The scientists have unearthed remains of two Ice Age infants, buried more than 11,000 years ago at a site in Alaska, bringing in new insights into the burial practices and other related rituals of early society.
These findings represent the oldest human remains ever found in northern North America.
Researcher at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in the US, Ben Potter said, "Taken collectively, these burials and cremations reflect complex behaviour related to death among the early inhabitants of North America.”
The human remains, associated burial offerings and inferences about the time of year the infants died and were buried, may shed light on how early societies were structured, pointed out the study.
The discovery also lets us know about the stresses the people faced as they tried to survive, how they treated the youngest members of their society, how they viewed death and the importance of rituals associated with it.
Grave offerings like shaped stone points and antler fore-shafts decorated with abstract incised lines, representing some of the oldest examples of weapons in North America were also unearthed.
The presence of points may reflect the importance of hunting implements in the burial ceremony and with the population as whole, Potter said.
The deaths occurred during the summer when regional resource abundance and nutritional stress should have been low, suggesting high levels of mortality, the authors concluded.
The study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(With inputs from IANS)