An amazing archaeological dig near the Tanana River in Central Alaska has revealed the cremated skeleton of a 3-year-old – the oldest human remains ever found in North America. This find is significant in many ways, but one of the most interesting is what it can teach us about living in ancient times. Particularly it demonstrates that despite the passage of time some of the aspects of child’s family life are similar to natural living trends today.
For instance, the find suggests that the child was most likely still breast feeding when he or she died. This is not surprising as weaning didn’t occur until around 3 years of age in prehistoric times. What’s interesting about this is that in recent years there has been a trend promoting nursing for a longer length of time. Does this mean that we are getting back to our prehistoric roots?
By looking at the fire pit near the home, researchers found that the family dined on the small animals that were available near them such as salmon, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds and salmon. This is not unlike the locavore movement that defines how many strive to eat today. It interesting to think of how foreign the locavore approach to eating was to many just a few years ago, when this is how everyone ate 11,500 years ago.
Researchers are planning to extract DNA from the child to see if they can find a genetic link and identify the gender of the child. It has not been decided what will be done to the bones of the child after the tests are completed.
The find is a “very significant discovery and contribution to North American archaeology,” said E. James Dixon, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who was not involved in the dig. The find fits a pattern, Dixon said, in that 25 percent of remains found that are older than 10,000 years are children.