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Upper Sun River Mouth Child
February 25, 2011 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin is a very special toddler. Approximately 11,500 years ago, the child spent at least one summer with family at a seasonal base camp in the Tanana Valley, located in what we now know as Alaska. Earlier this week, archaeologists announced their discovery of the child's cremated remains in ancient fire pit amidst an excavation of a circular semi-subterranean home. DNA testing of the remains could reveal genetic connections to the modern Athabascans. In addition, the find could yield new insight into the Paleo-Indians who traveled the Bering Strait, and the migration patterns of some of the indigenous people of North America. While little Xaaxaa only lived about three years, the toddler's remains, now the earliest human remains ever discovered in the North American arctic, ensure little Xaaxaa will be remembered for years to come.
posted by Dr. Zira (27 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
You mean Hera, right?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:59 PM on February 25, 2011


great post dr zira thank you!
posted by supermedusa at 7:11 PM on February 25, 2011


ChurchHatesTucker: It seems like I should know what you're talking about, but... if what you said makes sense, it must mean that there was some kind of 4th season of Battlestar Galactica. And that's crazy talk, I mean, no one has ever heard of such a thing. And I'm sure if there were such a ridiculous crazy thing, I'd have blocked it from memory altogether. Er, I mean, I'm sure it would be great. but it didn't exist.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the photo captions in the Daily Mail article says...
Bones: Researchers are already debating what happened to Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin, with some saying the three-year-old could have been cooked and eaten.
Why suspect that and who suggested it?

Seemed like an out of nowhere assertion, the way it was presented.
posted by striatic at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tucker, it seems as if you are referring to the heretical "new" BSG as canon. Everyone knows Starbuck was a virile male. Everyone. If you don't know that, well... hey are there any Cylons around?
posted by localroger at 7:30 PM on February 25, 2011


From the NPR link: While Potter reported that the child probably died before being cremated, Michael Kunz, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, suggested another possibility: "I don't think that there is any more evidence that the burned remains of the child indicate a cremation than they indicate that the child may have been cooked and eaten."

posted by padraigin at 7:38 PM on February 25, 2011


striatic, a high percentage of the Daily Mail's content is morbid conjecturing about savage acts of cannibalism. At this point it's pretty much de rigueur in any article involving foreigners and/or their far-away lands. At least this time though the conjecture is by a scientist...

While Potter reported that the child probably died before being cremated, Michael Kunz, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, suggested another possibility: "I don't think that there is any more evidence that the burned remains of the child indicate a cremation than they indicate that the child may have been cooked and eaten." /NPR article
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:39 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


striatic: I think it was because the child was found in the family's cooking pit, which also had bones of various animals which had been cooked.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:39 PM on February 25, 2011


11,500 years ago, a parent suffered unimaginable loss. A piece of them died along with Xaasaa. They may have healed, in time, but the world was that much bleaker for the rest of one human being's life.

Strange how a small, forgotten story, one that happens literally every day, can echo across thousands of years.
posted by xthlc at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


OK, so Michale Kunz is a complete asshole.

Cultures that cremate the dead: almost all of them.
Cultures that cook and eat children: Fuck you, there are none and you know it.

BLM reactionary bullshit of the worst kind. Oh, those savage, savage injuns! Good thing we here at the BLM are here to civilize them...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:55 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Um, people have eaten their dead for millennia. Including savage, savage, Europeans. It wouldn't be surprising at all. That said, the actual researchers who viewed the remains and did the, you know, research, don't think this is the case. Seems more to be reactionary bullshit by the media, trying to sensationalize an already sensational story.
posted by waitingtoderail at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, people have eaten their dead for millennia... It wouldn't be surprising at all.

Oh, cooking and eating a child is ritual cannibalism? Really? Gonna have to give a cite, there.

Thinking "zebras" and not "horses" here is inexcusable.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:25 PM on February 25, 2011


I love one of the comments below the article:

You lost me at "11,500 years old". You need to read the Bible more carefully

I laughed and cried.
posted by dibblda at 8:38 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gonna have to give a cite, there.
There's been funerary cannibalism in the Americas within living memory, so I can't see that it's out of the question (nor that finding the bones in the cooking pit strongly implies that's what happened here; other explanations are equally tenable)
posted by Abiezer at 8:42 PM on February 25, 2011


Cultures that cook and eat children: Fuck you, there are none and you know it.

