The Who2 Blog

Kennewick Man Was a Native American

That’s the latest conclusion from a recent DNA analysis. But it’s not the final word and so, the controversy continues over this 9,000 year old man.

Remember the Kennewick Man? His skeleton is one of the oldest evidence of humans in North America. Some say it’s 7,200 years old, some say it’s 9,000 years old.

Discovered quite by accident along the Columbia River in Washington in 1996, Kennewick Man’s nearly complete skeletal remains have been the source of controversy ever since.

The long and short of it is that the local Native American tribes want to rebury the remains, considering “The Ancient One” — as he is also known — a part of their cultural and religious heritage. But specialists in science want to study the remains, in the hopes of learning about early human migration across continents.

After years of legal wrangling, which let Science have its way, a 2014 study concluded that Kennewick Man was probably related to Polynesians or Japanese natives.

This month, however, Nature published an account by DNA researchers that contradicts that and says Kennewick Man is most closely related to Native Americans (they also say he’s 8,500 years old). Their conclusion specifically names the Confederated Tribes of the Coleville Reservation in Washington as his closest genetic link.

It’s doubtful this “conclusion” will end the controversy, however. For one thing, there have already been arguments over the samples used for DNA testing. The samples have been degraded over the last several thousand years, but the experts from the University of Copenhagen and Stanford University say the latest technology makes it possible to be more accurate.

To read more, here’s a summary from The Seattle Times, and here’s a summary from Eureka Alert.

The published announcement from Nature is here.

A good account from last year from the Smithsonian Magazine is here.

Of course, the Who2 biography of Kennewick Man is here.

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