According to cave-diving archaeologists on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, a prehistoric human skeleton was discovered in a cave system that was flooded 8,000 years ago.
In a cave near where the Mexican government plans to build a high-speed tourist train through the jungle, archaeologist Octavio del Rio and fellow diver Peter Broger saw the shattered skull and skeleton partly covered by sediment.
As the skeleton was a long distance from the cave entrance, it could not have been brought there without modern diving equipment, Del Rio explained, referring to the period when sea levels rose, and caves were flooded.
The bone skeleton is about a half-kilometer into the cave system, about eight meters (26 feet) underwater. Del Rio does not know if the body was deposited there.
Some of the oldest human remains were discovered in the sinkhole caves or cenotes on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and experts say some of these caves are threatened by the Maya Train project.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History has not responded to questions about whether it intends to investigate the discovery, which Del Rio reported he had notified the institute of.
The institute’s Quintana Roo state branch Holocene Archaeology Project said Tuesday that the site was registered and would be investigated by an institute archaeologist.
As a result of his fear that the cave would be looted or disturbed, he did not reveal its location. It is located near a swath of jungle being cut down to lay train tracks and could be collapsed, contaminated, or closed off by the construction project.
Several more studies will be needed to interpret” the find correctly, Del Rio said, noting that “dating, photographic studies, and collection” would all be necessary to determine the skeleton’s age.
He has explored the region for three decades, and in 2002, he helped catalog the nearly complete skeleton of a young woman who died around 13,000 years ago. The Woman of Naharon, who died around the same time, or perhaps earlier, than Naia, was discovered in a nearby cave system. In 2007, it was found in a cave system nearby.
Over the objections of environmentalists, cave divers, and archaeologists, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is rushing to finish the Maya Train project within the remaining two years of his term.
Heavy, high-speed rail will fragment the coastal jungle and cut through fragile limestone caves, which take decades to explore due to flooding, twisting, and narrow passages.
Construction above them has already damaged parts of the coast, with cement pilings supporting the weight.
A rough loop of 950 miles (1,500 kilometers) runs along the Maya Train line, connecting beach resorts with archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Ancient skeleton found in Mexico cave threatened by train – ABC News
- Ancient skeleton in Mexico cave threated by train – Bradford Era
- Ancient skeleton found in underwater cave in Mexico threatened by Maya Train project – CBS News