Everett Ruess found...or not?

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PaleoRob
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Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by PaleoRob » Jun 29 2009 5:33 pm

I know this has been discussed a bit before on here, but there is a new wrinkle in how things are developing...
http://history.utah.gov/archaeology/ruess.html
Utah State Historical Society wrote: Comments on the announcement that Everett Ruess's remains have been found, by Kevin Jones, state archaeologist, and Derinna Kopp, physical anthropologist:

David Roberts’ recent piece in National Geographic Adventure tells an exciting tale of the discovery of human remains in the Chinle Wash area of the Navajo Reservation in Southern Utah that seem, according to several lines of evidence, to be those of the long-missing artistic wanderer, Everett Ruess.

According to stories told by a Navajo Tribal member to his grandson, Denny Bellson, a white man was killed by Utes in Chinle Wash in the 1930s. The grandfather did not tell anyone about what he had witnessed for many years. When he did, he suggested that it might have been Ruess.

In the last few years, Bellson determined to find the remains and ascertain if they were indeed those of the missing vagabond. He enlisted local law enforcement officers and even the FBI as he visited isolated burials and opened them to see if the lost white boy was buried there. After digging into several burials only to find the remains of Indians, Denny found a burial that he thought might be the one they sought. When he revisited the site with officers from the Navajo Nation, San Juan County, and the FBI, they tore into the sand and bones with vigor, even breaking the skull in the process. After pulling the bones and artifacts from the burial site they piled them back in the crevice, damaging the skeleton.

Navajo Tribal archaeologist Ron Maldonado visited the site and documented what was left of the ravaged burial site. Examination of the bones by University of Colorado forensic scientists determined that the remains were of a white male in the right size and age range to be Ruess. DNA tests comparing DNA taken from a femur and DNA taken from Ruess’s nieces appears to University of Colorado geneticists to be a match.

So why not consider the case closed?

While scientific analyses have been mentioned in the popular article and press releases, the actual investigator reports have not been made available for peer review. At this point, all we have is a magazine article and a few tidbits on various websites. Based on available data, we think there are several evidentiary reasons to keep the investigation open, and to have the analyses replicated by independent researchers. We also think that the case of Everett Ruess is of such a high profile that it is imperative to leave no stone unturned.

First, although this is not critical to the case, the story told by Aneth Nez, Bellson’s grandfather, seems a little bit odd. The Utes and Navajos were not great friends in the 1930s, and it would seem that a Navajo seeing Utes murder a white man would report the murder to authorities rather than risk the consequences of being accused of the deed. Additionally, touching a dead man and getting covered with his blood is not something a traditional Navajo does lightly, and carrying the body from Chinle Wash to its final resting spot hundreds of feet above is no easy undertaking. We think there may be more to the story.

Next, the photos of the mandible show well-worn occlusal surfaces of the teeth, something we are accustomed to seeing in Native Americans who ate a diet rich in stone-ground corn, but rarely if ever seen in non-natives. Additionally, the mandible exhibits a very distinctive case of anterior crowding, with the left second incisor having moved behind the canine. This should be an obvious trait that would be seen in photos and remembered by the family. The mandible also appears to show a large cavity in a left premolar that could have been painful and which a person like Ruess might have sought to have treated.

The photos showing the match between the photographs of Ruess and the bone fragments do not seem to us to line up very well, causing us to question the accuracy of the match. First, there is no indication of how the researchers scaled the historic photographs to those of the skeletal elements to ensure the images superimposed were accurately sized. The photo showing the mandible places it in such a position as to be nearly protruding from the skin under his chin, and at a great distance from the surface of his face in other places. We think this superposition does not support the contention of a match. Additionally, the positioning of the nasal bones on the frontal photograph is problematic. The photo shows the right nasal bone, but it is lined up where the left nasal bone would be in the photograph, again not suggesting a good match.

