Asymmetric Anthropology: New Look at Paleo-Eskimos & Kennewick Man

In recent weeks there have been some interesting developments in the field of North American anthropology starting with work from the University of Denmark which revealed a broader history of human habitation in the North American Arctic.

The team concluded, according to a press release, “Paleo-Eskimos, after surviving in near-isolation in the harsh Arctic environment for more than 4,000 years, disappeared around 700 years ago – about the same time when the ancestors of modern-day Inuit spread eastward from Alaska.”

Additionally, the Paleo-Eskimo population represented a single group that were the first inhabitants of the Arctic. The migration waves identified in this newest look at North America’s population showed there were the ancestors to Native Americans (covered in this University of Copenhagen report from 2013,) followed by the Paleo-Eskimos and finally ancestors of the Inuit, according to the Danish team. (Full Danish team’s press release in English can be found here.)

So we are coming to understand that Neo-Eskimos were the middle wave of migration from Siberia to North America. What about those populations that first arrived? That brings us to the another bit of anthropology news, Kennewick Man.

The wild and meandering story of the Kennewick was covered ably and outstandingly by the team at Mysterious Universe in podcast 12.08. The story culminates with an exhaustive report that concludes the skeletal remains discovered in south east Washington State are of a seal hunting man dating back 9,000 years ago. The male, said to have Asian traits, is a rough contemporary to a 12,000 year-old skeleton discovered in Mexico.

Follow the link over to Mysterious Universe for their link to a Smithsonian article on Kennewick. Here is a brief overview of Kennewick Man from the Washington Post and a complete detailed look at test results and additional data from the National Park Service.

An interesting footnote to the Danish team brief on the discovery was an insight into Inuit belief in their origins. According to the accepted story, Inuits followed a race of “giants” called Sivullirmiut or Tuniit. This group, according to the Canadian Virtual Museum page on Inuit: Origins and Heritage, “The Tuniit, a race of giants, were the very first to occupy our lands and make them inhabitable. It was the Tuniit who discovered the caribou hunting grounds and places where the fish could be found in the rivers and lakes. Tuniit though taller and much stronger than Inuit, were timid and could easily be chased away. In some of our stories we tell of a war between the Inuit and the Tuniit causing the Tuniit to flee.”

The July 2014 issue of Fortean Times review of The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America popped into my head because of its connection to the Smithsonian Institute and an alleged “cover up.” While the Fortean Times review isn’t available online, there are some readers who opined at Goodreads. Take all, from the reviews to the subject of the book, with salt and a chaser of skepticism.