Coping with death is difficult no matter where you come from, or what type of lifestyle you live. It’s one of the most challenging, yet universal experiences people face. Even more challenging, and universally understood is the passing of children or the very young. A recent discovery in an Alaskan sand dune though might offer some insight as to how the first settlers of North America coped with that very challenge.

They were likely the first humans to step on, or live on North American soil, and thanks to the recovery of two infant skeletons from a site near the Tanana River, located in Central Alaska, some answers to how those settlers dealt with the passing of children might be a little better understood.


The international research team, which was led by Ben Potter – an anthropological archeologist were the individuals who made the overwhelmingly unique discovery – which actually preserved what was the likely burial method quite well. They published their findings on Monday, and in turn, sparked an interesting conversation around how those individuals who lived in the earlier of human days in North America – coped with something as universal as death of the young.

The findings interestingly uncovered how “normal” the burial methods would feel, or seem, in comparison to what humans know of today. The individuals were carefully laid on their backs, ensuring that a particular position was preserved, and they were surrounded by a number of personal belongings, tools, and things that would ultimately indicate a passing of respect from those who were performing the burial. A little more interesting though is the fact that it would appear as though the two skeletons that are in question now were likely twins. However, not your ordinary set of twins.

These twins were likely individuals who died in separate instances, and some of the research might even indicate that one of the children may have died previously to the second, and had been exhumed from the original burial place. And the reasoning is likely far less complicated than one might imagine. It would appear as though, according to scientists that the burial was to simply keep the twins together.

This would give unique credit to the burial methods of the earliest Alaskan settlers, which seem to have followed very similar rituals to what modern day humans practiced. Furthermore, it reveals that universally the death of a child is far-and-away one of the most universally experienced events that a human could go through.