Kennewick Man, known as the first American, may reveal new secrets concerning his life and that of ancient people in a new analysis.
Douglas W. Owsley and Richard L. Jantz edited Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton. This new book, written by 48 authors, and 17 other contributors, examines the find in greater detail than any previous popular study.
Kennewick Man was first discovered on 2 July 1996, by a pair of men sneaking into a hydroplane race at Columbia Park in Washington State. The skull was discovered first, and the men called the police, believing it could be a murder victim. A coroner confirmed the finding was old, although the skull did not exhibit Native American features. Another early theory held the remains were that of an early trapper or European hunter, an idea that was later disproved. The age of the remains were measured at around 9,000 years old.
Bone structure reveals he was likely right-handed, and may have been adept at hunting with an atlatl, an ancient instrument for throwing spears.
The first American may have ancestors in common with Polynesians, according to the new work. Previous research suggested the ancient hunter was an ancestor of Native Americans. He likely hunted big-game animals, including seals, and drank water from glaciers.
Kennewick Man was found showing signs of violent attacks. A spear was lodged in his hip, five ribs were broken, and dents were present in his skull. The spearhead showed evidence of being lodged in the ancient hunter's hip for years.
When the remains were found, a controversy over ownership immediately arose between the federal government, scientists and Native American tribes. Related legal battles continued for nine years before scientific testing on the remains resumed.
Owsley and Jantz are creating a new wave on heated debate, largely centered on their claim of a Polynesian connection for the find. The claims are largely based on the length of the skull, which most closely people of Chatham Islands, near New Zealand.
Few human remains from the first human occupations of the New World have been found, making Kennewick Man a valuable specimen for researchers. If a Polynesian origin for Kennewick Man is confirmed, the finding would suggest some of the first people to live in North America arrived from the Pacific by boat.
"I believe these Asian coastal migrations were the first. Then you've got a later wave of the people who give rise to Indians as we know them today," Owsley said.
During the legal battle, both Native American groups, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, opposed scientific testing of the remains.
Genetic testing on Kennewick Man is currently being conducted in Denmark.