The most convincing bit of evidence, the DNA, seems to be unassailable, as the analysts made strong statements such as: “I believe it would hold up in any court in the country." (U of Colorado Professor Kenneth Krauter). However, the first attempt to match DNA between the bones and hair from Everett’s brother Waldo’s hairbrush failed to turn up a match, because, it was surmised, the DNA from the hair on the brush was degraded. What about the DNA from the badly-weathered bones? Was it not degraded? Were the samples from the bones collected by a lab or scientists experienced in collecting ancient DNA?

A number of questions still remain, including those regarding Everett’s burros, and the distance between where he was last seen and where he was purportedly murdered. The fact that the evidence at the burial site was badly botched before an archaeologist could get to the scene detracts from the neatness of the story.

We think some of these questions and issues, including those we have raised here, should be enough to warrant a reexamination of the bones by an independent researcher, a thorough study of the artifacts, publication of all the results, and an independent DNA study conducted by researchers experienced in collecting and analyzing ancient DNA. If asked, the Utah Antiquities Section would be happy to assist in any way possible.

We’re not suggesting that the mystery of Everett Ruess’s disappearance has not been solved. We do hope, however, that additional, independent studies will be conducted to address questions that still remain. It would be unfortunate if the family were to have the remains cremated and scattered before all stones are turned in seeking to solve the mystery of Everett’s disappearance. This unfortunate boy has been missing for 75 years. To do him justice, we would suggest that the case remain open until the unresolved issues are carefully investigated.
To bring anyone else up to speed who isn't familiar with recent developments...
http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com ... berts-text
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by big_load » Jun 29 2009 6:24 pm

Interesting. I can't remember if it was posted here, but people have wished that his fate would remain a mystery. Perhaps it will after all. The lack of peer review is disappointing and speaks poorly of those involved.

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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by Vaporman » Jun 29 2009 6:46 pm

I also read that article in NG Adventure and thought it made for a pretty interesting twist on the story...
Yea, canyoneering is an extreme sport... EXTREMELY dramatic!!! =p

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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by PaleoRob » Jun 29 2009 6:58 pm

According to some stuff I've heard, the DNA results are going to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by writelots » Jun 30 2009 11:39 am

Some mysteries are more beautiful than any solution. I'm glad there's enough doubt in the evidence to keep the universe questioning...
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by RedRoxx44 » Oct 22 2009 6:29 pm

From Paul Foy at the Associated Press---- Remains NOT Everett Ruess


A skeleton found in the Utah wilderness last year was not that of Everett Ruess, a legendary wanderer of the 1930s, despite initial forensic tests that seemed to have solved an enduring mystery, his nephew told The Associated Press.

"The skeleton is not related to us," Brian Ruess, a 44-year-old software salesman in Portland, Ore., said late Wednesday.

Everett Ruess vanished in southern Utah in 1934, writing in a final letter to his family in California that "as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon" and "it is enough that I am surrounded with beauty."

He was 20 and a gifted poet who explored the Southwest over much of four years. In between journeys, he hobnobbed with famous artists of his time.

Initial DNA tests were termed "irrefutable" months ago by University of Colorado researchers, but one of them said Wednesday he accepted as final the new results from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md.

Utah's state archaeologist, Kevin Jones, had questioned the original results, prompting the family to seek a second opinion.

Jones said a recovered lower jawbone was characteristic of an American Indian's, not a man of European descent, and that worn teeth suggested a lifetime diet of coarse grains. It's not known whose remains were actually found.

"It's what we expected," Jones said Wednesday of results disputing the find. "That was why we raised the questions -- we thought there were problems. I'm delighted at the courage of the family to pursue additional analysis about the identity of their ancestor."

The first forensic results -- combined with a recently disclosed Navajo tale of murder -- seemed to make a powerful case that Ruess' body had been discovered, as recounted in the magazine National Geographic Adventure .

A contributing editor of the magazine, David Roberts, encountered what he called a surprising backlash and even threats after writing the story last spring, but not on scientific grounds. Rather, the legend of Everett Ruess -- long a figure of American West lore -- provoked strong emotions.

