Rare Bones and DNA of tiny children surprise scientists, support ideas about migration into the Americas 11,000 years ago

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The small bodies of infants buried in an ancient campsite in the wilds of Alaska have given researchers a surprising and unprecedented look into the lives of prehistoric peoples and the ancient lineages of Native Americans. These rare bones are said to be the earliest human remains found in northern North America.

Archaeologists uncovered the skeletons of the two infants in 2013 at the Upper Sun River archaeological site in the Tanana River Basin of central Alaska, USA. It was found that one child (six- to 12-week-old baby) had died shortly after birth, and the other was a stillborn (preterm 30-week fetus). Most unexpected of all was the discovery this year that the two babies had different mothers and grandmothers. (Before their ages was determined it was believed the infants were twins). Radiocarbon dating showed the pair were buried approximately 11,500 years ago, reports the journal Science.

Not only are the remains the earliest in northern North America, they’re also the source of the first ancient DNA discovered in Beringia— the ancient region of the Bering Strait and Sea, when the Bering Land Bridge linked Asia and North America at various times during ice ages.

Beringia Migration and the Standstill Model

The study has been published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS).

Archaeologists in Alaska found the remains of tiny prehistoric children, the earliest of northern North America. Credit: Ben Potter, University of Alaska at Fairbanks

Study co-author and doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Utah , Justin Tackney said that the genetic lines of the babies suggest to scientists that all Native Americans might trace their lineage to a single wave of migrants who crossed the Bering Strait, reports LiveScience.

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