Mysterious 'Kennewick Man' Skeleton Revealed To Be Roving Seal Hunter

Aug 26, 2014 10:29 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma


The skeleton of a North American man dated to 9,000 years ago is the subject of a 680-page book that examines the ancient find and its implications for early native cultures.

Known as the Kennewick Man, the skeleton was discovered by accident near the Columbia River in Washington State in 1996. The book analyzing his remains is titled "Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton."

In the new work, more than five dozen authors, researchers and photographers hypothesize that he was a roving seal hunter who survived various broken bones and lived with a strained shoulder from throwing spears over and over, the Washington Post reported.

"Kennewick Man could not have been a longtime resident of the area where he was found, but instead lived most of his adult life somewhere along the Northwest and North Pacific coast where marine mammals were readily available," the researchers wrote in the last chapter of the new book.

Chemical analysis of molecular isotopes in Kennewick Man's bones indicate that he ate seals and other large sea mammals and likely drank water from melting glaciers. His skull dimensions are most similar to those of Polynesians that live on the Chatham Islands near New Zealand; however, the researchers believe that he wasn't himself a Polynesian, instead sharing a common ancestry with a population on an Asian coast.

Kennewick Man and others in his people group hunted marine creatures as they traveled around the edge of ice created by the Pacific Ocean's northern rim, said  co-editor Douglas Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

"This is like a highway," Owsley described the migration route, as quoted by the Post. "People are going from the Old World to the New World and back and forth."

The excavation to unearth the Kennewick Man yielded more than 300 bones. The specimen is one of the most intact skeletons from that era.

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