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Science Breakthroughs of 2015: Kennewick Man’s DNA

December 31, 2015

Science Breakthroughs of 2015: Kennewick Man’s 8,500-year-old bones are finally sequenced, revealing his genetic ancestry.


G Grullon Science

The Bering land bridge connected Asia and North America during the last ice age. (G. Grullón/Science magazine)


Kennewick Man’s heritage. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

This week, we’re counting down to the Breakthrough of the Year, according to Science magazine’s editors. Today, Kennewick Man’s DNA. Bones of the mysterious 8,500 year-old skeleton were discovered in Washington State in 1996, and speculations about his ancestry ranged from Polynesian to Asian to European. Now, scientists have finally sequenced his DNA. University of California, Berkeley evolutionary biologist Rasmus Nielsen was on the team.

RASMUS NIELSEN (University of California, Berkeley)

And what we could show from the analysis is that the Kennewick Man is clearly Native American. And, in fact, is compatible with being directly ancestral to several of the groups that now live in the Pacific Northwest.


The results lend credence to recent genetic evidence that Native Americans descended from Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering land bridge during the last ice age. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.