Washington, Sep 15 (ANI): A nearly 10,000-year-old skeleton has been discovered from an undersea cave along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Dating to a time when the now lush region was a near desert, the "Young Man of Chan Hol" may help uncover how the first Americans arrived-and who they were.
About 130 kilometers south of Cancun, the cave system of Chan Hol-Maya for "little hole"-is like a deep gouge into the Caribbean coast.
In 2006, after entering the cave's opening, about 10 meters underwater, German cave divers swam more than 550 meters through dark tunnels spiked with rock formations.
For the last three years researchers led by Arturo Gonzalez, of the Desert Museum in Saltillo, have been studying and documenting the bones in place, reports National Geographic News.
And in late August scuba-diving researchers finally raised the bones for lab study.
No fewer than 10,000 years ago, Chan Hol filled with seawater as Ice Age ice caps melted, the researchers said.
No human, they conclude, could have ended up so far back in the cave system after that point-which is why they believe the young man is at least 10,000 years old.
The exact age of the bones should be determined by ongoing carbon-dating tests, which should be completed in three to four months, Gonzalez said.
The newly raised skeleton is the fourth to be found in underwater caves around the town of Tulum.
At about 60 percent complete, the Young Man of Chan Hol skeleton is remarkably whole for a 10,000-year-old specimen, the researchers said.
Especially revealing are his teeth-lack of wear tipped off the team to the individual's relatively young age at death.
The skeletons found in the Quintana Roo caves could force scientists to rethink their ideas about the initial population of the Americas, Gonzalez said.
The discovery supports the idea that multiple groups of migrants may have entered North America via the Bering Strait-using the now submerged land bridge that once connected what are now Siberia and Alaska-at different times in history, Gonzalez said.
The team also found evidence of bonfires inside the cavern, which could suggest that illuminating the cave was a part of the funeral ceremony, he added. (ANI)