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Mystery of Ancient “Kennewick Man” Deepens


Nearly 10 years ago in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington, two boaters made a rare find along a bank of the Columbia River. They discovered what turned out to be one of the oldest and most complete skeletons ever found in North America. The find touched-off a court battle between scientists, who wanted to study the more than 9,000-year-old skeleton, and Native American Indians, who claimed he was an ancestor and should be re-buried. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the ancient skeleton known as "Kennewick Man."

Last year, scientists at the Burke Museum in Washington State won the right to examine the bones that have resided there since 1998. Recently they began tests to unravel the truth about this ancient mystery man.

Kennewick Man's more than 300 bones and fragments have raised more questions than they have answered. Scientists who have examined him say he may not be a Native American Indian, but perhaps a visitor from another part of the world.

Douglas Owsley is a forensic anthropologist. "It does not show features we see in European populations, it does not show features we see in North American Indian populations. It looks to me more like the features we see in groups from Asia."

Researchers say Kennewick Man survived several injuries during his lifetime.

Scientist James Chatters created a replica of Kennewick Man's skull and a model of what he might have looked like. "It's clear from the number of injures he had that his people took very good care of him, otherwise at least two of those injuries are life threatening."

Scientists hope further tests will yield clues about Kennewick Man's origins, and how he lived and died.

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