Posted by: Johan Normark | August 25, 2010

Skeleton removed from an underwater cave

Some of the most fascinating (and dangerous) archaeological environments in the world are the underwater caves along the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. INAH reports on the moving of a roughly 10,000 year’s old human skeleton found 542 m inside a water-filled cave at a depth of 8.3 m. The skeleton has been nick-named the Hol Chan Youth after the cenote that is used to enter the cave. The remains were studied in situ for three years before being removed. Approximately 60% of the skeleton was collected.

Based on the low wear of tooth enamel he was of young adult age at the time of death. Like in much later periods the caves were used as burial sites. Based on postmortem arrangements it is believed that the body was placed in the cave during a funeral ceremony at the end of the Pleistocene when the sea level was 150 below the current sea level. The archaeologists also collected a one m long stalagmite which had fallen on the left humerus of the skeleton. It most likely fell before the cave was flooded. It is not indicated if the location of the stalagmite could be part of the burial assemblage.

This skeleton is one of four known skeletons found in these water-filled caves and they indicate that people migrated into the Americas before the Clovis. Since the skeletons show physical characteristics resembling people in central and southern Asia it is believed that they were part of an earlier migration than the later ancestors of the Maya.


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