Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
2 Burial Pits and Ivory Beads: Prehistoric Children
Burial Pits and Ivory Beads
In 2010 the earliest human remains ever discovered in the North American Artic were found in Upward Sun River. The cremated bones of a child, estimated to be about three years old, from 11,500 years ago (Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Eras), were found in a burial pit within a semi-subterranean house. The child was discovered with his or her knees drawn up with arms to the side, indicating that the child was likely buried after death and not a victim of infanticide or cannibalism. Within the grave there was no evidence of burial ornaments; however, there were remnants of ochre which is often associated with prehistoric funeral rites. Remains of food items within the burial pit indicate that the pits’ primary function was as a cooking hearth. After the cremation, the burial the pit was backfilled and apparently left undisturbed. The finding represents the “first evidence for behavior associated with the death of an individual” in northern North America.1
The historical literature on prehistoric children is limited, and records of deaths are dependent upon scientific reports produced by archaeologists and other scientists. Since we do not have the words of the prehistoric peoples to tell us how they felt about their children, we can deduce the meaning of burial practices not only based upon the accumulation of artifacts left behind, but on the features, spatial patterning and arrangement of the artifacts, as...
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