Oldest Washington Resident Finally Gets To Be Examined

Oldest Washington Resident Finally Gets To Be Examined
SEATTLE - He is one of Washington's most mysterious residents. He's also one of the oldest.

And after nearly a decade of legal fights, scientists are studying Kennewick Man.

"I'm kind of looking forward to seeing him again and answering some of the questions that I still have in my mind about him," said Dr. James Chatters, a forensic Anthropologist.

It's been 8 years since Chatters last saw Kennewick Man. July 11, he'll get his chance to see him again: "It's been a very long, strange trip."

In 1996, Jim was the first scientist to look at the 9,300-year-old bones. He's the one who created the skull replica and the sculpted face that has become the image of Kennewick Man.

Boaters discovered the bones along the Columbia River. That was the start of a decade of controversy. Native American Tribes claimed he was an ancestor and wanted the bones for re-burial.

"This case was different because the scientists wanted to study them in depth," said Nola Leyde of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that is now in possession of the bones.

The scientists won. Wednesday, they started their tests on Kennewick Man at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus.

This first group of scientists have a week and a half to conduct their tests. For the time being, the skeleton will remain in storage at the Museum.

"It's all for making sure that we have access to knowledge in this country," said Chatters.

Scientists fought hard because Kennewick Man is one of only two full skeletons found in North America more than 9,000 years old. They already know he was about 45-years-old, and he was very large for his time -- 5 feet 7-to-5 feet 10-inches tall.

In his life, he survived injuries to his ribs, arm, and skull. He even has a spear point stuck in his pelvis that healed over.

"It's clear, from the number of injuries he had, that his people took very good care of him. Otherwise at least two of those injuries are life-threatening," said Chatters.

But, scientists think there's more his bones can tell us about his health, diet and why he died. It's information that makes the wait worthwhile.

"We'll know more about him than just about anybody else who lived in America," said Chatters.