Roberts' discovery began with the haunting account of a Navajo elder who, according to a family story, had witnessed the young man's murder by other Indians and waited decades to reveal a burial spot.

Brian Ruess said that part of the story may still be true.

"It might mean there's a skeleton out there, but this isn't the right one. It just means there's a lot of graves out there," he said.

Ruess' supposed remains were found stuffed in a rock crevice against a cliff wall at remote Comb Ridge in southeastern Utah, about 60 miles from Escalante, the town where he set off for his final wilderness journey.

Brian Ruess said he accepts the analysis of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology lab as a pre-eminent authority on DNA testing. Jones believes the first researchers mixed DNA from Ruess' four nephews and nieces with that of the discovered bones, contaminating the results.

University of Colorado biologist Kenneth Krauter, who handled the initial DNA tests, said he did a second round of tests that disproved his original results, but wasn't able to determine how he made a mistake in the first place. He called the Armed Forces results definitive.

"I'm convinced it's extremely unlikely these are the remains of Everett Ruess," Krauter said. "I feel badly for making my judgment in the first place, but it's science, and it's difficult."

Krauter didn't say why he didn't acknowledge his mistake earlier, but said he had strongly urged the family to get a second opinion.

There was no immediate response from National Geographic Adventure editors. Weeks ago, Roberts said he was fully preoccupied trying to reconcile doubts about the discovery. He could not be immediately reached late Wednesday.

The back-and-forth was jarring to the artists' only surviving family members.

"It is an up and a down, and certain members of the family would have really liked closure," Brian Ruess told The AP. "It's an emotional tug one way, and then a tug back the other way."

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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 22 2009 6:55 pm

Interesting interesting interesting! So the mystery continues...
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by Sredfield » Oct 22 2009 7:09 pm

Yes, very interesting. Would have been incredible if it were solved but maybe someday something else will surface.
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by azbackpackr » Oct 22 2009 8:15 pm

Ohhh my goodness... I just read an article in the Tucson weekly about it. (Older edition, sent to me.)

One thing that was said here was that there may be many old burials out there, and they just found the wrong one, and maybe the story is true. That is a real possibility, I would think, due to how the Navajos traditionally buried their dead.
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by kingsnake » Jun 09 2013 12:12 pm

I know this is an old thread, but I caught like less than five seconds of a TV show mentioning DNA and Bluff Utah. Did a quick google search and it turned up Ruess. Huh. I thought he disappeared in Death Valley. Anyway, turns out the body in question was definitely native, most likely Navajo. Type "loc: 37.298256,-110.951325" (no quotes) into the google search box and it will show you the location of his last camp. Judging from the location, I'd bet a flash flood was his undoing ...

p.s. Apparently it is just a mile or so off the Hole-in-the-Rock road. I'm kind of surprised no one has put up a description for that ...
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by azbackpackr » Jun 09 2013 1:46 pm

Yeah I heard about that. They built it all up into a big huge story, and said they had found Ruess. Then, months later, they did the DNA testing, and we were all let down, as were his surviving relatives.
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by beterarcher » Jun 09 2013 4:36 pm

In the re-enactment on TV, they showed their rendition of his camp and all his stuff was still there along with his two Burros. If he was taken by a flash flood you'd think they would have given a better example of what the remnants of his camp looked like.
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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by RedRoxx44 » Jun 09 2013 4:42 pm

Supposedly the camp found in Davis Gulch. Been in Davis, on a broiling hot May day via the built stock trail down in there. Old corral remains still there. One source I've read seemed to indicate another camp possibly his found on down the river in another canyon mouth. So many theories, he was murdered, he fell off a cliff, he lived with the Navajo, he went to Mexico. Not all mysteries need to be solved. ;)

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Re: Everett Ruess found...or not?

Post by azbackpackr » Jun 09 2013 5:20 pm

No Lake Powell back then, either. (Not much of a one now, come to think of it...)
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