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13

FRIDAY

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The lecture is blandly called “The First Americans: A New Perspective,” and its press release begins with a misdirection about a newly discovered excavation site in Chile, but the real topic is much hotter than that—so controversial, in fact, that the scientific community is barely willing to talk about it. The subject is a 9,000-year-old skeleton discovered in Washington state in 1996 that displays, as a local forensics expert gingerly put it, “a very large number of Caucasoid features.” (Anthropologists always point out that “Caucasoid” is not synonymous with “European” or “white”—but they never do explain the difference.) In fact, seven skeletons at least 9,000 years old have been found in North America, and all of them have, to some degree, “Caucasoid” features. This information freaks people out, because they fear that it could be used to justify the extermination of the Native Americans on we-were-here-first grounds. But if the people of North America 9,000 years ago were white, what happened to them? The seemingly inescapable conclusion: The Indians wiped them out. The National Museum of Natural History’s Dennis Stanford will be speaking, probably sotto voce, at 3:30 p.m. at the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Building Three Auditorium, Greenbelt & Soil Conservation Rds., Greenbelt. FREE. For reservations call (301) 286-6878. (James Lochart)