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Kennewick Man

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Author Topic: Kennewick Man  (Read 1073 times)
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« on: May 07, 2007, 03:12:39 pm »

The reconstructed face of the Kennewick Man.

An ancient man's bones of contention

Brad Knickerbocker, Special correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The remains of the Kennewick Man.

ASHLAND, ORE.—He was a sturdy man of middle years who may have looked a bit like British actor Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek" fame, about 5-feet, 9-inches tall, and living in a dangerous world.

The three-inch spear point, buried in his hip when he was a teenager and carried for the next 30 years or so, attests to his toughness. But given the detailed attention with which he was buried along the banks of the Columbia River more than 9,000 years ago, he likely had a family and community that cared for him as well.

"Kennewick Man," named for the town in eastern Washington near where he was found, continues to fascinate scientists as he gradually reveals more about himself. And as he does so, he tells us more about the first Americans - where they came from, how they got to the continent, and the kind of lives they lived.

Diverse cultures want to claim him as their own. Indian tribes in the area say he is an ancestor who should not be probed and prodded by anthropologists, but turned over for respectful reburial, as is required by federal law.

American followers of Norse pagan religions believe he may be of Caucasoid descent and therefore of European stock. Such people arriving millennia before Columbus would be an astounding revelation, they argue, and the remains should be given to them for disposition.

Believing that nothing can be settled without further scientific investigation, a group of eight prominent researchers (including three from the Smithsonian Institution) has filed a suit in federal court.

The latest scientific data show that the man found by college students who were hiking along the Columbia River in 1996 is neither European nor related to present-day native Americans. Instead, according to a report released last week by the US Department of the Interior, Kennewick Man shares strong physical affinities with populations in Polynesia as well as with the Ainu people, an isolated Caucasoid group that lives in northern Japan.

But the dispute is far from over. While the radiocarbon dating that tentatively set Kennewick Man's age at about 9,300 years can determine when he lived, it tells nothing of his lineage. That would require more study, including DNA testing.

US Judge John Jelderks of Portland, Ore., recently declared that "any decision that did not include DNA analysis would probably be challenged as arbitrary and capricious."

The dispute centers on whether Kennewick Man has any "shared group identity" or "cultural affiliation" with modern-day tribes in the Columbia Basin. If so, the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires that such remains be turned over to the tribes.

Evolution vs. creationism

Native American groups assert that their ancestors did not travel over a land bridge from Asia (the commonly held belief), but have inhabited North America since the world was created. They are opposed to scientific detective work, which might prove otherwise or dishonor such ancestors. In a sense, the argument thus is one of evolution versus creationism, "truth" based on factual science versus that which is revealed through oral history.

The controversy over Indian remains has its roots in 19th-century attitudes toward native Americans. In 1868, the US Surgeon General ordered Army officers in the West to collect Indian skeletons to find out (by measuring skull size) whether native Americans were inferior to whites. Since then, Indian remains have been removed from thousands of grave sites to become part of private collections, museum exhibits, and university labs.

For the most part, the Interior Department operates under the assumption that any pre-Columbian remains fall under NAGPRA and therefore should be turned over to the appropriate tribes. In response to the scientists' lawsuit challenging this conclusion, the ongoing studies were ordered. These have been moving along slowly, prompting Judge Jelderks to complain of "what appears to be a pattern of unnecessary delay in this action."

Meanwhile, US Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings (R) of Washington has introduced a bill that would change NAGPRA to make it easier to study ancient bones and avoid some of the disputes surrounding Kennewick Man.

"Current law governing the treatment of historic human remains is so vague and confusing that it's no surprise authorities have had difficulty reconciling the need for scientific study with respect for the customs and traditions of Indian tribes," says Mr. Hastings. "It's time to make sound science the deciding factor."

The ability to determine not only age but also origin of prehistoric specimens - whether from bugs, flowers, or humans - has made great advances in recent years. DNA analysis, in particular the polymerase chain-reaction process developed in 1985, has led to single-molecule analysis and the study of substances millions of years old.

Rethinking the term 'native American'

At the same time, anthropologists and archaeologists are becoming more firm in their understanding that prehistoric North America was settled by groups from different parts of the world, not just those who arrived via the Asian land bridge. This raises profound questions about what it means to be "native American" and whether it's appropriate to destroy remains - which is required to do radiocarbon and DNA studies.

"We recognize and sincerely regret that destruction of any amount of bone is offensive to some religious and traditional tribal beliefs," says Francis McManamon, chief archaeologist for the Interior Department. "However, to reasonably answer the question of whether Kennewick Man is native American for the purposes of [NAGPRA], and to undertake any further studies if he is, it is vitally important to know whether these bones are 80 years old or 800 years old or 8,000 years old."

