It is a diver’s worse nightmare. They go deep under the water and get caught without oxygen and drowning under water. If they don’t find a way to resurface they’ll be stuck with no way to survive. And if they had gone out alone, they’ll end up a skeleton underwater at some point. Well at least these two divers exploring waters around Mexico didn’t have that fate. But they did find someone who did. They swam into an underwater cave and quickly shined their flashlight onto something that made them quiver. The ground of the cave was littered in bones. When the researchers finally got their hands on the bones, they made a shocking discovery. These bones were from animals that once roamed North America thousands of years ago. And this bone-filled cave revealed a lot about America’s first people.
The divers had discovered this bone-filled underwater cave back in 2007. They had been swimming through Mexico’s Hoyo Negro, which translates as “black hole,” along the Yucatan Peninsula. Among the hundreds of animal bones, their eyes quickly drew toward the full skeleton of a young woman. And with that, they knew they had found something huge.
The remains of the young woman included a preserved skull. She had a thick jaw and a wide, shallow forehead. This led the researchers who eventually obtained her remains to proclaim her as a Paleoamerican – the original Americans, the first to inhabit the continent.
Although they believe these people were the first to live in America, researchers note that they don’t resemble Native Americans today. Instead the Native American people of the modern era share characteristics of Asian people, which leads scientists to believe that people traveled from Asia to Alaska and down into North America.
When the young woman’s skull was carefully removed from the underwater cave in Mexico, it was taken to researchers who set to work learning more about her. The young woman was named “Naia” which means “water nymph.” After state-of-the-art analysis, the researchers determined that her skull was 12,000 to 13,000 years old.
This date happened long after the Native Americans supposedly traveled from Siberia to Alaska. That supposedly occurred about 18,000 to 26,000 years ago. This meant that the people from Asia would have populated North America from Alaska down to Mexico within 10,000 years, which doesn’t sound unrealistic. It wouldn’t take ten millennia to walk from Alaska to Mexico.
But the researchers found more evidence that might indicate something else entirely.
Scientists believe the Naia fell into the then dry Hoyo Negro, dying on impact.
But because the researchers used Naia’s tooth enamel to date her, they could have made a mistake since water can erode the material. But they found other evidence that suggests Naia was certainly older than at least 10,000 years ago.
Within her molars, researchers extracted DNA. There they found mitochondrial DNA that reflects the same lineage as Native Americans today. Indeed, she was related.
What do you think about Naia’s underwater remains? Do they say anything about the history of the people?