Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shellae Lucas: "What’s in a Name: Kennewick Man versus The Ancient One"

ENG 102 Fall 2014

What’s in a Name: Kennewick Man versus The Ancient One

A name may seem like a trivial thing, but in truth it holds a plethora of meaning. In the case of Kennewick Man or The Ancient One, these names are referring to the same ancient skeleton. However, which name is used holds immeasurable meaning to humans from different ethnic, religious and even scientific backgrounds. When two young college students stumbled through the Columbia River banks, in Kennewick, WA little did they know the controversy they were about to stir up with the discovery of a few old bones! The bones would turn out to be over 9000 years old and the most intact ancient skeleton in North America. What a phenomenal find, but then came the fight over essentially, a name. The Native Americans named him “The Ancient One”, their ancestor, claim him as such, and wish him returned to them for reburial (Kirkpatrick:10). The scientists named him “Kennewick Man”, a Paleo-American who has much yet to reveal (Chatters: 44). To fully understand the impact of Kennewick Man and his implications in ancient and modern day history these questions must first be answered; why is he important today, what are his ethnic origins and why did the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) not apply to his remains?

Kennewick Man was shoved into the limelight when the age of his ancient remains were revealed in 1996 (Chatters: 55, Owsley and Jantz: 1, Kirkpatrick: 6). What glimpse into the past could be unveiled to offer ever more insight into a historical time we still know too little about? Eight scientists had won a nine year court battle against the US Government to have the legal right to study Kennewick Man and in turn hopefully learn what he might have to share of days long past (Owsley and Jantz: 5, Kirkpatrick: 16). The culmination of these studies has just been published in Doug Owsley and Richard Jantz new book; KENNEWICK MAN: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton. The most basic information recovered tells he was right handed and at 160 pounds more of a medium build for a 40 year old adult male approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall (Chatters: 128, Owsley and Jantz: 622). Puzzling to the scientists and a point of many debates is the skull itself. Kennewick Man’s skull is shaped with characteristics of European and Polynesian descent rather than Asian-Siberian characteristics found in modern day Native Americans (Chatters: 223, Owsley and Jantz: 463). Another interesting and defining discovery was a 5cm by 2 cm stone projectile imbedded in Kennewick Man’s hip with calcium regrowth showing it was not the cause of death, but rather an injury he lived with for many years (Chatters: 40, Owsley and Jantz: 623). The projectile was examined using a CT scan and revealed serrated edges of a technology used long ago and known locally in the Columbia Basin area as a Cascade Point (Chatters: 41, Owsley and Jantz: 623) If more specific information could be gleaned from the projectile, like which technique was used specifically, was it reworked or not, what type of material it was made from; then a cultural time reference and a location of the quarry could be approximated (Owsley and Jantz: 458). Without radio-carbon dating in the early days of the discovery, the skull and projectile together offered amazing, yet limited insight into the past. The skull alone could have been passed off at first as a very early pioneer based on European characteristics alone and no radio-carbon dating (Chatters: 27). However, once the projectile was located in the hip, and identified as belonging to a technology used during Paleo times, there was never a doubt Kennewick Man was an Ancient. The question now became, how ancient and from where would a Paleo-American come from that he had such European and Polynesian features? The first radio-carbon dating would be done to achieve the original age of over 9500 years old (Chatters: 53). Additional testing using radio isotopes determined Kennewick Man to have 90% marine protein as his staple diet; that figure was included in the determination of his original radio-carbon age to achieve an accurate age of over 9000 years old (Owsley and Jantz: 318). This age fits with what scientists agree on as the timeframe of Post-Clovis in the Holocene era (Stanford and Bradley: 5). The type of projectile, which most of the scientists agree is actually a reworked Haskett point style with serrated edges, making it older than the originally thought Cascade point, adds to the corroboration of early Holocene era for Kennewick Man (Owsley and Jantz: 472).

Flaked stone technologies, called knapping are quite intrinsic and vary from technological eras to clan traditions (Stanford and Bradley: 24). They are detailed enough however, to be used to track the movement of these ancient Stone Age ancestors across North America and even farther (Stanford and Bruce: 31). In the case of Kennewick Man they have given us a chance to step back, take a breath and recognize what we think we know about the peopling of the America’s may indeed be flawed. Its general knowledge taught in schools around America that the first people to populate the American continent came across the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia. James Loewen points out in his book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, this is the only hypothesis being taught; any other potential hypotheses are not mentioned (97). In truth, there are three such working theories scientists believe probable for the peopling of the America’s and may give us the glimpse we seek into Kennewick Man’s own past.

