New York, June 22 (IANS) The 8,500-year-old skeleton of Kennewick Man is more closely related to the Native Americans than to any other population in the world, says recent DNA analysis by an international team of scientists.
“Using ancient DNA, we were able to show that Kennewick Man is more closely related to Native Americans than any other population,” said study’s lead author Morten Rasmussen from Stanford University.
Kennewick Man is the name given to the skeletal remains of a prehistoric Paleoamerican man found on a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, on July 28, 1996. It is one of the most complete ancient skeletons ever found.
The discovery of the remains led to considerable controversy. The skeleton is called the Ancient One by Native American groups, which believe the bones are those of a long-ago ancestor.
In 2004, five Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest requested repatriation of the remains for reburial, but the proceedings were halted to allow further investigation into the skeleton’s origins by a court order.
The study is likely to re-ignite a long-standing legal dispute regarding the skeleton’s provenance and its eventual fate.
“Due to the massive controversy surrounding the origins of this sample, the ability to address this will be of interest to both scientists and tribal members,” Rasmussen added.
The new finding challenges a 2014 study that had concluded that Kennewick Man was more related to indigenous Japanese or Polynesian peoples than to Native Americans.
The researchers compared the DNA sequences from the skeleton with those of modern Native Americans.
They concluded that — though it is impossible to assign Kennewick Man to a particular tribe — he is closely related to members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington.
The findings were published online in the journal Nature.