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Identified remains in Idaho raise big questions for anthropologists

Photo: Curt Remingtonsalmon-river-rapids
The level IV Snow Hole Rapids, Salmon River, Idaho, where Tamosaitis’s kayak overturned.

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Published: 4 February 2016 (GMT+10)

A news report by David Rauzi on 29 December 2015 in the Idaho County Free Press1 described how more sophisticated DNA extraction technology has finally brought the conclusion to a 21-year-old mystery. In 1994, Patricia L. Tamosaitis, 56, was presumed to have drowned after a kayaking accident at Snow Hole Rapids on the Salmon River, Idaho. After her Kayak overturned, Tamosaitis was never seen again, only parts of her life jacket and swimsuit were found.

Rauzi reports:

Two years later, July 20, 1996, a BLM [Bureau of Land Management] employee found a human skull along a sandbar approximately one-third of a mile below Snow Hole Rapids. Later that month, a University of Idaho anthropology professor evaluated the skull as probably of a Native American male, 17–20 years old at time of death, the time for which was estimated around 20 years prior. Another BLM employee found a humerus bone in the same location as the skull, but no further remains were found in the area.

When such a large mistake can be made about bones that were less than two years old then surely people should question some of the all-knowing grandiose claims made by evolutionary paleoanthropologists?

“What are the odds?” said Detective Johnson, his question to the coincidental recovery of remains so close to the accident site. So with that continually lingering doubt, along with subsequent improvements in DNA extraction and forensic sciences since 1996, he and evidence technician Amanda Davis sent the recovered remains [to] the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNT) in June 2012.

Initial reports that September from UNT were not promising, Johnson explained, as the forensic evaluation was that the skull was unlikely that of Tamosaitis, adding that “its eroded condition and absence of all soft tissue would likely require greater than two years in a riverine environment.”

“I can understand part of their confusion. They underestimated the power of the rivers we have here in Idaho County,” Johnson said. Mix in both their force with sand scouring, “and you’ll have a lot of erosion.”

Finally identified, but big questions arise!

In 1994, the searchers felt strongly that Tamosaitis, after coming out the kayak, had been pinned under a large rock in the middle of the class IV rapids, and might not have been swept downriver as in the typical case. So, in 1996, it was logical to assume the remains found may have been hers, but this was dismissed by the anthropologist’s assessment. Now, comparing the DNA extracts from the 1996 remains with Tamosaitis’s three children proved that it was their mother. The family finally received the news in December 2015 and were reported to have been saddened, but glad, gaining closure on what had happened to their mother.

Photo: Chuck Morlocksalmon-river-rapids-2
Overturned Kayak at the Snow Hole Rapids, Salmon River, Idaho.

While this is obviously a very welcome report for the family, big questions surely arise concerning the evaluation of the remains by University of Idaho anthropology professor Donald Tyler? How could an expert anthropologist have mistaken a 56 year old Caucasian female skull, which was two years old, for a 17–20 year old Native American male skull supposedly having died, “At least 20 years ago”?2 Tyler, recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in the human evolution of Southeast Asia,3 when asked to comment further on how his analysis was so far out stated, “I don’t remember which traits lead me to the conclusion that it was Native American”.4 Had more sophisticated DNA extraction technology not been developed then the expert anthropologist’s assessment may still be held up as the most valid today.

When such a large mistake can be made about bones that were less than two years old then surely people should question some of the all-knowing grandiose claims made by evolutionary paleoanthropologists? After all, they are examining bones which are thousands of years older in far less context!

