See caption below.
Map showing location of Kennewick within Washington State.

Press Office

NMNH Scientist Studies
Kennewick Man

The scientific team assembled to study the Kennewick Man skeletal remains has finished the second phase of research. Dr. Douglas Owsley, Smithsonian anthropologist, presented the findings on Feb. 23, 2006, at the annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in Seattle, WA. The purpose of this phase of the research was to determine how geologic, pedologic (soil formation processes), biologic (plant and animal), and human actions affected Kennewick Man’s remains from the time of his death - about 9,300 years ago - until the time of recovery in 1996 along the Columbia River in Kennewick, WA.

The team has sought to answer several basic questions:

  1. Was Kennewick Man buried (interred by humans) or was he a flood victim, covered with silt by overbank flooding (i.e. buried by natural processes)?
  2. Can we say anything about the processes by which the remains eroded from the riverbank (the mechanics involved in erosion of the remains into the lake)?
  3. What was the in situ orientation of the remains relative to the river?
  4. What can we learn about the projectile point found embedded in his hip bone?

Dr. Doug Owsley
Dr. Douglas Owsley

Based on months of intense research by a world-class team of experts including anthropologists, geochemists, 3D imaging experts, projectile point (lithic) experts, and other specialized disciplines, the scientists have made the following conclusions.

The remains of Kennewick Man were articulated and complete when his body was placed in a supine, extended position in a deliberate burial. He was laid flat on his back, arms at his side, and the hands positioned down.

Preservation and completeness of the Kennewick Man skeleton is, in general, excellent although there is considerable postmortem (after death) damage. The fracturing and breakage occurred at recognizably different time periods. Components studied included bone surface coloration, weathering effects, and fracture patterning.

Kennewick Man’s in situ orientation was on his back with his body aligned with the river bank.  The river was on his left side and his head was directed upstream. His stratigraphic position within the bank was also determined.

Digital extraction and prototype production of a replica of the stone projectile point embedded in the right ilium (hip bone) helped determine its physical attributes. It appears to be out of the norm for a so-called Cascade point, which tends to be leaf-shaped, pointed at both ends, and is sometimes serrated.

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