The 12,000 to 13,000-year-old remains of a girl from the late Pleistocene or last ice age found in the Sac Actun cave in Mexico may help us understand the origins of the Western Hemisphere’s first people and their relationship to contemporary Native Americans, according to National Geographic's article "Oldest Most Complete, Gentically Intact Human Skeleton in the New World Indicates Shared Ancestry."
The results of the expedition were revealed by journal Science, an interacting team of researchers and cave divers. The expedition that resulted to the discovery of the almost complete American human skull with an intact cranium and preserved DNA, was a project known as the Hoyo Negro project. The project was led by the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and was supported by National Geographic.
“The remains were found surrounded by a variety of extinct animals more than 40 meters (300feet) below sea level in Hoyo Negro, a deep pit within the Sac Actun cave system on Yucatán Peninsula,” according to National Geographic.
The findings released in journal Science, indicated that this is the first time researchers have been able to match a skeleton with an early American skull and facial features with DNA linked to hunter-gatherers who moved on to the Bering Land Bridge from Northeast Asia between 26,000 and 18.000 years ago. This is one of the oldest skeletons in the New World and most complete skeleton older than 12,000 years.
By analyzing tooth enamel, bat-dropped seeds and using the uranium-thorium method, the research team established the age, which was also supported by the evidence of rising sea levels during the last ice age.
The skull belongs to a teenage girl (named “Naia” by the dive team) estimated to be between 15 and 16 years old. She is believed to only be 4’10’’ tall.
The DNA extracted from the skeleton’s wisdom tooth found it belonged to an Asian-derived lineage that occurs only in America, which greatly confirms the distribution of Beringians among the earliest Americans, accoring to National Geographic.