Kennewick Man

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Kennewick Man is the name for the skeletal remains of a prehistoric (Paleo-Indian) man found on a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, USA on July 28, 1996. The discovery of Kennewick Man was accidental; a pair of spectators (Will Thomas and David Deacy) found his skull while attending the annual hydroplane races.[1]

One of the most complete ancient skeletons ever found, bone tests have showed the skeleton to be somewhere between 5650 and 9510 years old. These findings triggered a nine-year legal clash between scientists, the federal government and Native American tribes who claim Kennewick Man as their ancestor. The long dispute has made him an international celebrity.

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 was not genetically justified, allowing scientific study of the remains to continue[2]. Kennewick Man is likely related to the ancient Jomon, who also were the ancestors of the Ainu people of Japan. Recent DNA testing has placed his mtDNA haplogroup as haplogroup X.

In July 2005, a team of scientists from around the United States convened in Seattle for ten days to study the remains, making many detailed measurements and determining the cause of death.


Scientific significance

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. After ten visits to the site, Chatters had managed to collect 350 bones and pieces of bone, which with the skull completed almost an entire skeleton.[3] The cranium was fully intact with all the teeth that had been present at the time of death.[4] All major bones were found, except the sternum and a few bones of the hands and feet. The remains were determined to be those of "a male of late middle age (40-55 years), and tall (170 to 176 cm), slender build".[4] Many of the bones were broken into several pieces.[5] At the University of California at Riverside, a small bone fragment was subjected to radiocarbon dating. This fixed the age of the skeleton at approximately 9,300 years (8,400 uncalibrated "radiocarbon years"), not the nineteenth century, as had originally been assumed.[3] After studying the bones, Chatters concluded they belonged to a Caucasoid male about 68 inches (173 cm) tall who had died in his mid fifties.[3]

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