Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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K-Man in the Lab Volume 52 Number 3, May/June 1999
by Andrew L. Slayman

The first round of study of Kennewick Man has been finished at the Burke Museum in Seattle, almost three years after the skeleton was found on the banks of the Columbia River. The Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the river, originally decided to turn the 8,400-year-old bones over to Indian tribes for reburial under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Following a lawsuit by scientists seeking access to them, the corps asked the National Park Service for advice. Francis P. McManamon, the park service's chief archaeologist, determined that not enough was known about the skeleton and ordered studies to decide what to do with it.

The examination consisted only of nondestructive tests: description and measurement of bones and teeth; analysis of soil sticking to the remains; observations of bone trauma and tooth wear; and analysis of a stone point embedded in the pelvis. Though the results had not been released when ARCHAEOLOGY went to press, the scientists conducting the study did hold a press conference. Anthropologist Joseph Powell of the University of New Mexico was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying, "The guy had some serious muscles. He would have made a player. And he probably had a nasty chronic toothache, given that his teeth were worn down to the roots."

If the initial round of tests does not provide enough information to determine the disposition of the skeleton, the park service may call for radiocarbon dating, DNA analysis to assist in inferring ancestry, and stable isotope analysis to help determine diet.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America