Chumash Leaders Rebury Tuqan Man on San Miguel Island

Tests Indicate Remains Are Between 9,700 and 10,200 Years Old

Courtesy Photo

A group of Chumash leaders with the Santa Ynez Band reinterred the skeletal remains of a Native American male, known as Tuqan Man, who lived and died on San Miguel Island nearly 10,000 years ago. The Chumash called San Miguel Island “Tuqan,” and the remains were discovered protruding from a gulley in 2005 by archeaological researchers with the University of Oregon. They notified the National Park Service, which in turn transported the bones to research facilities for DNA testing to determine their genetic origins. Five DNA tests later, there have been no conclusive results. Likewise, isotope studies have not been definitive either.

While researchers agree the remains are definitely Native American in origin ​— ​based on age and burial method ​— ​there’s some question whether they are Chumash. The shape of the skull reportedly differed somewhat from those of later Chumash skull, and the man’s diet appears to have been more terrestrial as opposed to marine based, as Chumash diets were. With no definitive answers, the National Park Service listed the remains as “unclaimed.” But new federal laws allowed the Santa Ynez Band to file a claim on those remains as one of theirs. With no objections, the Park Service recognized the Santa Ynez Band’s action. Band spokespersons have declined to comment on how those bones were reburied or where, but have expressed abiding confidence the man is one of their own.

Tests indicate the remains are between 9,700 and 10,200 years old; they likely belong to a male who died at 41-51 years of age and who broke an arm while younger. He apparently died without evident trauma. At that age, he’s the second-oldest human specimen uncovered on the coast ​— ​the oldest dates back 13,000 years ​— ​making Tuqan Man a phenomenon of scientific and cultural significance. Ten thousand years ago ​— ​during the last Ice Age ​— ​the four northernmost islands in the Channel Islands were part of one large island now known as Santa Rosae.

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