ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska researchers say they've uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America at a site near the Tanana River in central pat of the state.
The 3-year-old is only the second ice-age child discovered on the continent, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Archaeologists discovered the remains in a fire pit in an abandoned living area from 13,200 years ago and dated the child's death to about 11,500 years ago, according to research by the university's Ben Potter and his team in the Feb. 25 edition of the journal Science.
Looking at the child's teeth, Alaska Fairbanks bioarchaeologist Joel Irish said in initial observations that the remains had traits of North Americans and northeast Asians.
Researchers and Interior Native groups have given the child the name Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin, which is associated with the Native place name, Xaasaa Na, and means "Upper Sun River Mouth Child."
Interior Alaska Native groups are working with the university to learn more about the child's story.
"This find is especially important to us since it is in our area, but the discovery is so rare that it is of interest for all humanity," said Tanana Chiefs Conference President Jerry Isaac in a statement issued by Alaska Fairbanks.
Healy Lake Traditional Council Chief Joann Polston said she wanted to know everything she could about the child.
Though the remains were cremated, researchers think DNA might still be present in them. Isaac said he intends to have his own DNA compared to the remains.
A small group of humans probably lived at the site hunting and fishing. They used a pit in the dwelling for cooking and leaving food waste, and after the group cremated the child, the pit was filled with dirt and the living space abandoned, according to the researchers' hypothesis.
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