Numb3rs takes on Kennewick

I actually like CBS's Numb3rs much more than Bones, but it usually doesn't have anything to do with anthropology. But this week's episode, "Bones of contention" was great --- it was a total send-up of the Kennewick story.

Archaeologists find 10,000-year-old skeleton in California; it has "European" features; there's a court battle with a tribe; the archaeologists are bent on showing that the tribe has no claim to their casino land; the tribe's chief (Graham Greene) steals the bones and kills one of the archaeologists.

And besides that, they have bitter tribe members who are being thrown out for having insufficient blood quanta -- just like the "Black Indians"

You can see why I would find this cool -- it's like they wrote the whole episode from posts on my blog!

Now, Numb3rs is all about using math to help the FBI, so they had Charlie helpfully explaining radiocarbon decay curves and discriminant functions (they even mentioned FORDISC!). Of course, a math genius is a bit of overkill for that, so they have him do a completely irrelevant side issue finding possible ancient sites from water holes. This falls into the category of "How many cases can a math professor really help the FBI with, anyway?"

I have to say my favorite part was watching the "anthropologist" (the one played by Kate Burton) try to explain "race" to Don. I'll paraphrase:

DON: So you can tell what race the skull is?
ANTHRO: It's not really about race. Race is a social construct. It's more about geography. We can tell from the features of the skull, like whether the nose is well-suited for a cold, arid climate, what part of the world it is from -- Africa, Asia, or Europe.
HAWKS (at home): So you're saying it's about race!
DON: Oh, I see.


DON: It turns out the skull is European.
DAVID: So they can tell what race it is?
DON: It turns out it's not really about race -- that's more of a social construct.
DAVID: I guess I didn't get that memo.
HAWKS (at home): (laughter)