In any case, says Dr. McManamon, "Kennewick Man may provide a link between early migration and the people we know were here when the Europeans arrived."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2007, 03:13:43 pm »

Scientific significance
The remains of the Kennewick Man.The remains were initially given to forensic anthropologists (one of whom was James C. Chatters, a forensic anthropologist for the Benton County Sheriff's Department) who studied them until it was determined that they were of a man who lived between 5,000 and 9,500 years ago. He was between 40 and 55, had a healed broken arm and a healed broken rib, and a 2.2-inch spear point was lodged in his hip (which did not kill him but probably was the source of recurring infection that could have ultimately killed him). Prior to detailed scientific analysis, a digital reconstruction of the skull revealed what some called Caucasoid features, although at least one of the early studies concluded the skull most resembled that of the present-day people of New Guinea. Press coverage frequently noted a similarity in appearance to actor Patrick Stewart.

Later research suggests he most closely resembles South-East Asian, Polynesian or Ainu peoples. If confirmed, this would lend support to the theory that an important migration route lay along the North Pacific shoreline from Asia to America during a time when inland routes were blocked by ice. DNA analysis, which some Native American groups oppose, could help resolve this mystery, should there be enough remaining intact to extract from the bones.

All Paleo-Indian remains tested to date have been found to possess the same mitochondrial haplogroups as do modern Native Americans[citation needed]. Craniometric analyses have been contradictory, with some studies linking Paleo-Indians to modern Native Americans, some to European or Southeast Asian populations, and some finding no close affinity to any modern peoples.

Kennewick Man features prominently in debate raging currently over the history of the peopling of the Americas. Some scientists continue to defend the traditional Bering Strait land-bridge model of a single land migration from Siberia toward the end of the last ice age, while many scientists have come to believe that multiple waves of migration from Asia and possibly Europe occurred.

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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2007, 03:16:28 pm »

 K E N N E W I C K   M A N
By James C. Chatters

Encounter with an Ancestor

The discovery of a human ancestor variously referred to as Kennewick or Richland Man has shed light on the complexity of human immigration to the western hemisphere and ignited a controversy that may affect the future of paleoanthropology in the United States.   


On July 28, 1996 two young men encountered a human skull in the Columbia River at Kennewick, Washington.  That evening I was contacted by Coroner Floyd Johnson, for whom I  conduct skeletal forensics.  I joined him at the site and helped police recover much of the skeleton.  During the next month, under an ARPA permit issued by the Walla Walla District Corps of Engineers, I recovered more wave-scattered bones from the reservoir mud. Throughout the process, I maintained contact with the Corps, which interacted with two local Indian Tribes.
 The completeness and unusually good condition of the skeleton, presence of caucasoid traits, lack of definitive Native-American characteristics, and the association with an early homestead led me to suspect that the bones represented a European settler.  I first began to question this when I detected a gray object partially healed within the right ilium.  CT scans revealed the 20 by 54 mm base of a leaf-shaped, serrated Cascade projectile point typical of  Southern Plateau assemblages  from 8500 B.P. to  4500 B.P.  However, similar styles were in use elsewhere in western North America and Australia into the nineteenth century.  Nevertheless, the  point raised the possibility of great antiquity, while the skeleton's traits argued for the early nineteenth century.  We either had an ancient individual with physical characteristics unlike later native peoples' or  a  trapper/explorer who'd had difficulties with "stone-age" peoples during his travels.  To resolve this issue, the Coroner ordered radiocarbon and DNA analyses.   

Forensic Observations

I conducted a standard forensic examination and measurements with assistance from Central Washington University student Scott Turner, and photographed the skull, teeth, and pathologies.  Physical anthropologists Catherine J. MacMillan of Central Washington University and Grover S. Krantz of Washington State University examined the skeleton briefly.  Kenneth Reid, Rainshadow Research, helped identify the projectile point.  Kenneth Lagergren, DDS interpreted dental X-rays, and Kennewick General Hospital CT scanned the right innominate and cross-sections of longbones.  AMS dating was conducted by Donna Kirner of the University of California at Riverside, who also measured amino acid composition and stable C and N ratios.  Frederika Kaestle of the University of California, Davis attempted DNA extraction.

