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National Geographic News is running some press about the oldest skeleton found in the Americas, Eva de Naharon, at 13,600 years old. This would make her the oldest known human in the Americas, but as of now no peer reviewed journal has reviewed the research. The discovery of the skeleton, along with three others, were actually announced in a bulletin dated back to June on Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology & History website.

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

The site is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which is on the Yucantan Peninsula. I’d map the actually cave but I can’t seem to track down a locality name nor any GPS information. Alls I know is that its somewhere near town of Tulum.

The lead investigator of the study is Arturo González, who says these particular remains have 10 teeth. Surprisingly, the skull morphology does not exhibit many affinities to northern Asian populations, you know like Siberians and the like. This conclusion comes from Alejandro Terrazas, of UNAM. Rather, the skull exhibits South Asian, almost Indian, like traits. No discussion nor description of what the actual traits are provided.

The remains have been dated via radiocarbon. But the remains have since been flooded over as the ice caps melted after the last glacial maximum. David Anderson says the saltwater that’s covered the remains affects carbon-14 dating. But the presence of elephants and giant sloths in the cave give some bio-chronological support to the date.

Eva de Naharon from Tulum, Mexico

Photographing Eva de Naharon from Tulum, Mexico

So is this surprising? Yeah, but there have been signs pointing to a much older occupation of humans in the Americas. Recently, a genetic study suggested that the peopling of the Americas started around 17,000 years ago and a redating of Mexico’s Toloquilla footprints indicated that people may have been in or around central Mexico by 16,000 years ago. Furthermore, sites inside Chile have been redated to be as old as 14,200 years. But, should the radiocarbon dates hold, this will be the oldest American skeleton. You may know of Kennewick’s 9,300 years old date, but with Eva de Naharon antiqutity at 13,600 years, this maybe a significant find.

The peopling of the Americas is one of my favorite subtopics in anthropology and Eva could shake things up especially if the carbon-14 wasn’t affected by saltwater and her physical traits are really south Asian-like. I guess we gotta wait until González and team excavate, clean up, and analyze Chan hol, the fourth skeleton at this site and submit their analyses to a journal.

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