Nearly two decades back, in July 1996 to be more precise, a couple of college students wandering in the shallow riverbed of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington discovered a human skull, widely referred to as the skull of the Kennewick Man. Now, a new study is suggesting that the Kennewick Man was actually a Native American.
When the skull was first discovered, the police thought that it was a murder case. However, when the archaeologists succeeded in unearthing an almost complete skeleton from the riverbed the story took an interesting turn. Examination of the skeleton revealed that the bones are much older than originally thought; according to the team of scientists testing the skeleton, the bones of the Kennewick Man are 8,500 years old.
The skeleton, which was eventually named Kennewick Man, is among the oldest and probably the most controversial and important skeleton ever to be discovered in North America.
Following the discovery of the Kennewick Man, Native American people started to claim that the bones are the remains of one of their ancestors; they wanted to repossess the bones for providing him a ceremonious burial. However, eventually they were stopped by a team of scientists who filed a lawsuit against the tribes arguing that there cannot be any link between the living Native Americans and the Kennewick Man.
The controversy was fueled further by a claim from another group of scientists who said that the skull of the Kennewick Man was found to possess unusual “Caucasoid” characteristics. This suggestion gave birth to speculations that the Kennewick Man was a European by birth.
However, during a new study, a group of Danish scientists performed detailed DNA analysis of the skeleton and found that the genome of the Kennewick Man doesn’t belong to a European. The study has been published in Thursday’s edition of widely read science journal Nature.
The study’s lead author geneticist Eske Willersley of the University of Copenhagen said that it’s quite clear that the Kennewick Man is the closest relative of modern Native Americans. He added that as far as his view his concerned the skeleton belongs to a Native American who lived on this planet thousands of years back.
Willersley and his team, however, haven’t succeeded in extinguishing the debate over the future of the skeleton.