Kennewick Man is the name generally given to the skeletal remains of a prehistoric Paleoamerican man found on a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, on July 28, 1996. It is one of the most complete ancient skeletons ever found. Radiocarbon tests on bone have shown it to date from 8.9k to 9k cal years B.P.
The discovery of the remains led to considerable controversy, as the Umatilla people and other tribes have wanted the remains returned to them for reburial under NAGPRA, the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The law was designed to remedy long-standing wrongs done to tribes, and facilitate the return of human remains and cultural objects unlawfully obtained taken from them. In this case, the archeologist who discovered the bones, James Chatters and Douglas Owsley an archeologist at the Smithsonian, both asserted that the bones were unrelated to today's Native Americans, and instead had features that more closely resembled Caucasian or Southeast Asian peoples - a finding that would exempt the bones from NAGPRA.
Kennewick Man then became the focus of a controversial nine-year court case between the US Army Corps of Engineers, scientists, and Native American tribes who claimed ownership of the remains. Under NAGPRA, the tribes would typically maintain the right to rebury the remains of Kennewick Man, and to refuse to allow scientific study of the man they referred to as "the Ancient One". The US Army Corps of Engineers, who oversaw the land where the remains were found, agreed to comply with the requests of the tribes. Before the transfer could be made, Owsley, along with seven other anthropologists, including Smithsonian colleague Dennis Stanford, filed a lawsuit asserting the right to study the skeleton.
In February 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cultural link between any of the Native American tribes and the Kennewick Man could not be proved because of the age of the remains. Its ruling allowed scientific study of the remains to continue, while the USACE retained custody of the remains. In July 2005, a team of scientists from around the United States convened in Seattle for 16 days to study the remains in detail. Their research results were published in 2014 in Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton edited by Douglas Owsley and Richard Jantz.
In June 2015, scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark determined through DNA from 8,500-year-old bones that Kennewick Man is in fact related to contemporary Native Americans, including those from the region where his bones were found. The international team of scientists had confirmed this finding to the Army Corps of Engineers as far back as 2013. Chatters, the discoverer of the bones, had long changed his mind after finding similar skull shapes among confirmed ancestors of Native Americans. The results did not surprise scientists who study the genetics of ancient people, as almost all Paleoamericans "have shown strong genetic ties with modern Native Americans". Analysis showed that Kennewick Man is “very closely related to the Colville" tribe in northeast Washington. The results were published in 'Nature magazine. Public officials such as Governor Inslee and Senator Murray have since called on the Corps of Engineers, who retained possession of Kennewick Man, to return the remains to Native American tribes.
The discovery of Kennewick Man was accidental. Will Thomas and David Deacy were attending the annual hydroplane races, and found his skull in a reservoir on the Columbia River at Columbia Park  The remains had been scattered in the reservoir due to erosion.
Following delivery of the cranium by the coroner, they were examined by archaeologist James Chatters. In ten visits to the site, Chatters managed to collect 350 bones and pieces of bone, which, with the skull, completed almost an entire skeleton. The cranium was fully intact with all the teeth that had been present at the time of death. All major bones were found, except the sternum and a few bones of the hands and feet. Many of the bones were broken into several pieces. After studying the bones, Chatters concluded that they belonged to "a male of late middle age (40-55 years), and tall (170 to 176 cm, 5′7″ to 5′9″),and was fairly muscular with a slender build". The initial race identification was Caucasoid.
A small bone fragment was submitted to the University of California, Riverside for radiocarbon dating. This indicated the age of the skeleton at approximately 9,300 to 9,600 years (8,400 uncalibrated "radiocarbon years"), not the 19th century, as had originally been assumed. Subsequent radiocarbon dating indicates a somewhat younger age of 8.9k to 9k cal years BP.
