Divers mapping underwater caves in Mexico’s Eastern Yucatán Peninsula came upon a surprising find: the skeleton of a young, prehistoric girl.
In 2007 divers mapping the underwater caves on Mexico’s Eastern Yucatán Peninsula, about 12 miles north of the city of Tulum, stumbled into a very large chamber that they named Hoyo Negro.
"The floor disappeared under us, and we could not see across to the other side," Alberto Nava of Bay Area Underwater Explorers.
About two months later, armed with powerful underwater lights, Nava and other diver colleagues reached the floor of Hoyo Negro at about 170 feet. They found themselves in a bell-shaped structure 200 feet in diameter, whose center was littered with large boulders stacked on top of each other.
"As our eyes got accustomed to the environment, we started to notice large animal bones resting at the bottom and on the walls of the pit," Nava said.
International researchers led by anthropologist James Chatters identified the remains of more than 26 large mammals. They included a gomphothere, an extinct elephant-like creature, which was dated to around 40,000 years ago, saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths, which were largely extinct in North America by 13,000 years ago. Extant species included puma, bobcat, coyote, Baird’s tapir, collared peccary and a bear.
In a photo above, Nava inspects a forelimb of an extinct Shasta ground sloth, a species not previously found so far in the Americas, when one diver then spotted a human skull resting on the top of a small ledge. The small cranium lay upside down and rested on the left humerus (upper arm bone) with other remains nearby.
"It had a perfect set of teeth and dark eye sockets looking back at us. We could see the rest of the upper torso spread to the left and down on the ledge," Nava said.