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2011 Archives

Child cremation gives glimpse of first North Americans


The following is from the February 24, 201, edition of New Scientist. David Meltzer, the Henderson-Morrison professor of Prehistory in SMU's Department of Anthropology , provided expertise for this story.

March 1, 2011

By Jeff Hecht

The child was probably dead before it was put in the firepit and cremated. Later, the pit – which had previously been used to cook food and dispose of waste – was filled with soil and the house abandoned.

This is the extraordinary scene that archaeologists have reconstructed from the 11,500-year-old remains of a child found inside an indoor firepit in central Alaska. They have dubbed the child Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin, which means "Upward Sun River Mouth Child", after the region's name in the indigenous language.

The bones are the oldest human remains yet discovered in northern North America, and provide a remarkable glimpse into the lives of the earliest North American settlers. . .

No single discovery can tell us who reached the Americas first, or where they came from. By the time the Alaskan child was born, rising sea levels were putting an end to migration from Asia, says David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Read the full story.

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