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Scientists Find Ice Age Babies Buried in Alaskan Grave

The 11,500-year-old remains of two Ice Age infants have been unearthed from the site of an ancient settlement in central Alaska — and represent the youngest human remains ever traced to North America's earliest inhabitants, scientists say. The discovery, made by a team led by Ben Potter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, was detailed in a paper published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The remains include the bones of a late-term fetus and a child who died shortly after birth, the researchers said. They were found in a covered-over pit, about 15 inches (40 centimeters) beneath a hearth where a 3-year-old child was cremated at the Upward Sun River archaeological site. Potter and his colleagues say projectile points and antler shafts coated with ochre were interred along with the infants, probably as part of a burial ritual. In a video about the find, Potter said using such a ritual for infants represented "a new facet of Paleoindian behavior that we never really encountered before."

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— Alan Boyle
In addition to Potter, the authors of "New Insights Into Eastern Beringian Mortuary Behavior: A Terminal Pleistocene Double Infant Burial at Upward Sun River" include Joel Irish, Joshua Reuther and Holly McKinney. The project was supported by the National Science Foundation.