By Ann Kaupp, Anthropology Outreach Office
In 1996 a 9,000 plus year-old skeleton with a stone spear point embedded in his hip bone was found by the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington. The origin of “Kennewick Man” has been of great scientific interest. Few skeletons of that age have been found on this continent that may help contribute to the question North Americanists have been asking: “Who were the first people to arrive in the New World?” Controversy also has surrounded this find as local tribes have wanted the remains reburied without a scientific study of Kennewick Man. The courts eventually gave the scientists limited access to study the remains. In October Doug Owsley, division head and curator of physical anthropology, traveled to Central Washington University to share with the Inter-Tribal Repatriation Group, comprised of 25 representatives of five Columbia Plateau tribes involved in the Kennewick discovery and the lawsuit over the scientific examination of the skeletal remains, the latest scientific findings.
At the all-day meeting with the Columbia Plateau Inter-Tribal Repatriation Group, Dr. Owsley, the principal forensic investigator, talked about the importance of this skeleton and what it reveals about the earliest people who came to the New World. Some of the findings Owsley shared reveal that Kennewick was deliberately buried where he was found, stood about five feet seven inches, weighed 163 pounds, was robust, and draws his ancestry from Asia. There is no evidence that he is directly related to Native Americans. A scholarly edited volume on Kennewick Man is in preparation that will provide a detailed examination of the remains. Doug presented the tribal representatives a gift of his recent book, Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World, co-authored with Sally M. Walker, written for junior high and high school students and interested public. Among the gifts Doug was honored to receive was a Pendleton blanket.
An NPR interview with Dr. Owsley can be viewed at https://www.npr.org/2012/10/12/162795379/prehistoric-kennewick-man-was-all-beefcake.