Chatters found that bone had partially grown around a 79 mm (3.1 in) stone projectile lodged in the ilium, part of the pelvic bone. On x-ray, nothing appeared. Chatters put the bone through a CT scan, and it was discovered that the projectile was made from a siliceous gray stone that was found to have igneous (intrusive or volcanic) origins. The projectile, leaf-shaped, long, and broad, with serrated edges, fit the definition of a Cascade point. This type of point is a feature of the Cascade phase, which occurred roughly 7,500 to 12,000 years BP.
To further investigate the mystery of the Kennewick man and determine whether the skeleton belonged to the Umatilla Native American tribe, an extraction of DNA was analyzed. However, according to the report of the scientists performing the DNA analysis, "available technology and protocols do not allow the analysis of ancient DNA from these remains."
Forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, who later led the scientific team that examined Kennewick Man's skeleton in 2005, discovered that the bones in Kennewick Man's arms were bent. Owsley theorized that this was the result of muscles built up over the course of a lifetime of hunting and spearfishing.[page needed] Kennewick Man was found to be clearly right-handed, as the bones of the right arm are noticeably larger than the bones found in Kennewick Man's left arm.
Chatters et al. conducted a graphic comparison, including size, of Kennewick Man to eighteen modern populations and showed Kennewick Man to be most closely related to the Ainu. However, when size was excluded as a factor, no association to any population was established. Chatters said that anthropologist C. Loring Brace classified Ainu and Polynesians as a single craniofacial Jomon-Pacific cluster and Chatters said "Polynesians have craniofacial similarities to Asian, Australian and European peoples". Brace himself stated in a 2006 interview with the Tri-City Herald that his analysis of the skeleton indicated that Kennewick Man was related to the Ainu.
Anthropologist Joseph Powell of the University of New Mexico was also allowed to examine the remains. Powell used craniometric data obtained by anthropologist William White Howells of Harvard University and anthropologist Tsunehiko Hanihara of Saga University that had the advantage of including data drawn from Asian and North American populations. Powell said that Kennewick Man was not European but most resembled the Ainu and Polynesians. Powell said that the Ainu descend from the Jōmon people who are an East Asian population with "closest biological affinity with south-east Asians rather than western Eurasian peoples". Furthermore, Powell said that dental analysis showed the skull to have a 94-percent consistency with being of a Sundadont group like the Ainu and Polynesians and only a 48-percent consistency with being of a Sinodont group like that of North Asia. Powell said analysis of the skull showed it to be "unlike American Indians and Europeans". Powell concluded that Kennewick man "is clearly not a Caucasoid unless Ainu and Polynesians are considered Caucasoid."
The biological diversity among ancient skulls in the Americas has further complicated attempts to establish how closely Kennewick Man is related to any modern Native American tribes. Skulls older than 8,000 years old have been found to possess greater physical diversity than do those of modern Native Americans. The origin of that diversity, whether due to different lineages or local adaptation, is a matter of debate.
In 2005, a 10-day examination of the skeleton, led by forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, revealed that Kennewick Man had arthritis in his right elbow, both of his knees, and within several of his vertebrae, although not severe enough to be crippling. Owsley discovered that Kennewick Man had also suffered some trauma in his lifetime, which was evident by a fractured rib that had healed, a depression fracture on Kennewick Man's forehead and similar indentation on the left side of the head, and a spear jab that healed. Despite earlier theories regarding Kennewick Man's age, the Owsley team thinks he may have been as young as 38 at the time of death.[page needed]
Kennewick Man was found to have been deliberately buried. By examining the calcium carbonate left behind as underground water collected on the underside of the bones and then evaporated, scientists were able to conclude that Kennewick Man was lying on his back with his feet rolled slightly outward and his arms at his side, with the palms facing down—a position that could hardly have come about by accident.[page needed]
The findings of the study team convened under Owsley have been published in Kennewick Man, The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton (Douglas W. Owsley and Richard L. Jantz, editors). In it, multiple disciplines including forensic anthropology, physical anthropology, and isotope chemistry are used to reconstruct the life history and heritage of that individual.
