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An ancient skeleton was found from an underwater cave in Mexico

Discovered skull in underwater Mexican cave appears to be close to 10,000 years old

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Bones discovered recently in a cave in Mexico are rattling scientists about the history of early Americans.

Divers found a skull in a cave system, pictured at the bottom of the ocean
Photo: Science News

Science News details the discovery of the young woman’s remains by divers, in a now-submerged Chan Hol cave, detail her short life in the Yucatán Peninsula and give deeper insight as to how humans migrated to the continent. The woman has been dubbed “Chan Hol 3” by archaeologists.

Chan Hol 3’s cause of death around the age of 30 is unknown, but scientists concluded she sustained several skull injuries, suffered a bacterial infection, and had cavities from living on a high-sugar diet.

Traditional science theorized that just one group of humans crossed a land bridge that connected Asia to North America approximately 12,000 years ago, however, sinkhole caves found in the Yucatán have previously surrendered nine additional skeletons. One of these nine skeletal remains belonged to a teenage girl, who has been linked to modern Native Americans and suggests that humans had already reached the area about 12,000 years ago.

Comparing Chan Hol 3’s skull to those from Mexico in the same time period revealed two distinct patterns: round skulls with low foreheads in the Yucatán, like Chan Hol 3’s, and longer skulls in Central Mexico. This suggests two human groups — likely with different looks and cultures — coexisted in Mexico around 12,000 to 8,000 years ago, say geoarchaeologist Silvia Gonzalez of the Liverpool John Moores University in England and her colleagues.

Genetic studies could determine whether the two groups had different geographic origins or represent members of the same group that split in Mexico and quickly adapted to their varied environments, she says.

Evidence is currently lacking to determine the actual demise of Chan Hol 3 — but scientists are planning to carry out a CT scan on the skull to help determine a conclusive diagnosis.

Related: Scientists reveal the face of a 1,000-year-old female Viking warrior

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