in an e-mail to ScienceInsider, suggesting that the remains covered by the rule aren't likely to have much scientific value:

Note that this rule applies only to human remains already determined to be Native American, but for whom the body of knowledge is insufficient to determine, even to the level of a reasonable basis, the cultural affiliation of the individuals. For those individuals subject to retrieval methods that left them bereft of contextual information or material culture, you may question what value to important scientific study might they be? For those individuals having contextual information of benefit to science, these individuals are likely culturally affiliated and subject to repatriation, thus are not subject to this rule.

Hutt says the federal government is reviewing the most recent comments to see if any issues not previously addressed were raised.