Measurements of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope ratios in the bone collagen indicate that the man lived almost exclusively on a diet of marine mammals for the last 20 or so years of his life and that the water he drank was glacial melt water. The closest marine coastal environment where one could find glacial melt water at the time of Kennewick Man was Alaska. That combined with the location of the find led to the conclusion that the individual led a highly mobile, water-borne lifestyle centered on the northern coast.
Craniofacial measurements of the skull were found to resemble those of the Ainu, descendants of the Jōmon aboriginals of Japan. The Jōmon and Kennewick Man are thought by the authors to share common ancestors among seafaring peoples of coastal Asia with similar craniofacial characteristics.
In June 2015, new results of DNA analysis were announced which suggest that Kennewick Man is more closely related to modern Native Americans than to any other living population. He was particularly close to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the only one of the five tribes who originally claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor who donated DNA samples for comparison; however, due to lack of genomes from North American aboriginal populations it was impossible to actually identify his nearest living relatives. His Y-DNA haplogroup is Q-M3 and his mitochondrial DNA is X2a, both uniparental genetic markers found almost exclusively in Native Americans.
The discovery of Kennewick Man, along with other ancient skeletons, has furthered scientific debate over the exact origin and history of early Native American people. One hypothesis holds that a single source of migration occurred, consisting of hunters and gatherers following large herds of game who wandered across the Bering land bridge. An alternative hypothesis is that more than one source population was involved in migration immediately following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) that occurred ~22k to ~18k years BP, and that the land migration through Beringia was preceded by, or roughly synchronous with, a waterborne migration from coastal Asia. The similarity of some ancient skeletal remains in the Americas, such as Kennewick Man, to coastal Asian phenotypes is suggestive of more than one migration source. Classification of DNA from ancient skeletons such as Kennewick Man and others of similar phenotype may or may not reveal genetic affiliation between them, with either Beringian or coastal Asian source populations.
Regardless of the debate over there being one or more than one source of migration following the LGM, Kennewick Man has yielded insight into the marine lifestyle and mobility of early coastal migrants.
Scientific criticism of Owsley study
In 2012, Burke Museum archeologists voiced concern and criticism of the Oswley team's findings. First, it was noted that no one outside of Owsley's team had an opportunity to examine the Smithonsian's data to see how the team reached its conclusions. Second was the absence of peer-reviewed articles published prior to Owsley unveiling the bones' secrets. Standard procedure in the academic world is for scientists to submit articles to scholarly journals, have other experts review the articles prior to publication, and then have experts debate results after publication. While Owsley has consulted extensively with his group of experts, he has yet to publish a scholarly article on Kennewick Man. "He's never published any scientific results of his studies. There's no place for anyone to look at the actual data. You have to have a higher amount of scrutiny in the scientific process," said Peter Lape, curator of achaeology at the Burke Museum and an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Washington.
Third, Oswley's non-Native argument hinged on the assumption that the Kennewick Man's skull was a reliable means of assessing ancestry—a "nineteenth-century skull science paradigm," said said David Hurst Thomas, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History.
Finally, it raised conflict of interest questions for a team fighting for custody of the remains to perform a study whose conclusions would influence the outcome of that battle.
According to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, if human remains are found on federal lands and their cultural affiliation to a Native American tribe can be established, the affiliated tribe may claim them. The Umatilla tribe requested custody of the remains, wanting to bury them according to tribal tradition. Their claim was contested by researchers hoping to study the remains. The Umatilla argued that their oral history goes back 10,000 years and say that their people have been present on their historical territory since the dawn of time.
Robson Bonnichsen and seven other anthropologists sued the United States for the right to conduct tests on the skeleton. On February 4, 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel rejected the appeal brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Umatilla, Colville, Yakama, Nez Perce, and other tribes on the grounds that they were unable to show any evidence of kinship. The presiding judge found that the US government had acted in bad faith, and awarded attorney’s fees of $2,379,000 to the plaintiffs.
