Kennewick Man was first discovered on the banks of the Columbia river in Kennewick, Washington state in 1996. About 18 years of the discovery of skeletal remains, the saga of his life and legacy is going public in the form of a new 688-page book titled Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton .
The remains of Kennewick Man puzzled scientists for about two decades
This peer-reviewed book was co-edited by anthropologists Richard Jantz at the University of Tennessee and Douglas Owsley at the Smithsonian Institution. It will be published next month by Texas A&M University Press. Since its discovery, the bones of Kennewick Man have puzzled scientists. The 9,000-year old remains are considered one of the most complete ancient skeletons ever found.
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Kennewick Man’s anatomical features were different from modern Native Americans, and his relationship with ancient humans was unclear. Native Americans claimed that Kennewick Man was one of their ancestors and those bones be returned for reburial. Scientists wanted the remains to conduct studies. That triggered a nine-year long legal battle between researchers, Native Americans and the U.S. Government. In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that no cultural link could be established genetically between any of the Native American tribes and Kennewick Man, allowing researchers to continue their studies.
The new book sheds light on Kennewick Man’s identity, where he lived and his estimated age at death. The book also reveals his lifestyle and relationship with ancient and modern humans. Though cause of his death remains a mystery, scientists said he was about 40 years old when he died. Other ancient humans buried him. His skull morphology doesn’t fit into any modern populations.
Where did Kennewick Man come from?
However, researchers said his skull closely resembles Pacific Rim populations such as Polynesians and the Ainu of Japan. He came to North American from somewhere far away, possibly from Alaska, the Aleutian Islands or even Asia. Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, said the skeleton taught us a lot about human population dynamics over time.
Owsley and his team conducted an extensive analysis of Kennewick Man’s remains. They also received support from about 50 anthropologists, geologists, archaeologists, geochemists and others. They concluded that Kennewick Man was 5′ 11″ tall and well-muscled. He weighed about 163-pound. Kennewick Man probably lived among big-game animals such as pronghorn antelope, deer and bighorn sheep. But he mainly consumed fish and marine animals.
The bones are currently in the custody of the Army of Corps of Engineers.