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Office of the Secretary, DOI
For Release: March 3, 1999
Contact: Stephanie Hanna (O)


Dr. Francis McManamon, Chief Archaeologist for the Department of the Interior, announced that the team of scientists examining the skeletal human remains known as Kennewick Man had successfully completed the first phase of analysis.

"We assembled a first-rate team and I'm confident that, in the spirit of true colleagues working together, they set high standards and worked extraordinarily hard in completing this phase of the examinations. I look forward to seeing their data and studying their analysis."

The remains were found scattered over an approximately 300 square foot area near the bank of a dammed portion of the Columbia River on land under management of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers near Kennewick, Washington, in July, 1996. They were moved to the Burke Museum of Natural Discover History in Seattle in October, 1998. Beginning on February 25, the remains were examined for five days by an expert team of anthropologists and archaeologists temporarily hired by the National Park Service. McManamon, who headed the examining team, developed an initial series of measurements and examinations that did not involve the destruction of any of the more than 380 bones and bone fragments.

Other members of the scientific team included Dr. Joseph Powell of the University of New Mexico, Dr. Jerry Rose of the University of Arkansas, Dr. Julie Stein of the University of Washington, Dr. Gary Huckleberry of Washington State University and Dr. John Fagan, President of Archaeological Investigations, Inc., in Portland, Oregon. Their work was overseen by professional conservators Dr. Vicki Cassman of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Dr. Nancy Odegaard of the University of Arizona, under the direction of the chief curator for the U.S. Army Corps, Dr. Michael Trimble.

The first phase of measurements were designed to establish a scientific baseline which will help the Department of the Interior determine whether or not the remains should be considered "Native American" under the legal definition in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), passed by Congress and signed into law in 1990.

After a thorough assessment of the data and reports produced by the examining team, McManamon will announce his decision about whether non-destructive tests alone are sufficient to conclusively answer the question of the age of the skeletal remains. If not, McManamon will determine what additional testing might be necessary. Any testing that involves destruction of small amounts of bone, such as radio-carbon dating or DNA testing, will not proceed until further consultations are completed with the five tribes presently and historically inhabiting the area where the remains were found.

When the Department of the Interior determines whether or not the remains are subject to NAGPRA, the data and reports of the scientific team will be made available and accessible to scientists, classrooms and interested citizens. If the remains are subject to NAGPRA, the Interior Department, as part of an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Army Corps, will then proceed to develop a process to determine whether the remains are culturally affiliated with any modern day tribe or tribes to which they should ultimately be repatriated under the law.

"The work done by this excellent team shows that NAGPRA is flexible enough to allow good science to go forward at the same time respecting the dignity of tribal beliefs," McManamon said. "I'm grateful to all those who worked so hard and were so generous with their time and expertise. I am particularly grateful to the Burke Museum and the University of Washington Hospital's Department of Radiology for their careful, prompt and exceedingly generous attention to all of our needs."

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