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Tuqan Man, human remains buried 10,000 years ago, found on the Channel Islands

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« on: June 18, 2018, 10:12:23 am »




Tuqan Man, human remains buried 10,000 years ago, found on the Channel Islands


The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has no doubt the human remains found on one of the Channel Islands belong to an ancestor.

https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/special-reports/outdoors/2018/06/13/ancient-remains-discovered-reburied-san-miguel-island-tuqan-man-channel-islands-santa-ynez-chumash/670609002/


Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star





















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A man’s grave lay hidden for 10,000 years on a remote, wind-battered island off Ventura.

Sea levels shifted and landscapes changed. Then in 2005, researchers from the University of Oregon spotted bone visible through dirt and old seashells.

“We were certain that it was a human skull,” said archaeologist Jon Erlandson.

He was with a graduate student surveying an ancient site on San Miguel Island, part of Channel Islands National Park.

Years earlier, they had found signs that people had lived or camped on the spot 9,600 years ago. But they didn’t know anyone had been buried nearby.

They tried to cover up the exposed bone to protect it, and typically, that would be the end of the story. Human remains would be left alone.

But these were at risk of being lost to erosion and potentially were among some of the earliest human remains in North America at the time, a discovery made public for the first time Wednesday.

The National Park Service took the information to a Chumash tribe with close ties to the northern Channel Islands, including San Miguel.

“We had to make a quick decision on how we could preserve that site,” said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the federally recognized Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

“From one perspective, this is a discovery,” he said. “From another, this is our ancestor.”

Ultimately, the Chumash agreed the remains called Tuqan Man would be excavated and some study could happen — a process those at the time thought would be relatively quick.

But as this was happening in Ventura, federal law was still being defined, and lawyers several states away were battling a landmark court case over other ancient human remains.

Instead of months on the mainland, uncovering Tuqan Man led to close to 12 years of extensive studies and five attempts to extract ancient DNA.







An aerial view of San Miguel Island

(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Schwemmer)


‘Never any doubt’

From the beginning, the Chumash believed strongly Tuqan Man was an ancestor.

“For us, there was never any doubt,” Kahn said.

The decision didn’t come easily to allow his remains to be taken off the island, called Tuqan in the Chumash language.

“Tribes have been emotional over these issues when it comes to human remains because so many tribal sites have been desecrated throughout North America,” Kahn said.

“In the early 1900s, it was a practice to find an Indian burial ground and dig it up and study it,” he said. “Museums have bones and remains and funerary objects just sitting on shelves.”

In 1990, the federal Native American Graves and Repatriation Act established the rights of tribes and their descendants to control what happens to human remains and other sacred objects.

The law required the National Park Service to make a determination that Tuqan Man was Native American, and if so, whether his remains could be transferred to a tribe.

“I think the assumption at the time was that we would be able to make a determination that the remains were affiliated with the Chumash and return them after a period of months,” said Laura Kirn, cultural resources chief for the park.

Some questions could be answered quickly after the 2006 excavation. Tuqan Man had been intentionally buried in a grave marked with stones. The remains likely had been there for close to 10,000 years.

But the shape of his skull did not appear to be Chumash.

“That’s not unusual for burials of this age in North America,” Erlandson said. So-called Paleoamerican individuals often look distinctive from modern populations in the same area.

More about the Channel Islands:
•Crew uncovers ancient site under Channel Islands home
•Clues uncovered about long extinct mammoths on the Channel Islands
•Bringing Channel Islands National Park to the mainland

But a court ruling in a Washington case of Kennewick Man had just set a new bar for what information the federal government needs to determine remains were Native American.

In that case, the skull shape also was different from those of contemporary people and the remains were roughly 9,000 years old, too old, some claimed, to be Native American.

The court agreed, saying more information was required.






‘A landmark finding’

To Erlandson, the court’s decision made no sense. He never had any question that the remains were Native American.

“That flies in the face of all scientific logic, frankly,” he said. “We know Native Americans have been here for 15,000 years. Kennewick Man, much like Tuqan Man, is 5,000 years younger than that.”

By 2015, when scientists were able to extract analyzable DNA from the Kennewick Man, experts found he was related to the tribes still in that area. Skull shape was no longer considered a determining factor.

Tests of Tuqan Man failed to get any analyzable DNA, but park officials knew he had been buried in a Native American site and the artifacts and the timing fit.

They determined he was Native American, but still had to verify who should have custody. To do that, they had to show a direct relationship between Tuqan Man and the Chumash.








CLOSE


The National Park Service released information this week about human remains found on San Miguel Island. Juan Carlo and Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star

The park had commissioned a series of studies from folklore to burial practices, from oral traditions to linguistics.

The field of DNA research also kept advancing and the park kept trying. At each step of the process, officials consulted with the Chumash, as well.

Researchers found out from radiocarbon dating that Tuqan Man had been buried between 9,800 and 10,200 years ago, a time when the northern Channel Islands may have still been one big island.

In his 40s or early 50s when he died, he had lived to an old age and was probably considered an elder.

He had no signs of disease or trauma at his death, but he had a healed broken arm and signs that he had recovered from some sort of health issue as a child.

The unanswered question was whether he was directly related to the Chumash people or their ancestors.

“I still believe they were,” said Erlandson, who has studied the Channel Islands and sites there for decades. “But we ultimately were never able to prove that.”

An isotype study tried to determine where and what the Tuqan Man ate. Results weren’t conclusive but seemed to suggest he spent some of his life in the interior of California, not on the islands.

“That threw another interesting wrench into the attempt to try to affiliate it with Chumash,” Erlandson said.





Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of Santa Ynez Band of

Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, says he had no doubt that Tuqan Man was an ancestor. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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On San Miguel Island in 2005, researchers unexpectedly

On San Miguel Island in 2005, researchers unexpectedly found human remains at an ancient site. The island, shown here, is the northernmost point of Channel Islands National Park. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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San Miguel Island is one of the northern Channel Islands,

San Miguel Island is one of the northern Channel Islands, which have an extensive history of archeological finds. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of Santa Ynez Band of

Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, sat down recently to talk to The Star about Tuqan Man and his reburial on San Miguel Island. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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The old ranch site at San Miguel Island, part of the

The old ranch site at San Miguel Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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Seals relax in the sand on San Miguel Island, one of

Seals relax in the sand on San Miguel Island, one of the northern Channel Islands. Remains of a man buried 10,000 years ago were discovered on the island. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)

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An aerial view of San Miguel Island

An aerial view of San Miguel Island (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Schwemmer)

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