A team of archaeologists have discovered the bones of two babies in Alaska who were buried around 11,500 years ago during the glaciation of the last Ice Age, local media reported Tuesday.
This makes them the youngest human remains ever traced to North America’s earliest inhabitants.
The discovery took place in 2013 near the Tanana River in central Alaska but was published only recently in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
In 2010, the archaeologists had found partially cremated remains of a 3-year-old in a large sand dune close to Fairbanks but it was not until three years later that they realized that there were more remains just 38 cm (15 inches) below that site in the same area.
It was there that they found the remains of a baby who died only a few weeks old after birth as well as a fetus who was probably still-born.
The shape of the pelvis of both babies suggests that they could have been girls.
The gravesite allows scientists “to explore the treatment of the very youngest members of society,” said University of Alaska Fairbanks archaeologist Ben Potter, who led the excavations.
“Taken collectively, these burials and cremations reflect complex behaviour related to death among the early inhabitants of North America,” he added.
The babies were buried with spearheads and darts, allegedly used for hunting, and near salmon bones, which seem indicative of how important those fish were to human diets during the Ice Age.