In 1996, two boat-race spectators stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a man along the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washingon. Named 'Kennewick Man' by anthropologists, and 'Ancient One' by local Native American groups, the body is dated to ~9,000 years ago.
Kennewick man has been as source of much controversy and debate since its discovery. Shortly after it was discovered, five local Native American groups claimed ownership over the remains under the North American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. Anthropologists and other interested scientists protested, arguing that a cultural connection could not be established between the ancient remains and modern groups. In 2004, scientific study of the remains resumed following a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that a cultural connection could not be established between the modern groups and the ancient remains.
Dr. Smith is a member of a team of scientists, led by Doug Owsley, along with Aleithea Williams, Tom Stafford, Alan Schneider, and Hugh Berryman and, who assembled in 2005 to study the remains in detail. They found that the man was deliberately buried in a shallow grave after dying in his mid 30s. It was initially thought that Kennewick Man was killed by a spear thrust to the rear, but the recent findings show that Kennewick Man was between 15 - 20 years old when he was wounded, but that the wound had fully healed by the time he died.
Dr. Smith lent his expertise on conservation and digital imaging towards recording and mapping the remains, and primarily worked with Tom Stafford on the taphonomic research, supported by a grand from the Hillcrest Foundation.
The team has answered several of the questions surrounding Kennewick man since his discovery, and with the ongoing research, the team hopes to answer many more.