An attempt by officials at the University of California, San Diego, to give a pair of nearly 10,000-year-old skeletons to a local Native American tribe has been halted. This may ultimately save the specimens for scientific study.
Under federal law, bones can be returned to a tribe that can prove 'cultural affiliation'. But the skeletons, found on the campus 33 years ago, are too old to be culturally linked to a tribe, say university scientific panels (see Nature 458, 265; 2009).
University chancellor Marye Anne Fox and president Mark Yudof nonetheless requested permission in February from federal officials to offer the Kumeyaay tribe the bones, which have been in dispute for more than two years (see Nature 455, 1156–1157; 2008). But Fox has now cancelled that request after Kumeyaay attorneys changed their plea for the bones, seeking university recognition of cultural affiliation.