Anthropological research on an ancient skeleton may cause scientists to rethink ideas about the peopling of the Americas: who were the first humans to live in the region, and where they came from. The skeleton, estimated to be more than 10,000 years old, was discovered in an underwater cave along the Yucatán coast south of Cancún in 2006. It has finally been brought to the surface to undergo more extensive study.
Dubbed the “Young Man of Chan Hol” – the skeleton is thought to be that of a young male—it is believed to date to the last Ice Age, when the caves were well above sea level. The discovery in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo supports the idea that multiple groups of prehistoric nomads crossed the Bering land bridge between Alaska and northeastern Asia at different times. Both this skeleton and another found nearby possess anatomical markers that link them to South Asian people, rather than the North Asian ancestors of other early Native Americans.
Before being moved from the cave, the skeleton was studied closely by scuba-diving archaeologists for any and all clues that might be revealed from its surroundings. Evidence of bonfires and the unusual position in which the bones were found indicate that the corpse may have been placed there during a funeral rite. The skeleton includes bones of the arms, legs, and torso, as well as the skull and several teeth. The relative lack of wear on the teeth suggests a young age at time of death. Lab tests should provide a more precise age, verification of its sex, and possibly even the cause of death.
- Undersea Cave Yields One of Oldest Skeletons in Americas
This article documents the archaeological discovery of the “Young Man of Chan Hol”; includes an interactive map of ancient human migration and a link to a story on the other, even older skeleton found in 2008 in a similar Caribbean cave.
(Source: National Geographic, September 14, 2010)
- Mexican Archaeologists Examine Burial Site Over 10,000 Years Old
This account of the archaeological discovery is from a regional online newspaper.
(Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, September 28, 2010)
- Settlement of the Americas
This encyclopedia article provides an overview of the debates over the early settling of the Americas, exploring strengths and weaknesses of various theories in terms of supporting evidence.
(Source: Wikipedia; accessed September 30, 2010)