In 1968, the remains of an infant boy who lived 12,600 years ago were discovered in Montana. The bones were an important find, since they still represent the only physical remains certifiably belonging to the Clovis people, North America’s oldest native culture that we know of. It is now, however, that scientists have announced the most exciting piece of news regarding the remains of the child they have named “Anzick-1” (presumably after his father Anzick-0). The little squirt’s genome has been sequenced and has shown that the first Americans inarguably came from Eastern Siberia.
While most anthropologists have long been in the same camp on this issue, a lack of DNA evidence has made it difficult to conclusively prove an East Asian origin for Native Americans until now. Even a study comparing current Siberian DNA to current Native American DNA – which would intuitively provide our answer – ended up being inconclusive. The sequencing of Anzick-1’s genome proved his Siberian ancestry and showed that he was part of a group that is immediately ancestral to 80% of the Native American population and slightly more distantly ancestral to the remaining 20%.
The mound where Anzick-1’s remains were found in Montana. (Mike Waters)
Anzick-1 was thought to be somewhere between 12-18 months old when he died, and while his cause of death remains unclear, scientists have ruled out choking on a LEGO block, since no such artifact was found at the burial site. What was found were bone and stone tools which were made in the signature Clovis style. The site also included an elk antler tool that was already hundreds of years old by the time Anzick-1’s body was buried, suggesting it may have had some sort of cultural or religious significance. His body was also covered in a red ochre, a naturally occurring pigment.
A Clovis style spear point. (John Weinstein)
Were the Clovis people truly the first migrants into the Americas, or will we someday discover an even earlier migration? Will we ever discover more Clovis burial sites in the American West? Tell us in the comments section below.