A human jawbone found lying in shallow water of the Columbia River in October is Native American, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
It hired an independent physical anthropologist to make the determination, said Bruce Henrickson, Corps spokesman. The lower jawbone with six teeth is believed to date to about 150 to 200 years ago.
"We're treating the remains with the respect they deserve," he said. "These are remains of somebody's ancestors, and we ask everyone to remember that."
It was found in the same general area of the Columbia River as the bones of the Kennewick Man skeleton found in July 1996. Scientists concluded that the 9,300-year-old skeleton was buried there.
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However, no other bones were found with the more recently discovered jawbone. It was lying in shallow water a couple of feet off a small, rocky shore a quarter-mile east of Edison Street in Columbia Park in Kennewick.
It may have been washed down the river by the high waters in 2011 and then showed up as water receded from the shoreline, said Benton County Coroner John Hansens the day it was found.
Because the bone appeared to be historic rather than connected to a possible crime, Hansens turned it over to the Corps, which owns the land where the bone was found.
The Corps has consulted with several Plateau Tribes that appear to be culturally affiliated with the remains and next will publish a legal notification giving 30 days for any other legal claimant to the bones to come forward, as required by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
A similar process was followed when another human jawbone and two teeth were found by boaters in August 2009, on the Columbia River shore north of Richland. That jawbone was determined to be Native American and appeared to be about 300 to 350 years old based on the amount of mineralization on the teeth, among other characteristics.
The bone was transferred in June 2010 under a joint claim to a group composed mostly of the members of the Columbia Plateau Inter-Tribal Repatriation Group. They included the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation. The joint claim also was supported by the Wanapum Band.
w Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org