A series of genetic tests have revealed that a 8,500-year-old skeleton unearthed in the tidal flat of Columbia river nearly two decades ago is indeed the ancestor of a Native American tribe.
The tribe sued local authorities because they wouldn’t allow a proper burial of the human remains. But until this day, the skeleton was kept in a Washington state museum.
Kennewick Man, as the skeleton was dubbed, was believed to be an ancestor of either the Ainu people, an ethnic group that inhabited Japan since ancient times, or of Polynesian people.
Researchers rejected the Native American tribe’s claims about the human remains’ ancestry because its facial features were very similar to other populations. Yet, DNA tests revealed that the tribe was right.
In 1996, when Kennewick Man was found, Native American tribes requested that the federal government allows them to bury him properly. In response, authorities hid the remains from the curious eyes of anthropologists. But scientists also sued the state to let them study it. In the wake of the lawsuit, the skeleton was kept in a museum at researchers’ disposal.
A Danish team from the University of Copenhagen recently found that the skeleton had clear Native American ties and was genetically related to nearby tribes.
The team used a bone sample from one of the skeleton’s hands. They genetically analyzed it and compared the results with DNA from several ancient populations around the world including Native Americans.
DNA tests revealed that he had no Ainu or Polynesian roots, but he is closely related to the Colville Tribe, an ancient Native American tribe that stems from the Pacific Northwest. The tribe and four others sued the government over custody of the skeleton.
Researchers believe that modern Native American tribes have a common ancestor that was a close relative of Kennewick man. So, they suspect that there may be other tribes that are more closely related to the ancient man.
“We probably will never be able to say who is, in fact, the closest living relative of Kennewick Man,”
the team concluded.
And the tribe’s legal hassles may be far from over since Douglas Owsley , a bone expert sticks to his theory that Kennewick Man’s facial features and bone structure looks different from Native Americans. So, Mr. Owsley claims that the DNA evidence is not enough evidence to return the skeleton to the tribe. Additionally, other scientists said that it shouldn’t be buried until they learn more about it.
Image Source: International Business Times