Archeologists unearthed the remains of two Ice Age infants positioned in the same burial site in Alaska. They believe these are the youngest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic. The burial took place more than 11,000 years ago.
The Upward Sun River site in Central Alaska, where the bodies have been found in 2013, proved to be exceptionally rich. In 2010, the same team headed by Ben A. Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks unearthed the remains of a 3-year-old in the same spot. In fact, the 2013 discovery comes after researchers dug just an extra 15 inches in the same Upward Sun River site.
Potter said, “Taken collectively, these burials and cremation provide the first evidence for complex behaviors related to death among the early inhabitants of North America.”
However, the two burials are quite different. While the three-year-old child was simply cremated and covered, the two infants later discovered enjoyed a fairly complex burial process. Multiple stone heads and antler foreshafts have been found besides the two curled bodies of the infants. The stone heads may be the oldest hafted bifaces discovered in North America. Their presence indicate a high-cost burial.
Although DNA analysis has not been completed, archeologists believe that the two infants may be twins. While one died shortly after birth, the other died a couple of weeks later. That is when the two may have been reunited and seated side by side in the circular pit, as the younger one’s position seems more central, as well as in direct contact with the artifacts.
The site has important archeological value because it serves as a lens pointed at the lives of Asian people who migrated to North America. Alaska and Yukon territory share technological links with the land beyond the Bering Sea, as the artefacts discovered in the burial site demonstrate, Potter said.
The remains have been discovered in the hearth of a residential structure. By looking at how and where the burial took place, archeologists found clues conveying temporary, but longer term residence than previously thought. Traces of salmon-like fish and squirrels in the same burial site indicate residence during the summer. During that period, food as widely available and nutritional stress was low. But seasonal migration or burial practices cannot alone explain why the two burials share so little similarity.
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