Infant remains discovery is offering clues to the burial rites of early Americans, as archaeologists unearthed two infants underneath the remains of an 11,000-year-old home in central Alaska. The infants had been buried along with “unprecedented” grave offerings. They are par excellence the youngest human remains ever to be discovered in the North American Arctic and thus provide vital information about funeral practices among inhabitants at the time.
Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks examined the dental and skeletal remains of the two babies in order to determine that one was just a few weeks old, while the other died in utero. This made them understand how early societies were structured. Researcher at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in the US, Ben Potter said: “Taken collectively, these burials and cremations reflect complex behaviour related to death among the early inhabitants of North America.”
The discovery also lets us know about the stresses the people faced as they tried to survive, how they treated the youngest members of their society, how they viewed death and the importance of rituals associated with it. The presence of points may reflect the importance of hunting implements in the burial ceremony and with the population as whole, Potter explained.
The researchers found weapons and other artifacts buried with the infants. The weapons found in the gravesites are spears made of stone and antlers, that could represent essential hunting tools of that period, according to the archaeologists. The implements, which also included a knife-like blade, represented an investment in time and technology, and their burial supposedly would have been a relatively expensive sacrifice.
The infants were just 15 feet under where some ashes had been found in 2010. ( the cremated ashes of a three-year old boy from 11,500 years ago had been found at the same site in 2010). Both are presumed to be female, based on characteristics of the jaws and pelvis. The sex could not be determined from the scant remains of a cremated 3-year-old child discovered in 2010.There is a probability that the buried pair were twins (one stillborn, one surviving for several weeks), Potter said. But DNA analysis has not been completed yet, he explained. All three burials likely occurred within a short enough time period, he added. “Either you have this occurring in the same summer, or perhaps subsequent summers, but very close,” Potter said.