They are being called the oldest known remains of Native Americans who crossed over from Asia during the last ice age. Researchers discovered the remains of two babies near a river in Alaska.
The two were buried side-by-side in a round pit, along with carved hunting spears. The bones of the two infants were discovered three years after the cremated remains of another child were found in a shallower portion of the same pit.
Carbon dating points to the remains being about 11,500 years old. The find represents the youngest-aged specimens discovered in the region according to the study.
The burial site, plus the artifacts found within it, give archaeologists new insights into the funeral practices of the earliest North Americans.
Ben Potter, the study’s lead author, had this to say about the his team’s discovery.
“Taken collectively, these burials and cremation reflect complex behaviors related to death among the early inhabitants of North America,” Potter said.
Some of the artifacts found include shaped stone points and antler foreshafts decorated with abstract line engravings on them.
“The presence of hafted points may reflect the importance of hunting implements in the burial ceremony and with the population as whole,” a portion of the paper reads.
Potter’s team believe the two infants died at some point during the summer. Remains of salmon-like fish and squirrels were also found in the burial pit. These additional discoveries suggest the site was being used between June and August.
What is the importance of the discovery? Besides the insights into the funeral practices of early Americans, the infant deaths suggest “higher levels of mortality” in hunter-gatherer groups of the time according to the study authors.