Scientists Find Skeleton of Girl Who Fell to Her Death In Yucatan Sinkhole Over 12,000 Years Ago

Posted on May 15, 2014

Scientists have found the skeleton of a girl who fell into a Yucatan sinkhole over 12,000 years ago. The girl fell over 100 feet to her death. The adolescent girl has been named Naia. The skeleton was recovered at the bottom of a deep submerged chamber in the Sac Actun cave system on the Yucatan Peninsula. Bones of saber-tooth cats, cave bears and other creatures were also found in the large underwater chamber, which is the size of a football field.

The skeleton is the America's oldest and most complete human skeleton. Scientists have studying studying the skeleton and Naia's DNA (from an extracted tooth), which will help improve our knowledge of who were Americas' first people. National Geographic reports that it could also help establish a definitive link between earliest Americans and modern Native Americans. Analysis of the girl's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has already revealed an mtDNA genetic signature common to modern Native Americans.

James Chatters, an archaeologist at Applied Paleoscience and the lead author of the study, says in a statement, "Hoyo Negro is a more than 100-foot-deep, bell-shaped, water-filled void about the size of a professional basketball arena deep inside a drowned cave system. Only technical cave divers can reach the bottom. First they must climb down a 30-foot ladder in a nearby sinkhole, then they swim along 200 feet of tunnel to the pit rim before making a final 100-foot drop. The divers are the astronauts of this project; we scientists are their mission control."

Here is a video from National Geographic about the incredible discovery. Take a look:

A research paper on the skeleton can be found here in the journal Science.

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