Kennewick man radiocarbon dating

Once the skeleton is buried, it could no longer be used for scientific study.

Kennewick Man - Wikipedia

Earlier analysis,however, suggested that the ancient man's bones are anatomically different when compared with those of modern Native Americans and thus NAGPRA may not apply sparking a long legal conflict between scientists who want to study the skeleton, the corps and the tribes. A court ruling was eventually in favor of the scientists but a new DNA analysis of the Kennewick man could again stir the debate over who should be its caretakers. Kennewick Man is the name generally given to the skeletal remains of a prehistoric Paleoamerican man found on a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington , United States, on July 28, Radiocarbon tests on bone have shown it to date from 8.

In June the team announced their conclusions, that Kennewick Man had most in common with Native Americans among living peoples, including those in the Columbia River region where he was found. The discovery of the remains led to considerable controversy for more than a decade. The law was designed to remedy long-standing wrongs done to tribes and to facilitate the return of human remains and cultural objects unlawfully obtained or taken from them. In this case, the archaeologists who discovered the bones, James Chatters and Douglas Owsley , the latter with the Smithsonian Institution , both asserted that the bones were only distantly related to today's Native Americans.

Latest DNA Analysis Confirms Link Between Kennewick Man And Native Americans

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the land where the remains were found, initially agreed to comply with the requests of the tribes. Before the transfer could be made, Owsley, along with seven other anthropologists, including Smithsonian colleague Dennis Stanford , filed a lawsuit asserting the scientific right to study the skeleton.

In February , the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a direct cultural link between any of the Native American tribes and Kennewick Man could not be proved because of the age of the remains. Its ruling allowed scientific study of the remains to continue while the USACE retained custody of the remains.

Their research results were published in in Kennewick Man: Chatters, the discoverer of the bones, had long changed his conclusions after finding similar skull shapes among confirmed ancestors of Native Americans. The discovery of Kennewick Man was accidental. Will Thomas and David Deacy were attending the annual hydroplane races on July 28, [14] and found the skull in a reservoir on the Columbia River at Columbia Park in Kennewick, Washington.

Following delivery of the cranium by the coroner, the remains were examined by archaeologist James Chatters. In ten visits to the site, Chatters managed to collect bones and pieces of bone, which, with the skull, completed almost an entire skeleton.

What is KENNEWICK MAN? What does KENNEWICK MAN mean? KENNEWICK MAN meaning & explanation

Many of the bones were broken into several pieces. Chatters said that the "presence of Caucasoid traits [and a] lack of definitive Native-American characteristics", as well as the apparent context of the skeleton as part of an early Paleo-American group led him to conclude that the body was Caucasian. A small bone fragment was submitted to the University of California, Riverside , for radiocarbon dating , which indicated the age of the skeleton was approximately 9, to 9, years old 8, uncalibrated "radiocarbon years" , and not from the 19th century, as had originally been thought.

Chatters put the bone through a CT scan, and it was discovered that the projectile was made from a siliceous gray stone that was found to have igneous intrusive or volcanic origins. This type of point is a feature of the Cascade phase in indigenous ancient history, which occurred roughly 7, to 12, years BP. To investigate the mystery of Kennewick Man further and determine whether the skeleton belonged to the Umatilla Native American tribe , who occupied the territory where it was found, scientists analyzed an extraction of DNA.

However, according to their report, "available technology and protocols do not allow the analysis of ancient DNA from these remains. Forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, who later led the scientific team that examined Kennewick Man's skeleton in , discovered that the bones in Kennewick Man's arms were bent. Owsley theorized that this was the result of powerful muscles built up over the course of a lifetime of hunting and spearfishing. They found Kennewick Man to be most closely related to the Ainu , an ancient indigenous people of Japan.

However, when size was excluded as a factor, no association to any population was established. Loring Brace classified Ainu and Polynesians as a single craniofacial Jomon-Pacific cluster, and Chatters said "Polynesians have craniofacial similarities to Asian, Australian and European peoples". Anthropologist Joseph Powell of the University of New Mexico was also allowed to examine the remains.

Powell used craniometric data obtained by anthropologist William White Howells of Harvard University and anthropologist Tsunehiko Hanihara of Saga University ; this had the advantage of including data drawn from Asian and North American populations.

Kennewick Man

The biological diversity among ancient skulls in the Americas has complicated attempts to establish how closely Kennewick Man is related to any modern Native American tribes. The origin of that diversity, whether from different lineages or local adaptation, is a matter of debate. In , a day examination of the skeleton, led by forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, revealed that Kennewick Man had arthritis in his right elbow, both of his knees, and several vertebrae but not severe enough to be crippling.

Owsley discovered that Kennewick Man had also suffered some trauma in his lifetime, which was evident by a fractured rib that had healed, a depression fracture on his forehead, and a similar indentation on the left side of the head, and a spear jab that healed. Despite earlier theories regarding his age, the Owsley team thinks he may have been as young as 38 at the time of death.