Photo: Idaho County Sherriff’s Officepatricia-tamosaitis
Patricia L. Tamosaitis

Other misidentifications

History has shown that a large number of bones in the past 100 years have been misidentified and wrongly used to aid the evolutionary story, for example: Nebraska Man, Montana Man, Peking Man or Java Man II. More recently it was also revealed that bones and teeth found in San Bernardino Cave, Italy, which had been classified as belonging to Homo neanderthalensis in rock layers thought to be 28,000–59,000 years old, were misidentified and have now been reclassified as belonging to a Medieval Italian male living in the 1400s!5 There was also the deliberate hoax of Piltdown Man, and even the most recent finds in relation to ancestral human remains by evolutionists, such as Homo naledi, continue to divide experts within their own camp as to whether or not they help the evolution story. As Paleoanthropologist and evolutionist Professor Tim White recently pointed out, “Disagreements [amongst evolutionists] are common, and the configuration of the hominid twig on the tree of life remains a matter of particular contention.”6 The evolutionary story for human origins is an undemonstrated ever changing story which is nothing more than a rickety house of cards built on sand.

Sometimes experts are wrong in their conclusions because they rush to them without having carried out a full investigation.

The Bible is clear on man’s origin, having been specially created by God, and everyone descending from Adam and Eve. This information, along with the historical events in the Bible, such as the Flood at Noah’s time, give Christians a clear framework which can be used to interpret any fossil remains that are found. For further discussion see: Anthropology and Apemen Questions and Answers.

How do misidentifications occur?

Sometimes experts are wrong in their conclusions because they rush to them without having carried out a full investigation. Others do not have or have not considered all the data available, and when new information comes along the conclusion changes. Those involved in the historical scientific disciplines who accept evolution, and all that it entails, are wrong in their interpretation of the data, not due to information that they have, but because of the naturalistic philosophical framework that underpins their thought process.

‘Experts’, just like in the case of Tamosaitis’s skull and other remains, can be wrong for a number of reasons. Be careful laying your soul upon any authority that is not the Bible.

References and notes

  1. Rauzi, D., Remains identified as missing 1994 rafting victim, Idaho County Free Press, 29 December 2015; idahocountyfreepress.com. Return to text.
  2. Tyler, D., Analysis: Case No. 9607564. Human skull recovered from Salmon River, 28 July 1996. Return to text.
  3. Donald Tyler biography, University of Idaho, uidaho.edu, accessed 9 January 2016. Return to text.
  4. Personal correspondence with Professor Donald Tyler, University of Idaho, 17 January 2016. Return to text.
  5. Benazzi, S., et al., A reassessment of the presumed Neandertal remains from San Bernardino Cave, Italy, J Hum Evol. 66:89-94, 2014 | doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.009; sciencedirect.com. Return to text.
  6. White, T.D., Paleoanthropology: Five’s a crowd in our family tree, Current Biology 23(3):R112–R115, 2013. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Ian K.
Thank you for a very interesting and helpful article. It always pays to remember that, for all the good that can result from the correct use of science, scientists are as fallible as the rest of us and can be influenced by strong a-priori assumptions.
Jean P.
In todays Telegraph newspaper, 2 teenage firls who were murdered 30 years ago have finally been identified. Their skeletal remains were found after their disapperance but experts identified the remains as a boy and girl, most probably of the same family.
Only now have they been identified as a 14 yr old and her 15 yr old friend. What the families suffered all those years because of in-exact science.
Philip Robinson
Thanks for pointing out the additional example of the Kerry Graham and Francine Trimble case, who were murdered in 1978. It was a complicated case, but as the Daily Telegraph pointed out, "Incredibly, mistakes about the gender of skeletal remains are quite common, particularly in the child victims. Early forensic analysis also indicated the pair were possibly related, which proved to be untrue and also may have delayed information about the missing girls reaching Medocino detectives".
Tim Lovett - L.
Very sad for her family.
As for the "expert". This is just another forensic anthropologist doing what they do best- spin yarns. The shock this time was that the conjecture turned out to be testable today! Dear Professor Nameless of the University of Idaho: Welcome to the world of real science, where you can look very silly when you are wrong. Not to be undone, our storytelling professor quickly hides this mystery in a fog of years; "I don't remember..." So if 20 years is too much for you, what should we think when you dealing with thousands?
L David G.
Just a solid "Amen" on the whole article, especially the last sentence and a "thank you" for this work.

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