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Ghostly Gunslingers: the Postmortem Lives of the Kiel Brothers, Nevada's First Frontiersmen

  • John J. Crandall (a1) and Ryan P. Harrod (a2)


In October 1900, Edwin and William Kiel were killed outside of Nevada's oldest standing structure in North Las Vegas. Since their death, the Kiel brothers have been analysed by bioarchaeologists and forensic experts. Their ranch, now a historic site, remains the property of the city of North Las Vegas and is a contested space which has seen little development. In this article, we discuss the post-mortem social lives of the brothers within the context of debates about the ranch and the brother's bones which remain separated. How the brothers have taken on various symbolic forms after death and how their bones have not yet been returned to the site are examined. We document the ways the brothers have been used rhetorically as tools by the living as they have debated the future of the ranch. We argue that the brother's bones, even in their absence, are effective tools in ongoing political debates. This article provides an example of how absent bodies, or bodies out of place, can serve as secondary agents. Additionally, the study provides bioarchaeologists with a narrative of how the dead are more than tools but may unexpectedly alter human behaviour.



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