Ancient Skeleton of Teenage Girl Sheds Light On First Americans
The recent discovery of the skeleton of a teenage girl who presumably fell to her death inside a hole in Mexico, thousands of years ago, could shed light on how the first people arrived in the Americas.
According to scientists, her skeleton and DNA are bolstering the theory that the first humans arrived in the American continent by way of land bridge from Asia.
The Associated Press reported the girl’s nearly complete skeleton was discovered by chance by divers who were mapping water-filled caves north of the city of Tullum.
The divers came across a huge underground chamber. Alberto Nava, one of the divers in the group later stated:
“The moment we entered inside, we knew it was an incredible place. The floor disappeared under us and we could not see across to the other side.”
They named the hole “Hoyo Negro”, which translates to black hole but did not discover the girl until months later when they reached the bottom of the 100 foot tall chamber and found it littered with animal bones.
They then came across the girl’s skull on a ledge laying perfectly upside down, “with a perfect set of teeth and dark eye sockets looking back at us,” Nava said.
They named the skeleton “Naia”, after the Greek mythological water nymph.
Scientists determined that the skeleton belonged to a girl roughly 15 to 16 years old who had probably toppled down the cave when looking for water about 12 or 13 thousands years ago, the cave at the time of her fall was dry.
They also discovered her pelvis was broken which means the girl fell at a great distance.
Why the discovery of this teenage girl is crucial besides the fact her skeleton is 12 to 13 thousand years old, is that her skull is different from that of the native people of today, suggesting that American’s may have come from a different place.
The prevailing theory that many scientists share is that the first Americans came from Siberian ancestors and arrived by coming across a now submerged ancient land bridge which connected Asia to Alaska via The Bering Strait.
They are thought to have entered the America’s some 17 thousand years ago from that land mass called Beringia.
Naia provides a crucial DNA link which was found in her Molar containing a distinctive marker found in today’s Native peoples, especially those in Chile and Argentina.
Researchers believe the genetic signature is that thought to have been found among people living in Beringia.
Dennis O’Rourke, an expert in ancient DNA at the University of Utah who did not work on the site, said the finding is the first to show a genetic link to Beringia in an individual who clearly had the anatomical signs of a very early American.
He went on to say that the possibility of multiple migrations from different places is, “quite unlikely.”
Yet, others hold on to opposing theories.
Richard Jantz, a retired professor of forensic anthropology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, said he still believes early settlers arrived by boat from east Asia before any migration occurred across Beringia. ”
“That’s based on anatomical evidence,” said Jantz.