Monday, November 24, 2014

Finding Ice Age Human Remains Is Really Hard


The land that now makes up Alaska and Siberia was connected by ​a narrow stretch of land that allowed people to move freely across it until 11,000 years ago when the ice started to melt and seas rose. This area was known as Beringia. In the area that now makes up Alaska, the landscape was harsh but resources were plentiful, so the inhabitants moved with the vegetables and animals they would eat. They lived their lives in moveable camps, building temporary shelters and hearths.

It was under the remnants of an 11,500-year-old camp that ​Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, uncovered the remains of several young children. One three-year-old was cremated, but the relatively intact skeletons of two infants were found buried underneath a circular hearth. 

According to the ​paper he and his team published in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these remains are the earliest and youngest ever found in the area, and could add to archaeologists’ understanding of funeral practices among humans during the Ice Age.

I caught up with him about life in the Ice Age and what it’s like to do field work in Alaska. The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.

For the rest of the story:

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