Anzick Boy
Common name Anzick Boy
Species Homo sapiens
Age 12,707–12,556 years BP
Place discovered Near Wilsall, Montana, U.S.
Date discovered 1968

Anzick-1 is the name given to the remains of Paleo-Indian male infant found in western Montana, U.S. in 1968 that date to 12,707–12,556 years BP.[1] The child was found with over 115 tools made of stone and antlers and dusted with red ocher, suggesting an honorary burial.[2] Anzick-1 is the only human that has been discovered from the Clovis Complex, and is the first ancient Native American genome to be fully sequenced.[3]

Paleogenomic analysis of the remains revealed Siberian ancestry and a close genetic relationship to modern Native Americans.[1][3] These findings support the hypothesis that modern Native Americans are descended from Asian populations who crossed Beringia between 32,000 and 18,000 years ago.[1][3]

Anzick-1's discovery and subsequent analysis is controversial because although the researchers did not violate the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), many Montana tribal members believe they should have been consulted before the analysis of the infant's skeleton and genome.[4]

Anzick-1 was reburied on June 28, 2014 in the Shields River Valley in an intertribal ceremony.[2] The artifacts associated with the first burial are archived at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana.[2]


The Anzick site was accidentally discovered by a construction worker in a collapsed rock shelter near Wilsall, Montana.[5][6] The remains were found on the ranch of the Anzick family.[4] The Anzick-1 remains were found buried under numerous tools, 100 stone tools and 15 remnants of tools made of bone. The site contained hundreds of stone projectile points, blades, and bifaces as well as two juveniles.[6] Some of the artifacts were covered in red ocher.[6] The stone points were identified as part of the Clovis Complex because of their distinct shape and size.[5] Originally, the two human skeletons were both thought to contemporaneous with the Clovis Complex stone points, but later carbon dating revealed that only one of the human skeletons, Anzick-1, was from the Clovis period.[5] Anzick-1 predates the other skeleton by two millennia.[5]

Osteological findings

Anzick-1's skeletal remains included 28 cranial fragments, the left clavicle, and several ribs.[5] These bones were discovered in highly fragmented states; however, partial reconstruction of the crania allowed for age estimation, investigation of basic health indicators, and some information about cultural practices. Originally, investigators thought the left clavicle showed evidence of cremation, but further analysis revealed that the discoloration was the result of groundwater staining and not fire.[5] Additionally, all of the Anzick-1 remains were stained with ocher, which masks the natural color of the infant's bones.[5]

Age estimation

The age at death of an individual can be determined from several skeletal markers including cranial suture closure, tooth eruption rates, rates of epiphyseal fusion on long bones, and others.[7] Cranial bones fuse together along suture lines throughout the life of every human, and can be used to estimate the age at death of human remains.[7] The small size and lack of suture closure of Anzick-1's crania revealed that the individual was 1–2 years old.[5] The metopic suture is also present in the frontal bone of Anzick-1. This suture is present in most human infants but closes well before adulthood. The presence of a frontal suture in Anzick-1's remains corroborates the age estimation of 1–2 years old.

Skeletal markers of health

Cranial bones can also be useful for detecting evidence of physiological perturbations.[7] Porotic hyperostosis is characterized by porous lesions on the parietal, occipital, and sometimes frontal bones.[8] Cribra orbitalia is another pathological skeletal lesion that manifests as porosity on the orbital roof.[8] Both porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia are indicators of a nutritional deficiency that leads to anemia.[9] The reconstructed frontal, parietal, and occipital bone fragments of Anzick-1 were analyzed for these indicators of health; however, the crania showed no evidence of cribra orbitalia or porotic hyperostosis.[5]

Cranial vault modification

Many cultures use wrappings and boards to manipulate the malleable cranial bones of infants into different shapes which may hold cultural significance.[10] This practice has been recorded in several different bioarchaeological contexts throughout the Americas.[10] The shape of Anzick-1's cranial vault revealed no evidence of cultural cranial vault modification.[5]

Paleogenetic findings

A team of researchers throughout the United States and Europe conducted paleogenetic research on the Anzick-1 skeletal remains. They sequenced the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the full nuclear DNA, and the Y-chromosome, and compared these sequences to those of modern populations throughout the world.[1] The results of these analyses allowed the researchers to make conclusions about ancient migration patterns and the peopling of the Americas.

These analyses revealed that the individual was closely related to Native Americans in Central and South America, instead of being closely related to the people of the Canadian Arctic, as had previously been thought. This finding supports the theory that the peopling of the Americas occurred in multiple waves. For more than 20 years anthropologists have debated whether the first settlers who came to the New World did passing the Bering Strait, or sea from the southwest of Europe.

Nuclear DNA analysis

Human nuclear DNA is located inside the nucleus of every cell and makes up the human genome.[11] Humans inherit half of their nuclear DNA from their mother and half from their father.[11] Throughout human evolution, mutations occur that are inherited in each subsequent generation.[11] Different populations have different frequencies of these mutations, and population histories can be ascertained from these mutations by comparing the mutations of one individual to other genomes from specific ethnic groups.[11] The genome of Anzick-1 was sequenced and analyzed to look for specific mutations that might shed light on the population history of modern Native Americans.[1] Anzick-1's genome was compared to over 50 Native American genomes for comparison, and researchers found that it was significantly more similar to these Native American genomes than to any modern Eurasian population.[1] Interestingly, however, Anzick-1's genome was closer to 44 Native American populations from Central and South America than with 7 Native American populations from North America.[1]

