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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Winter 2003 Texas: Excavation at Buckeye Knoll, Victoria
Texas: Excavation at Buckeye Knoll, Victoria
Agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
As reported in the Summer 2002 Case Digest, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uncovered the largest Early Archaic cemetery (ca. 5,000 B.C.) found west of the Mississippi.
Located at a National Register-eligible site known as Buckeye Knoll outside of Victoria, Texas, the site’s human remains are considered of exceptional scientific importance and the archeological community has called for their full analysis.
Several Indian tribes, however, believe the cemetery is a sacred site and that the remains should not be analyzed but reinterred. The Corps of Engineers is considering the degree of scientific study to conduct on the human remains in light of the need to respect the concerns of descendants.
In July 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drafted a plan for the treatment of the human remains and materials recovered from the Buckeye Knoll site. The ACHP supported the treatment plans proposed non-destructive analyses of the recovered items, but expressed the concern that it failed to make the case that the destruction of human bone for DNA analysis, stable isotope studies, and purified-collagen AMS dating is needed to answer important research questions.
Excavation at Buckeye Knoll, near Victoria, TX (photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District and Coastal Environments, Inc.)
Thus, unless the Corps of Engineers could specify the value of the destructive analyses in the context of explicit and meaningful research questions, the ACHP would not support destructive analyses on human bone.
While the Society for American Archeology, the Council of Texas Archeologists, and the Texas State Historic Preservation Officer disagreed with the ACHP, the Corps of Engineers revised its treatment plan to address the ACHPs concerns, and the ACHP withdrew its objections.
Among other parties who have commented on the treatment plan, the Mescalero Apache remains opposed to destructive analysis of the human remains, while the State Historic Preservation Officer and organizations representing the interests of archeologists recommend that the Corps of Engineers collect and analyze a larger sample of human remains than is proposed.
In consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer and the ACHP, the Corps of Engineers must try to resolve the differences of opinion regarding the sampling strategy for technical studies that use human bone. The agency will then transmit a final draft treatment plan to all of the parties that are consulting on the case under the Section 106 review process and request their comments on the final draft.
For background information on this case, see the Summer 2002 Case Digest (use your browser's back button to return to this issue).
Staff contact: Carol Gleichman
Posted May 6, 2003
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