Kennewick Man was found to have been deliberately buried. By examining the calcium carbonate left behind as underground water collected on the underside of the bones and then evaporated, scientists were able to conclude that Kennewick Man was lying on his back with his feet rolled slightly outward and his arms at his side, with the palms facing down, a position that could not have been accidental.

Owsley and Richard L. Measurements of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope ratios in the bone collagen indicate that the man lived almost exclusively on a diet of marine mammals for the last 20 or so years of his life and that the water he drank was glacial melt water. That, combined with the location of the find, led to the conclusion that the individual led a highly mobile, water-borne lifestyle centered on the northern coast. In June , new results of such aDNA analysis were announced, suggesting that the remains are more closely related to modern Native Americans than to any other living population.

His genetic profile was particularly close to that of members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Of the five tribes that originally claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor, their members were the only ones to donate DNA samples for evaluation. The lack of genomes from North American aboriginal populations have made it impossible to ascertain Kennewick Man's nearest living relatives among regional Native American tribes.


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The discovery of Kennewick Man, along with other ancient skeletons, has furthered scientific debate over the exact origin and history of early Native American people. The similarity of some ancient skeletal remains in the Americas, such as Kennewick Man, to coastal Asian phenotypes is suggestive of more than one migration source. Regardless of the debate over whether there were more than one source of migration following the LGM, Kennewick Man has yielded insight into the marine lifestyle and mobility of early coastal migrants.

Furthermore, they also argued that their civil rights had been infringed since they had not been allowed to scientifically study the remains because they were not Native American. In late , the Asatru Folk Assembly, a California-based organisation following an old Norse religion also filed suit arguing that if the remains were Caucasian, they the Asatru might be culturally affiliated to the remains. In February , U. Magistrate, Judge Jelderks, from the District Court refused to dismiss the lawsuits from the scientists and the Asatru, and on March 23rd, the US Army Corps of Engineers rescinded its decision to repatriate the skeletal remains.

Jelderks raised a series of issues concerning the implementation of NAGPRA, that he wished to be resolved prior to any decision concerning the fate of the skeletal remains. He also noted that NAGPRA did not preclude scientific study of skeletal remains in order to determine affiliation where a concern about the attribution of affiliation existed. He suggested that all and any further studies should be undertaken in consultation with appropriate native Americans.

Jelderks gave given the National Parks Service until 24th March to make a decision on the repatriation of the bones.

In July , the National Parks Service presented a series of non-destructive studies on i the initial skeletal assessment of the Kennewick remains, ii the osteological assessment of the skeleton, iii an analysis of the sediments in which the remains had been found, and iv an analysis of the projectile point embedded in the skeleton. None of these studies adequately confirmed the affiliation of the skeleton.

In September , the National Parks Service commissioned further radiocarbon dates of the skeleton, and in January , the Service commissioned a further set of studies, including a DNA analysis against the stated wishes of the Native Americans to help clarify the matter of affiliation.

In September , following the second set of analyses by the National Parks Service, Bruce Babbitt, the Secretary of State in the last Clinton administration determined that the skeletal remains of Kennewick Man should be repatriated since they could be identified as Native American. In late , an appeal against the decision by Babbitt, was filed by Bonnichsen et al. In late August , Judge Jelderks, for the Appeal Court, presented his judgment in favour of the 8 scientists.

Rather it should be treated as an archaeological resource under the terms of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, mandating full scientific study and curation in the pursuit of knowledge in the interests of all citizens if the U. Judgement on this appeal awaits, and meanwhile, the skeletal remains are kept in store. Dating labs state that there is only a little carbon or collagen in the bones and that they are therefore, very difficult to date accurately. Full DNA test results are still awaiting.

Kennewick Man is a unique find, whose age and skeletal form almost certainly make him a not directly related to present-day Native Americans. These skeletal remains represents evidence of another earlier? Proper scientific investigation is necessary to reveal all the evidence that this skeleton can tell us.

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This investigation will require reconstruction for a full range of non-destructive skeletal measurements to be taken, as well as some destructive analyses such as DNA analysis. Kennewick Man is one of a very small number of skeletons that can reveal this information. The proper study of these skeletal remains will provide scientific knowledge that is of benefit to all citizens of the U. According to the Friends of America's Past web site , 'Friends of America's Past is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the rights of scientists and the public to learn about America's past.

Our mission is to keep the door of scientific inquiry open and to work to maintain the integrity of scientific inquiry in this country. We organized in to alert the public to the issues and implications of the Kennewick Man lawsuit. We are based in Portland, Oregon.


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  • We are doing scientific work that is more truthful than Native American oral histories. We must be allowed to pursue the research goals of our scientific community. If we must accept Native American oral histories does this mean that 'scientific' anthropology is not the real way of understanding the past. Since the Kennewick skeleton was found on lands to which the Confederated tribes of the Umatilla have documented historic ties, they have a legal right to claim these bones for repatriation.

    The oral histories of the Umatilla tell them that they have lived in the area for 10, years, and that Native Americans were the first peoples to have lived in North America. The Umatilla do not believe that the analysis of skull shape especially one 1 individual is a valid means of 'racial' investigation - and nor do many anthropologists. A larger sample is needed.