Friday, November 28, 2014

Kennewick Man’s Injuries, Bones Reveal Ancient Secrets

The discovery of the ‘Kennewick Man’ has changed how scientists look at early man, says one of the researchers who is the lead investigator of the project during a presentation Thursday at Texas A&M University.

Doug Owsley, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, says the discovery of the skeletal remains of the Kennewick Man, found in 1996 on the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Wash., is highly significant because “it is a very old skeleton and it is complete.

“He’s in many pieces, but he’s all there,” Owsley explains.

“It’s very rare that you find such an old skeleton that still has the bones with it, but that is the case with Kennewick Man.  He is a remarkable fellow and he is slowly revealing many secrets to us.” v Owlsey and co-author Richard Jantz of the University of Tennessee have written a detailed book about the project titled  Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton that has been published by the Texas A&M University  Press.

Because of legal battles with Native Americans in the Northwest, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other groups, it took almost 10 years before researchers could study Kennewick Man, Owsley points out.

The skeleton is one of the most complete and ancient ever found and tests have shown it to date to almost 8,000 years old.  A five-inch stone projectile was found imbedded in the man’s hip, and researchers believe it was a spear point used by hunters of that time.

“The injured area shows that a spear was probably thrown at him and the point remained in him,” Owsley notes.

“This had to have been a very painful injury.  His body sort of ‘walled off’ the area around the wound, and he kept on going.  He did not have time to let the wound heal like it should – he had to eat and to survive.  So walking around with this spear point in him must have been very painful.”

Tests show that Kennewick Man stood about 5-7 to 5-8 and weighed 161 pounds. “His right arm bone tells us he was a strong man, and he threw a spear,” Owsley says.

“He also had many other injuries. He had five fractured ribs, a shoulder injury and other ailments.  He had a hard life.” The researchers believe Kennewick Man was probably of Mongolian descent and he was a maritime hunter-gatherer.  Isotopes show that he ate a great deal of salmon and seals found in the area.

“He was a traveler, and we know he came from the North,” Owsley notes.

“It has been an honor to work on this skeleton.  A discovery like this is so rare that you have to take time to study and learn from it.  We are just now learning the secrets he has held for almost 8,000 years. We have so much more to learn about him – we have just scratched the surface.”
Randall, Keith. 2014. “Kennewick Man’s Injuries, Bones Reveal Ancient Secrets”. Tamu Times. Posted: October 16, 2014. Available online:

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