Kennewick Man Controversy

The Kennewick man is a skeleton of a paleolithic person who lived in the modern day state of Washington. It was found on the bank of the Columbia river in 1996 and is dated to 7300-7600 BC. At first, people thought that it was a skeleton of an 1800’s person, but a spear lodged in it’s pelvis helped determine that it was much older! It is one of the most complete skeletons of a prehistoric man in North America. Kennewick man has other injuries like a dinged skull and broken ribs. Interestingly, Kennewick man had more Caucasian features than native American. Some said that that description was racially biased, but the scientists let it stay. The biggest controversy was when the team sent in to study him was told by the government that it needed to be repatriated to some native American tribe due to the law about that. He couldn’t be linked to any tribe today genetically, he was too old, so he scientists ended up suing the government over studying Kennewick man. Luckily, they won the case in 2002 and a reconstruction of his skull made a face for him when he was alive. They also determined some of their research questions…

” Was Kennewick Man buried (interred by humans) or was he a flood victim, covered with silt by overbank flooding (i.e. buried by natural processes)?

Can we say anything about the processes by which the remains eroded from the riverbank (the mechanics involved in erosion of the remains into the lake)?

What was the in situ orientation of the remains relative to the river?

What can we learn about the projectile point found embedded in his hip bone?”

and the answers:

“The remains of Kennewick Man were articulated and complete when his body was placed in a supine, extended position in a deliberate burial. He was laid flat on his back, arms at his side, and the hands positioned down.

Preservation and completeness of the Kennewick Man skeleton is, in general, excellent although there is considerable postmortem (after death) damage. The fracturing and breakage occurred at recognizably different time periods. Components studied included bone surface coloration, weathering effects, and fracture patterning.

Kennewick Man’s in situ orientation was on his back with his body aligned with the river bank.  The river was on his left side and his head was directed upstream. His stratigraphic position within the bank was also determined.

Digital extraction and prototype production of a replica of the stone projectile point embedded in the right ilium (hip bone) helped determine its physical attributes. It appears to be out of the norm for a so-called Cascade point, which tends to be leaf-shaped, pointed at both ends, and is sometimes serrated. “(Smithsonian)

Kennewick man was a big victory for the scientists who wanted to study him. Through studying him, we can learn more about America’s prehistoric ancestors.

To learn more in-depth, check out  Kennewick Man NOVA


About History Is Interesting

I like ancient and medieval history!
This entry was posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Paleolithic and Neolithic. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kennewick Man Controversy

  1. Carol says:

    Very interesting. I had not heard of him before.


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