He’s now being held up as proof that most of today’s Native Americans are descendants of the first people to settle successfully in the Americas.

“It’s almost like a missing link,” says researcher Eske Willerslev, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, who headed the international team that laid bare the child’s genome on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

He and his colleagues say it not only confirms the Asian ancestry of the first North Americans but also reveals the boy is related to most Native Americans today.

The boy, who was little more than a year old when he died of unknown causes, was buried near a rocky outcropping in Montana on land that is now owned by the Anzick family, for whom the boy is named. The burial site was unearthed by a construction crew in 1968 and has intrigued archeologists ever since.