Kennewick Man is the name that has been given to the 8500 year old human remains discovered in 1996 on the shore of the Columbia River in Washington State. Up until now they could not be DNA tested. However, improved DNA testing methods have allowed DNA testing of them and determined that they are more closely related to modern Native Americans than any other people. There has been a lot of legal action pertaining to whether they should be accessible to scientists for study or given to Native Americans in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Per the article: 

“Kennewick Man’s genome sequence is closer to that of Native Americans than any other contemporary people’s  including the Ainu and Polynesians,” senior author Eske Willerslev, from the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for GeoGenetics, told Discovery News....The results challenge a 2014 study that concluded, based on anatomical data, that Kennewick Man was more related to indigenous Japanese or Polynesian peoples than to Native Americans.


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I thought the remains of Kennewick Man were given to the Indian tribes and they buried him in an unmarked, unidentified grave. How did a researcher get DNA evidence when I thought scientists were not allowed to take any specimens from his skeleton? Poor old Kennewick Man continues to present surprises. 

You have bad information. Per the article itself:

In February 2004, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the anthropologists, concluding that “a significant relationship of the tribal claimants with Kennewick Man” could not be proved. Reburial requests were thus halted to allow further investigation into the skeleton’s origins.

Per Wikipedia:

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. Detailed study of the ancient skeleton commenced after a court ruling in 2004 compelled the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to provide access to the skeleton for scientists. The USACE retains custody, as the remains were found on property under its control.

I'm glad to hear the Appeals court ruled like I would have.   Worrying about burial seems too close to religious beliefs to get any consideration from me.

It's a bit of an emotional issue, because of the past actions of settlers, as they were moving west, just digging up ancient burial grounds and doing horrible things with the remains.

I think this goes quite a bit beyond the intent of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, though.  I mean, Christ, we're dealing with remains that are over 8,000 years old, which are of anthropological significance.  I don't imagine they're treating the remains with the sort of disrespect that the act was intended to prevent.

How do we even determine which tribe gets them, anyway?  Seems silly, at this late date.

Here a grave is left undisturbed for ten years or so. I'm sure Kennewick man was left undisturbed much longer.

My memory is surely poor, especially on this issue. Thanks for the correction. 

Geneticists crack the 20-year mystery of the Kennewick Man skeleton

"The Kennewick Man, once described as North America’s most important skeleton, has finally found its kin. New DNA evidence says this fossil is most closely related to modern-day Native Americans, closing the loop door on a 20-year debate that has caused legal battles between scientists and tribes."


"For this research, Willerslev and his colleagues extracted DNA from 200 milligrams of tissue in the skeleton’s hand — that’s approximately seven thousandths of an ounce of biological material. Back in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, other scientists tried to collect genetic material from The Ancient One, but they all failed."

FIRST PEOPLES | Kennewick Man | PBS

Thanks for finding this video, Joan. 

So much of our ancient history has been wiped out by the last Ice Age and the Great Missoula Flood that scoured out Spokane River from northern Idaho to the Washington/Oregon coast where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. We don't have the kinds of fossil and stone remnants that you have. 

There is a Marmes Rockshelter Site that radiocarbon dates indicate the human remains were about 10,000 years ago. 

"The minimum number of individuals found has been calculated at thirty-six, plus many small skeletal elements and bone fragments. It is probable that other fragments were present in the sediments from the bulldozer cut made in 1968. Twenty-six individuals came from the rockshelter, six were located in the cremation hearth, and four were found in the floodplain. The human remains span the period from ca. 9000 B.P. (before present) to ca. 660 B.P. Some remains from the Marmes Rockshelter are older than Kennewick Man (Hicks 2004:378)."

Unknown officials at the Marmes Rock Shelter in Franklin County, Washington.

The creation of the Lower Monumental Dam raised the level of the Palouse River high enough to submerge the Marmes site completely under water.

Thanks for your research.

Interesting video.  Thanks Joan.




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