Not true. Here is one anecdote of it from ancient China that I recall:

An incident is recorded in the chapter Xiaocheng (小稱) of the book Guanzi (管子):

Yi Ya (易牙) served the Lord (公) Huan of Qi with his culinary talent. The lord said, "the only thing which I have yet to taste is steamed infant." Then, Yi Ya steamed his first-born and offered him to the lord.

(in Classical Chinese: 夫易牙以調和事公。公曰:「惟蒸嬰兒之未嘗。」於是蒸其首子而獻之公。)

(There was not a strong taboo on cannibalism in ancient China and many accounts of cannibalism can be found in other historical times; for another example see Duke Wen of Jin).[citation needed]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Huan_of_Qi

Cannibalism including of children was proven chemically in some Anasazi sites and there is evidence for it in other Native American cultures, and no doubt various others on most if not all of the continents.

The Aztecs were cannibals (plenty of archeological evidence for it), and there are anecdotes from the conquest about their cannibalism of babies.

So I personally wouldn't be shocked if "Xaaxaa" was eaten, and perhaps that's what the context of these ancient remains indicates.
posted by knoyers at 9:00 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am sorry that I have eaten the baby
that was next to the microwave.
posted by localhuman at 9:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


On a possibly related note: official Scrabble rules allowed playing personal pronouns until just 10,800 years ago.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:25 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Archaeological evidence of cannibalism is extremely rare. By contrast, cremation is extremely common, and is known from the time period in points west and south.

The researchers also note that the body had flesh on it when it was burned, and the body was flexed and lain in a supine position (lying on the back), which are consistent with careful positioning of a complete body. The bone fragments are in approximate anatomical position which would be unexpected if the body had been eaten and bones returned to the fire. Burning patterns on the skull suggest a fire was built on top, not underneath, also suggestive of cremation not cooking. None of the bone elements show any pathology including trauma such as cut marks, scrapes or pot polish. The house in which they were found was apparently abandoned immediately after burial, and the hearth was capped with backfill.

All of those points are more consistent with deliberate burial, and less consistent with cannibalism.

I agree the statement by Michael Kunz, who is a reasonable guy, is inappropriate and probably taken out of context - that is, it would not surprise me if the reporter had led him into speculative realms and he had taken that bait. The Daily Mail is a crap source for this kind of thing, to be honest, and since this find has been widely reported it is a shame this otherwise excellent FPP gives their crass and sensationalistic version. See, for example, the more sober coverage of the Vancouver Sun.
posted by Rumple at 9:26 PM on February 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think the AP story is the source for the Kunz comments, because if you look at the NPR link, the AP version of the story includes the same Kunz quote and mentions it was provided from Kunz via email. The phrasing is really odd in that it looks like it was taken out of the middle of a larger discussion. It would be interesting to see his comments in the context of the email chain as a whole to see who's really pushing this "Xaasaa was cannibalized" theory.

The Mail had a map and big pics, though, so at least there's that. It's wondrous to me that archaologists can learn so much from small bits of bone fragments.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:24 PM on February 25, 2011


Before there was money, before there was science, before nations, before kings, before even gods, this child was.

Today, we remember you, little child.
posted by Avenger at 10:25 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


While Potter reported that the child probably died before being cremated, Michael Kunz, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, suggested another possibility: "I don't think that there is any more evidence that the burned remains of the child indicate a cremation than they indicate that the child may have been cooked and eaten."

I'm struggling to see how that's pushing cannabilism. It would seem to me to be pushing the diea we've got no evidence for any particular reason the child was there.
posted by rodgerd at 10:47 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by No-sword at 12:25 AM on February 26, 2011


Cultures that cook and eat children: Fuck you, there are none and you know it.

Wrong.

The
posted by Chrischris at 5:03 AM on February 26, 2011


Cannibalism was also reported during the Great leap Forward famine in China.
posted by jb at 7:11 AM on February 26, 2011


I like your comment, Avenger, but I'd bet a stack of polished shell arrow-points that there were gods in that child's time, as old and bloodthirsty as ever.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:17 AM on February 26, 2011


Sourcing science from the Daily Mail.

.
posted by Harry at 3:31 PM on February 26, 2011


To be fair, having chosen a course of cannibalism, are you really going to want mature human? You look at it and think, where has that been?
posted by knoyers at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2011


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