Who were the first to people America is a question with different answers; depending on which theory you hold true. Three main theories are probable and the scientists who study them each have their points to share and stories to tell when explaining; the Beringia Ice Bridge, the Pacific Rim or the Solutrean theories. Dr. James C. Chatters explains the first two theories in detail in his book, Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First American. The time of Clovis refers to an Ice Age people between 13,500 and 10,000BC, who were named as such for the stone flaked tool known as the Clovis Point (246). Other time frames are known as Pre-Clovis dating prior to 13,500BC and Post-Clovis dating after 10,000BC (249). Within each of these timeframes are varying traditions that added to the change in flake points on tools and blades further narrowing results to a more specific area or regions in most cases. These blade bi-face points, like the one lodged in Kennewick Man’s hip, are what scientists group together and follow across North America to put a semblance of reasoning together about each theory. It is labor intensive, but a most interesting of puzzles to unravel.

Clovis First, otherwise known as the Beringia Ice Bridge is the most accepted theory for the first peoples coming into America (244). Hunters from Siberia walked across the Beringia land bridge and into what is now Alaska during the last great Ice Age and then via an ice free corridor through Canada down over time, continued on to the US and Central America (246). Clovis bi-face stone tools have been found all over the aforementioned areas as testimony to the theory of Clovis people arriving in America (246). The issue is not, was the Clovis culture here, but rather was it here first, to give rise to the other cultures that followed? Dr. Chatters believes it was not here first; the ice free corridor would not have been clear early enough to accommodate these early explorers (247). He also points out that Tom Dillehay, from the University of Kentucky made a discovery in 1984 that shows Clovis culture was not the first culture in the Americas (247). In his book, Dr. Chatters explains how Dillehay, found two campsites buried at Monte Verde, Chile and uncovered technology nothing like Clovis, yet still pre-dated Clovis by 1500 years (248). In fact, there are multiple sites throughout South America that pre-date Clovis and had different technologies, showing that Clovis was indeed, not first (250).

The Pacific Rim theory is gaining proponents as more and more evidence arrives in its support. Starting in the Artic and staying close to the Pacific coastline, ancient sea voyagers followed the coast line down to Alaska, Canada and the US (Chatters: 253). Dr. Chatters book relays archaeologist, Dr. Knut Fladmark’s findings, that marine geology of the Pacific Coast would not have been encased in ice, but rather his studies have shown large areas of land left open in the midst of glacier valleys on the continental shelf (253). Areas specifically now known to be partially free of ice were Kodiak Island, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and Vancouver Island (253). If land was found in areas like these along the Pacific coastline, the other need would be sustainability. The coastline offers an abundance of nourishment from, shellfish, salmon, seals, and whales to seaweed, birds, eggs and land mammals (251). The most obvious need required for this theory is a water vessel, a boat! Unlike stone-age tools which last through the ages, wooden boats would most likely not have survived from such a time period. None have been found to study as yet in America, although scientists have taken to the ocean floor in search of this rare artifact they covet to further prove the Pacific Rim Theory.

The Solutrean theory is by far the most controversial in terms of peopling America (Chatters: 261). Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley spend much time detailing how the Solutrean culture could have arrived in North America, in their book, Across Atlantic Ice: America’s Clovis Culture. One of the points they stress throughout their book is that the Clovis point and Solutrean manufacturing processes are nearly identical, although Solutrean culture pre-dates Clovis culture (156). This could be interpreted as Solutrean giving rise to the Clovis culture. When two such processes are practically identical, it cannot be ignored, but where does it fit in? Then comes the controversial part; Solutrean culture is firmly planted in Southwestern France and Northeastern Spain (121). How to bring the theory together from continents away? Drs. Stanford and Bradley theorize that during the last great ice-age, the Solutrean culture was pushed closer to the sea and further developed seafaring ways (125). Looking to find a more hospitable environment, as well as follow hunting patterns, they would have used lightweight stick boats covered in animal skins to navigate between ice berg and floating ice islands from Europe around to Newfoundland and the eastern coastline (216). Once again, evidence of these boats is vague, and the distance suggested not a small feat; however Drs. Stanford and Bradley have another proof of maritime travel in the Solutrean tradition – cave drawings.

El Pendo Cave in Spain and Cosquer Cave in France both carry cave drawings dated from 19,000 to 18,000BC (230). The cave in Spain has pictures of seals, deep sea fish and an Auk, while the cave in France shows a fight over a female by two male Auks (230). How does this show seafaring ability? The Auk nest on islands out in the ocean and the way to witness this and other deep-sea life is to be on the sea - in a boat (230). The Solutrean culture was most definitely not the first to have sea travel. The South Pacific has artifacts dating back to 60,000BC for the islands in Indonesia and continuing to the Solomon Islands dating to 30,000BC; of which scientists agree originated with populations from Southeast Asia (229).

