UAF Archeology professor gets national attention for research on earliest Americans

Published: Feb. 6, 2018 at 9:35 PM AKST
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Ben Potter, a professor of archeology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is being featured in a PBS 'NOVA' special tomorrow night for uncovering one of the earliest ceremonial burials discovered in the Americas so far.

Professor Potter and his team found the bones of two young children buried with care near Delta over 11,000 years ago.

The investigation started in the caves of Yucatan, Mexico, where the 13,000 year old skull of a girl was found.

Curious about her Ice Age origins, those experts contacted Potter and his team to help uncover history.

A camera crew followed them around and helped piece together a narrative.

After a DNA test, it was concluded that the infants found in Alaska were not only ancestors of the girl found in Yucatan's caves, but to all Native Americans, past and present.

The results suggest that Native Americans descended from a single population of hunters who crossed the Land Bridge from Siberia to Alaska at least 15-thousand years ago.

A press release from NOVA states, "The finding represents a monumental milestone in the controversial, decades-long efforts to track down the origins of the First Americans."

Ben Potter; Professor of Archeology>>: "Our work was kind of key to what they would like to produce with the show, so they coordinated to come work with us at the site, they filmed at the site, they filmed at the university, at the museum, and I think we have about, you know, a good portion of the show is filmed in Alaska. We're excited to be part of it. We were able to show that this is very early, at the site, This is the earliest human use of salmon in all of the western hemisphere. And salmon, we know, is very important now and in the recent past, so it forms that connection with the ancient past."

NOVA's "First Face of America" premieres Wednesday night, February 7th at 8 pm on KUAC, channel 9.