U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines 8,500-year-old ‘Kennewick Man’ remains are Native American

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Previous analysis of the Kennewick Man's skull suggested that he might be closely related to Asian populations and Polynesians. But new genetic analysis indicates his ancestral roots are in the Americas. (Chip Clark/Smithsonian Institution)

PORTLAND — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that it has determined the 8,500-year-old remains known as “Kennewick Man’ are Native American, enabling the government to turn them over to tribes for burial.

“My decision regarding this determination has been an important one to make and is based on the best available evidence,” said Brig. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwestern Division. “I am confident that our review and analysis of new skeletal, statistical, and genetic evidence have convincingly led to a Native American Determination.”

He said the corps will next review the priority of custody for any Native American Tribe who submits a claim. The priority of custody review is an important step that includes a cultural affiliation review. Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a finding of cultural affiliation is a different process than a Native American determination and must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

The remains will continue to be curated at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Wash., during the NAGPRA process.

Kennewick Man — also called “The Ancient One” by tribes — was discovered in August 1996 by two college students along the Columbia River in Kennewick.

The remains were turned over to the Walla Walla District Corp of Engineers that owned the shorelines along the river.

Subsequent radiocarbon dating revealed the remains were approximately 8,500 years old, one of the oldest set of human remains from North America ever discovered.

A new study released last summer says DNA analysis shows a genetic link to modern Native Americans.

Click here for earlier story on the study  >>> In what may resolve long dispute, Kennewick Man linked by DNA to modern Native Americans


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