  Illustration © 1996, Jamie Claire Chatters
 The skeleton is nearly  complete, missing only the sternum and a few small bones of hands and feet.  All teeth were present at the time of death.  This was a male of late middle age (40-55 years), and tall (170 to 176 cm ),  slender build.  He had suffered numerous injuries, the most severe of which were compound fractures of at least 6 ribs and apparent damage to his left shoulder musculature, atrophy of the left humerus due to the muscle damage, and the healing projectile wound in his right pelvis.  The lack of head flattening from cradle board use, minimal arthritis in weight-bearing bones, and the unusually light wear on his teeth distinguish the behavior and diet of Kennewick Man from that of more recent peoples in the region.  A  fragment of the fifth left metacarpal analyzed by AMS has an isotopically-corrected age of 8410 +/- 60 B.P. (UCR 3476) (ca 7300 to 7600 B.C.).  Amino acids and stable isotopes indicate heavy dependence on anadromous fish.  DNA was intact, but two partially-completed extractions were inconclusive. 

The man lacks definitive characteristics of the classic mongoloid stock to which modern Native Americans belong.  The skull is dolichocranic (cranial index 73.Cool rather than brachycranic, the face narrow and prognathous rather than broad and flat.  Cheek bones recede slightly and lack an inferior zygomatic projection; the lower rim of the orbit is even with the upper.  Other features are a long, broad nose that projects markedly from the face and high, round orbits.  The mandible is v-shaped,with a pronounced, deep chin.   Many of these characteristics are definitive of modern-day caucasoid peoples, while others, such as the orbits are typical of neither race.  Dental characteristics fit Turner's (1983) Sundadont  pattern, indicating possible relationship to south Asian peoples. 

Current Status

On August 30, four days after the startling radiocarbon result, the Corps insisted all studies be terminated and soon took possession of the skeleton. After publishing their intent to repatriate the remains to an alliance of five tribes and bands--Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce, Wanapum and Colville--the Corps received numerous requests for scientific study from citizens, congressmen and anthropologists.  The Colville then filed a separate claim of their own.  A group of internationally-known archaeologists and physical anthropologists filed suit, asserting that NAGPRA does not apply to this case and seeking the opportunity for study.  The Asutru Folk Assembly, a traditional European religion, also sued for the right to determine if this individual was their ancestor.  The Umatilla, who have taken the lead on the issue, intend immediate reburial in a secret location.  The remains now lie in a federal repository awaiting resolution.

The Unknown and Unknowable

The Kennewick discovery, along with other recent finds in Nevada, may significantly alter conventional views of how, when, and by whom the Americas were peopled.  If the Corps persists in its refusal to allow additional studies and decides on immediate  repatriation, experts will lose the chance to directly examine this rare phenomenon.  Although I have studied him extensively and learned much about his life, our descendants--of whatever ethnicity-- will lose the broader view that only multiple perspectives  can provide.  Data that might be used for such studies in lieu of actual bones remain incomplete as of this writing.  When the remains were seized, I had yet to take measured photographs of the postcranial skeleton, and I was still waiting for specialized equipment for state-of-the-art skull measurement.  Furthermore, DNA was well preserved and, if restrictive enzyme analysis and detailed sequencing were completed, we might ultimately learn this man's relationship to other peoples of his time and ours.  In broader view, reburial without study may set a precedent that forecloses the opportunity for study of most future paleoAmerican finds. 

Much, however, is beyond our reach regardless of political outcomes.  No matter how long we might study the Kennewick man we would never know the form or color of his eyes, skin and hair, whether his hair was curly or straight, his lips thin or full -- in short many of the characteristics by which we judge living peoples' racial affiliation.   We will never be certain if his wound was by accident or intent, what language he spoke, or his religious beliefs.  We cannot know if he is truly anyone's ancestor.  Given the millennia since he lived, he may be sire to none or all of us.   

Turner, Cristy G. II  (1987)  Late Pleistocene and Holocene population history of east Asia based on dental variation. American Journal of Physical Anthropology  73: 305-321.     

James C. Chatters (Phd University of Washington (1982) is currently the owner of Applied Paleoscience, which emphasizes developing applications of archaeological and paleoecological data to modern resource management.  Recent archaeological publications include "Population growth, climatic cooling, and the development of collector strategies on the Southern Plateau, Western North America (Journal of World Prehistory  9:341-399, 1995) and "A paleoscience approach to estimating effects of climatic warming on salmonid fisheries of the Columbia River basin (Canadian Special Publication in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  No. 121:468-473).  Current writing projects address millennium-scale fire histories in Northwest forests, dynamics of salmon productivity during the Holocene, resource intensification among hunter-gatherers, growth increment analysis in freshwater mussels, and interpersonal violence in Plateau  Prehistory. 

This article originally appeared in the "Newsletter of the American Anthropological Association."
 Home | Northern Traces | Introduction | Kennewick Man| Dennis Stanford
 Copyright © 2004. Smithsonian Institution.
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