Mexican Archaeologists Examine Burial Site Over 10,000 Years Old
MEXICO CITY – A group of archaeologists managed to remove the skeleton of a person, presumed to be a male although this has not yet been definitively confirmed, who lived more than 10,000 years ago from a gravesite found 542 meters (0.33 mile) inside a flooded cave in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, announced Tuesday.
After almost three years of study in situ, the skeleton of “Chan Hol” was brought to the surface by a group of experts led by biologist Arturo Gonzalez, coordinator of the Yucatan Peninsula Preceramic Man Study Project.
Also participating in the endeavor were cave divers Eugenio Acevez, Jeronimo Aviles and Luis Martinez, from the Institute of the Prehistory of the Americas.
The Chan Hol Youth, so dubbed to reflect the name of the cenote – a sinkhole containing groundwater – in which the remains were found, was removed from a depth of 8.3 meters (27 feet) “in a cavern where stalagmites abound and which can only be reached through intricate laberynths, which are also flooded and completely lightless,” INAH said.
Anthropologists from the National Automonous University of Mexico who analyzed the skeleton on the surface think that the body was placed in the cave in a funeral ceremony performed late in the Pleistocene epoch when the sea level was 150 meters (488 feet) lower than it is today and before the caverns – which the Chan Hol Youth probably knew and explored – became flooded.
Experts recovered 60 percent of the skeleton, including representative bones from both arms and legs, vertebrae, ribs, the skull and several teeth, a very unusual and fortuitous situation in burial sites more than 10,000 years old.
Along with the bones of the Woman of Naharon, the Woman of Las Palmas and the Temple Man, all of which were discovered inside other flooded caves, the Chan Hol Youth “strengthens the hypothesis that the American continent was populated starting with several migrations coming from Asia,” INAH said.
Gonzalez said in the announcement that these four burial sites “reveal migrations coming from southeastern Asia before those known up to now as Clovis groups, which are said to have crossed from northern Asia, also via the Bering Strait, at the end of the Ice Age.”
The Chan Hol Youth appears to have been a young adult male and was found with his legs bent to his left side and his arms extended to either side of the body, a positioning considered to be novel since to date no ancient skeleton has been found in a similar posture.
The bones will have to wait several months before they are subjected to examination to confirm if they share morphological and physical characteristics with the other three skeletons removed from Yucatan caves, and the studies to be performed on the Chan Hol remains will also verify the age of the skeleton, its sex, the person’s age at death and possibly even the cause of death.
The burial site was discovered in 2006 by a German cave diving couple, who ran across the skeleton while they were exploring the Chan Hol cave, which in the Maya language means “small hole.” EFE