February 24, 2006


I've been following the story of Kennewick Man in a casual way since his bones first surfaced in 1996 near the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Now some new information has been released regarding his death:

Researchers have disagreed over whether Kennewick Man was buried by other people or swept up in a flood and encased in sediment.

[Douglas Owsley, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History,] concluded the man was deliberately buried, between two and three feet deep, his body placed in the grave, head slightly higher than feet, hands placed at his sides.

The location was riverside, with the body parallel to the river and head pointing upstream.

The article also reveals some interesting details about a spear-point that was embedded in Kennewick Man's hip:

Using an industrial CT scanner, Owsley was able to study the skeleton in fine sections and also get a better look at a spear or dart point imbedded in Kennewick Man's hip.

The point has previously been described as a Cascade point, typical of the region, but Owsley said that is not the case. Cascade points tend to have two pointed ends and are sometimes serrated, he said, while the point in Kennewick Man has a pointed end and a stem.

The spear or dart entered the man from the front, moving downward at a 77-degree angle, Owsley said. Previous analysis had indicated it might have hit from the back, he noted.

The point was not the cause of death, he said, saying, "This is a healed injury."

Kennewick Man is thought to be roughly 9000 years old. When his remains were first discovered, the local Indian Tribes took legal action to try and block their scientific study in order, it was argued, to see that they were properly buried in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The trouble is that Kennewick Man does not appear to have any connection with these tribes. Indeed, from what I have seen, his discovery has the potential to significantly shake up a great many assumptions about human migration into the Western Hemisphere.

Posted by Robert at February 24, 2006 03:00 PM | TrackBack

Which is why many people want to see him buried.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at February 24, 2006 03:27 PM

Yeah, but did he have any of DB Cooper's cash on him?

Posted by: Brian B at February 24, 2006 03:45 PM

Last year John McCain was pushing for a major expansion of NAGPRA that might have put the Kennewick Man investigation into legal limbo, along with just about any other serious archeological work in the United States. Yet another reason for my near-total lack of enthusiasm for his presidential run.

Posted by: utron at February 24, 2006 03:51 PM