How do the three migration theories help to explain Kennewick Man’s ethnic origins? Based on what has been documented so far; Kennewick Man looks to be of European-Polynesian descent of medium build and height, who ate a diet containing proteins almost solely from the sea. When the Beringia theory is added to Kennewick Man, there are glaring discrepancies. The most obvious being the way they look. The people who came over on the Beringia Ice Bridge were from Southeastern Siberia and had the facial features similar to today’s Native Americas and Native Siberian Mongoloid peoples (Chatters: 144). The second discrepancy is the food noted in Kennewick Man’s diet as being almost total sea life. Those people coming over Beringia and down through the ice free zones would have been Ancestors to Kennewick Man. However, they were too far inland for sea life of any means to support the high concentration found in Kennewick Man, which suggests a life on the sea and then travel to the Columbia Basin where he later died. The Pacific Rim theory rings more closely to a viable candidate for Kennewick Man. This model allows that the persons arriving to the western coast of America could have originated from the Pacific Islands off the coast of Japan (Chatters: 177, Owsley and Jantz: 467). More specifically the ancient Ainu who have lighter skin, curlier hair, heavy facial hair and striking mix European and Polynesian of facial features (Chatters: 183 , Owsley and Jantz: 467). This theory also puts Kennewick Man in the correct time frame himself to be part of the sea voyaging people who arrived on the Pacific Coast and followed tributaries inland. It would explain his high concentration of marine proteins, and yet still account for his burial inland along the banks of the mighty Columbia.

The Solutrean theory has some possibilities, but the theory itself needs more time to come together. Solutrean offers seafaring culture that has the same technology and potential explanation for Kennewick Man’s European appearance. What it lacks is that Solutrean would also be his ancestors, and they would have arrived on the Eastern coast of the US and then slowly migrated West (Stanford and Bradley: 41). This would have predisposed his ancestors to land mammals such as bison, elk and mammoth and not the marine sea life which is so high in Kennewick Man. It is obvious and well established that Kennewick Man was here long before the America’s were colonized. This raises the next debate; why didn’t the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) apply to his remains? In 1990, President George Bush Sr. signed NAGPRA into law giving Native American’s right to any skeletons, cultural artifacts or religious objects they could show a direct lineal association or tribal association too (Chatters: 60, Thomas: 231). In the court case which determined the right to study Kennewick Man, the Department of the Interior’s position was, “… any remains in the United States older than 500 years old are Native American” (Thomas: 232). Judge Jelderks had a question for the Department of the Interior. This summarized question was: If the remains don’t resemble any modern tribe at all, does your position still stand? The Department agreed it did still hold that position. Judge Jelderks next statement was based off the Interiors position; which again summarized, infers a 10,000 year old European would become classified as a Native American, regardless of true heritage (Thomas: 232) The judge warned the Department of the Interior that ancient remains were not referred to in NAGPRA (Thomas: 232). The biggest hurdle with Kennewick Man and NAGPRA is showing a direct lineal or tribal association going back 9000 years ago. In 2002, Judge Jelderks decision was granting the scientists requests to study Kennewick Man on his interpretation that Kennewick Man cannot be linked to any Native America group and therefore is not a Native American and therefore NAGPRA does not apply (Kirkpatrick; 20). Native American’s realized that to fight appeals would be many more years and more money than they afford with no guarantee of a win, or even the case being seen, so decided to not continue (Owsley and Jantz: 100). The Kennewick Man case has pushed the Native American community to try to get NAGPRA law more specifically defined.

Kennewick Man will continue to be a topic of debate for many, many years to come. Until the Army Corps of Engineers allow more in depth and innovative testing such as from a tooth or on the projectile on his hip, there will be no concrete data to his place of origin. To be able to link him to a modern day ethnic group one day would truly be a remarkable moment in history; as he still has much to reveal about a culture long gone. I’m of the belief that NAGPRA does not apply and should not apply to ancient remains such as Kennewick Man. He belongs to the world, for he and his people did populate our world. All three theories support ethnic groups coming from far away. We, as modern people all originated from somewhere, and 9000BC was a long time ago in our world’s history to say who exactly was where and when. These ancient remains should be honored, learned from with the utmost respect, and then put to peace in a sacred place. There is no reason you can’t honor the present while learning from the past. I honor him and the amazing life he must have lived; to me he is the Kennewick Man.

Work Cited

Chatters, James C. Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Kirkpatrick, Katherine. Mysterious Bones: The Story of Kennewick Man. NY: Holiday House, 2011.

Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. NY: The New Press, 2008.

Owsley, Douglas W. and Jantz, Richard L. Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014.

Stanford, Dennis J. and Bradley, Bruce A. Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America's Clovis Culture. LA: University of California Press, 2013.

Thomas, David Hurst. Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity. NY: Basic Books, 2001.

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