Kennewick Man, one of the oldest and most
complete human skeletons ever found in North America, may have had Asian or Polynesian roots, but a scientist said Friday there are
still a lot of questions to be answered.
"It's similar to what we're seeing with other ancient skeletons in both North and South America -- there's some difference between
them and any modern people anywhere in the world," said JosephPowell, a professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico.
In a newly released report for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Powell and scientist Jerome Rose, part of a federal team
appointed to examine the bones, wrote that Kennewick Man "appears to have the strongest ... affinities with populations from
Polynesia and southern Asia, and not with American Indians or Europeans in the reference samples."
But to say that Kennewick Man might be most closely linked to the people of Polynesia or even the ancient Ainu of Japan, "doesn't totally convey what we found," Powell said.
The older the bones, the more difficult it can be to neatly link them to specific populations, he said.
He also noted that ancient skeletons found in Europe or Asia, for example, don't necessarily look like modern-day Europeans or
Any number of factors could have influenced the degree of variation among humans then and now.
Five Northwest Indian tribes have claimed Kennewick man as an ancestor, as has the Asatru Folk Assembly, an old Norse pagan
Representatives of the tribes and of the Asatru did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.
Kennewick Man, found in the shallows of the Columbia River in 1996, is believed to be more than 9,000 years old. Results of new carbon dating tests are expected to be available next month.
The report also notes that Kennewick Man probably died of old age, when he was between 45 and 50. He had a spear-point lodged in his hip, but it is believed to have been an old wound