Deep within the flooded cave of Hoyo Negro, the ‘Black Hole’ in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, explorers from PET (Projecto Espeleológico de Tulum) have possibly discovered America’s earliest human remains. After diving along 1,200 metres of underwater passages through an eerie submerged Ice Age landscape using underwater propulsion scooters, the team of Alex Alvarez, Franco Attolini and Alberto Nava touched down at a depth of 57 metres and started surveying a 60 x 36 metre cavern.
Near to several megafauna remains, including a mastodon bone, the team came across a sight that caught their breath. “I was searching for more of the mastodon remains”, recalled Alvarez, “when I saw what looked like a human skull. I had thought we already had a great discovery after finding the remains of several Pleistocene animals… but finding a human skull was totally amazing for us. All of our efforts… walking through the jungle, carrying all the gear, securing the helium required to do such a deep dive… paid off at that moment. This is the Holy Grail of underwater cave exploration.”
Some 12,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene period, the Earth was rocked by great climatic change. As the ice caps melted, a global flood triggered a colossal rise in sea levels, which flooded low-lying coastal landscapes. Many of the underground spaces where for millennia animals had rested and taken on water, and where tribes escaped the sun and performed cultic rituals, were inundated.
Although radiometric dating of the bones is still pending, the bones found with the megafauna remains in Hoyo Negro could represent the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas. Guillermo de Anda, an archaeologist from the University of Yucatan in Merida, believes that “The findings of Hoyo Negro are a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. The skull looks pre-Maya, which could make it one of the oldest sets of human remains in the area… Therefore, protecting and learning the secrets of Hoyo Negro should be one of the main priorities for the archaeologists in the region.”
Detailed analysis of the human skeletal remains from Hoyo Negro, a site located inside the Aktun-Hu cave system in the state of Quintana Roo, is expected to help reveal when these Paleoindian peoples reached this area and, ultimately, who were the First Americans, one of the great mysteries in American archaeology.
Source: NatGeo News Watch.