2013 Alaska Excavation Produces Significant Find


In the summer of 2013 a team from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Northern Land Use Research Alaska, a wholly owned subsidiary of HRA Gray & Pape, conducted an excavation and discovered two infant burials approximately 11,500 years old at the Upward Sun River Site in central Alaska. The infants were interred in a red ochre-lined pit feature with associated faunal and lithic grave goods, including the earliest known North American hafted bifaces with decorated, polished, and beveled foreshafts. Skeletal and dental analyses indicate one infant died shortly after birth and the other was a late-term fetus, making these the youngest-aged late Pleistocene individuals known for the Americas and the only known prenate. This burial was situated 40 cm directly below a cremated 3-year-old child discovered at the site in 2010 in association with the central hearth of a semi-subterranean residential feature. The burial and cremation are contemporaneous so differences in treatment, associated grave goods, and residential occupation between burial episodes indicate novel mortuary behaviors. DNA evidence is still being processed.

A paper on this discovery was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal on November 10, and the National Science Foundation produced a short video report.