Researchers have discovered the oldest cremated human remains ever unearthed in northern North America, they tell the Anchorage Daily News. The Fairbanks team found the remains of a 3-year-old in an ancient fire pit in central Alaska; they believe the child—only the second ice-age child discovered on the continent—died some 11,500 years ago. “We knew the age right away, so actually I was thinking of this day that moment, because I knew it was big,” says one of the archaeologists who made the discovery.
The area where researchers are working likely contained a small house, they say, with a cooking area and traces of food, including salmon. The child, which they’re calling “Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin,” or “Upper Sun River Mouth Child,” appears to have had North American and Northeast Asian traits. One researcher hopes to compare the child’s DNA to his own. “The discovery is so rare that it is of interest for all humanity,” says the president of an Interior Alaska Native group.