On April 7, 2005, during the 109th Congress, United States Senator John McCain introduced an amendment to NAGPRA which (section 108) would have changed the definition of "Native American" from being that which "is indigenous to the United States" to "is or was indigenous to the United States." However, the 109th Congress concluded without enacting the bill. By the bill's definition, Kennewick Man would have been classified as Native American, regardless of whether any link to a contemporary tribe could be found.
Proponents of this definition argue that it agrees with current scientific understanding, which is that it is not in all cases possible for prehistoric remains to be traced to current tribal entities, partly because of social upheaval, forced resettlement and extinction of entire ethnicities caused by disease and warfare. Passage of this bill would not resolve the controversy related to Kennewick Man, as there would have to be a determination of which Native American group should take possession of the remains, if he could not be definitively linked with a current tribe. To be of practical use in a historical and prehistorical context, some argue further that the term "Native American" should be applied so that it spans the entire range from the Clovis culture (which cannot be positively assigned to any contemporary tribal group) to the Métis, a group of mixed ancestry who developed as an ethnic group as a consequence of European contact, yet constitute a distinct cultural entity.
The remains are now (2014) at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, where they were deposited in October 1998. The Burke Museum is the court-appointed neutral repository for the remains and does not exhibit the remains. They are still legally the property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as they were found on land under its custody. The tribes still want the remains to be reburied. The Corps of Engineers continues to deny scientist's requests to conduct additional studies of the skeleton. In light of the findings that Kennewick Man is in fact related to present day Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, public officials such as Governor Inslee and Senator Murray have since called on the Corps of Engineers, who retained possession of Kennewick Man, to return the remains to Native American tribes.
A first attempt at DNA analysis in the early 2000s found that meaningful results were impossible to attain with the techniques available at that time. With changes in technology, additional DNA testing of remains has been conducted by an analytical laboratory in Denmark. A 2013 email from the laboratory to the USACE stated the feeling, based on preliminary results of analysis, that the specimen contained Native American DNA. However, no final results have been presented and the laboratory refuses further discussion until such time. A DNA study announced in June 2015 concluded that "Kennewick Man is closer to modern Native Americans than to any other population worldwide" and that genetic comparisons show "continuity with Native North Americans over at least the last eight millennia".
- Archaeology of the Americas
- Arlington Springs Man - (Human remains)
- Buhl Woman - (Human remains)
- Calico Early Man Site - (Archeological site)
- Cueva de las Manos - (Cave paintings)
- Fort Rock Cave - (Archeological site)
- Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi - (Human remains)
- Leanderthal Lady - (Human remains)
- Luzia Woman - (Human remains)
- Marmes Rockshelter - (Archeological site)
- Mummy Cave - (Archeological site)
- Naia - (Human remains)
- Paisley Caves - (Archeological site)
- Repatriation and reburial of human remains
- Settlement of the Americas
- Windover Archaeological Site - (Human remains)
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- Kennewick Man at Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
- Forensic observations by James C. Chatters, 2004
- "The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets" by Douglas Preston, Smithsonian Magazine, September 2014
- Scientists: 'Kennewick Man' might have been Asian by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, August 25, 2014 (via Tri-City Herald)
- Kennewick Man Case from Friends of America's Past - events, press releases, court documents
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- "NMNH Scientist Studies Kennewick Man" - The scientific team assembled to study the Kennewick Man skeletal finished the second phase of research. Douglas W. Owsley, Smithsonian anthropologist, presented findings in 2006 in Seattle. Smithsonian website.
- NOVA Study Guide 2000; four segments:
- "Does Race Exist?" Anthropologists George Gill of the University of Wyoming and Loring Brace of the University of Michigan debated;
- "Meet Kennewick Man (QTVR)." Archeologist Chatters spoke of working with the remains;
- "Claims for the Remains": Robson Bonnichsen; Loring Brace; George Gill, Vance Haynes, Richard Jantz, Douglas Owsley, Dennis Stanford, Gentry Steele spoke about suit against the U.S. government;
- "The Dating Game (Hot Science)." Application of carbon-14 analysis.