Mitochondrial DNA analysis

MtDNA is DNA located in mitochondria, an organelle that is found in human cells. The mitochondria is maternally inherited and analysis of the mtDNA can provide information about maternal ancestry.[12] MtDNA genomes are classified into different haplogroups based on a shared common ancestor, and distinct haplogroups provide information about ancient migration patterns.[13] Morten Rasumssen and Sarah L. Anzick et al. sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of Anzick-1 and determined that the infant represents an ancient migration to North America from Siberia. They found that Anzick-1's mtDNA belongs to the haplogroup D4h3a, a "founder" haplogroup that might represent an early coastal migration route into the Americas.[1] The D haplogroup is also found in modern Native American populations, which provides a link between Anzick-1 and modern Native Americans.[14] Although it is rare in most of today's Native Americans in the US and Canada, D4h3a genes are more common in native people of South America, away from Montana cliff below which Anzick-1 was buried. This suggests a greater genetic complexity among Native Americans than previously thought, including an early divergence in the genetic lineage 13,000 years ago. One theory suggested that after crossing into North America from Siberia, a group of the first Americans, with the lineage D4h3a, moved south along the Pacific coast and finally through thousands of years, Central and South America; and others may have moved inland, east of the Rocky Mountains.[1]

Y-chromosome analysis

The y-chromosome is inherited from father to son in each generation. Because males have an x-chromosome and a y-chromosome, and females have two x-chromosomes, the y-chromosome can only be inherited from a male's father. Specific mutations on the y-chromosome can be used to trace the paternal lineage of a male individual.[11] Like mtDNA, these mutations can be grouped and categorized into haplogroups. The y-chromosome of Anzick-1was sequenced and researchers determined that his y-chromosome haplogroup is Q-L54*(xM3), one of the major founding lineages of the Americas.[1]


Anzick-1's mtDNA, nuclear DNA, and Y-Chromosome analysis revealed a close genetic affinity to modern Native Americans and provided evidence of gene flow from Siberia into the Americas.[1] Some researchers believe that these findings support the Beringia Hypothesis of the peopling of the Americas and refute the Solutrean Hypothesis.[1] However, the originators of the Solutrean Hypothesis argue that the results are still consistent with their views.[15]

Beringia Hypothesis

The Beringia Hypothesis is the mainstream model for the peopling of the Americas, which posits a migration of early Amerindians from Siberia across a land bridge that spanned the Bering Strait.[16] This hypothesis is supported by genetic and archaeological evidence that places the migration no earlier than 32,000 years ago.[11] Ancient Native Americans could have entered the New World through an ice-free corridor across the Beringian land bridge or they could have used boats to sail along the coast of Siberia, the Beringia land bridge, and North America.[11] The Anzick-1 paleogenetic analysis lends support to the Beringia Hypothesis theory and supports the idea that there were three waves of migration from ancient Siberia into the New World.[3]

Solutrean Hypothesis

The Solutrean hypothesis posits that modern Native Americans migrated to the New World across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe via "ocean current highways."[16][17][18] Some mtDNA evidence supports this hypothesis because haplogroup X, found in some Native American communities in northeastern North America, originated in Europe where the Solultrean culture developed.[16][17] Proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis believe that ancient people crossed the Atlantic Ocean during a climatic event that raised glacier levels to a maxima that created a land bridge between Europe and North America.[16][17] These early migrants to the New World left evidence of their presence through cave paintings and a distinct tool culture that influenced the Clovis Complex tools.[15][16]


Studying the remains of ancient Native Americans is an "ethical minefield" because it calls into question ownership of the past.[4][19] Larry Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation, legal scholar, and United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs under President Barack Obama, said of the excavation of Native American remains, "Regardless of the motive for expropriating Indian graves, the impact of this activity upon the affected Indians is always the same: emotional trauma and spiritual distress."[19]

After the remains of Anzick-1 were excavated in 1968, they were analyzed by several teams of researchers and eventually returned to the Anzick family.[4][5] The daughter of the Anzick family, Sarah Anzick, was conducting genome research at the time, and wanted to conduct genomic analysis on the Anzick-1 skeleton.[4] Sarah Anzick was cautious because a previous case involving the ancient remains of a Native American called Kennewick Man caused a great deal of controversy.[4] NAGPRA is a United States law that protects the remains and artifacts of Native Americans found on federal lands or stored by institutions that receive federal funding.[20] Because Anzick-1 was discovered on private property, Sarah Anzick was not legally required to consult tribal members before conducting analysis on the remains. She still attempted to reach consensus among several Montana tribes about whether to use destructive techniques to analyze the remains of Anzick-1.[4] Because she was unable to achieve consensus, she temporarily gave up on the project, but eventually conducted DNA analysis on the remains of Anzick-1.[1][4]

After the results of the analysis revealed a link between Anzick-1 and modern Native Americans, the team of researchers sought consultation from several Montana tribes.[4] One of the researchers working with Anzick-1, Eske Willerslev, visited several Indian reservations in Montana in 2013 to try to involve Native American community members in the decision-making surrounding the research of Anzick-1.[4] He met with a co-author of the paper, Shane Doyle, a member of the Crow tribe who works in Native American studies at Montana State University.[4] There were mixed opinions about the research conducted on Anzick-1, but many tribal members indicated that they would prefer to have been contacted before the destructive techniques were performed, not after.[4] The overwhelming response from Montana tribal members was that the remains of Anzick-1 should be reburied.[4]


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  2. 1 2 3 French, Brett (June 28, 2014). "Remains of ancient child ceremoniously reburied". Billings Gazette.
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