In 1996 two college students found a rare skull in the Columbia River, the skull belonging to ancestors of homo sapiens. An entire skeleton was found near the skull which belonged to a male that was roaming the earth 8500 years ago.
This skeleton came to be known as Kennewick Man because he was buried in Kennewick, Washington. His remains are known to be the oldest and most complete of a human ancestor in North America. After a custody battle for the bones, a judge ruled that they should be given to scientists so that could be studied further.
In recent years, due to the advancement in genetic sequencing, it has been possible to distinguish that the Kennewick Man belonged to the Native Americans rather than the Europeans or the Asians.
Earlier there was a dispute when the first archaeologist who studied the bones stated it to be more Caucasian than Native American. Even Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, agreed with the conclusion pointing out that the prominent forehead and thinner brain case is more like the Japanese or Polynesian.
However, when the scientists studied Kennewick Man’s DNA they found that its DNA was not similar to that of the Polynesians or Europeans and that similarity was found with that of the Native American tribe. DNA was provided by Colville, a Native American tribe from Columbia River and the connection was established.
It cannot be said still that whether Kennewick Man was a direct ancestor of Colville or whether he belonged to another Native American tribe.
It is not clear yet whether Kennewick Man will now be handed over to Native American groups under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Eske Willerslev, from the Center for Geo Genetics at the University of Copenhagen, who led the research, states that it’s because of science they obtained this information and the remains were almost kept out of science.