Depiction of Clovis people, Mastodon State Park, Missouri
The genetic sequence from a prehistoric baby in a 12,000-year-old Clovis burial site in Montana is providing significant data on the origins of the earliest Americans.
Until now, archaeologists have had to rely mainly on tools made of stone and bone, and other artifacts to tell the story of human migration about 15,000 years ago to the New World.
Now that story is bolstered with some dramatic, ancient DNA, extracted from the remains of a 1-year-old boy who died in what is now Montana more than 12,000 years ago, according to a study described in Nature magazine.
"Clovis is what we like to refer to as an 'archaeological complex,' " says Michael Waters, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University. That complex is defined by characteristic tools, he says.
The Clovis artifacts were common for about 400 years, starting about 13,000 years ago. But at this point, there is only one set of human remains associated with those sorts of tools: that of the baby from Montana.
"So this genetic study actually provides us with a look at who these people were," Waters says.
The most obvious conclusion from the study is that the Clovis people who lived on the Anzick site in Montana were genetically very much like Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere.