May 10, 2024
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Secrets of 13,000-Year-Old Tulum Bones

TULUM, México — A series of Ice Age skeletons unearthed in Tulum’s submerged caves and cenotes may hold the key to understanding the earliest human migrations into the Americas. Over the past year, a team of archeologists has extracted more than eight well-preserved skeletons, aged between 9,000 and 13,000 years, offering a unique glimpse into the prehistoric demographics that shaped the early human landscape of this region.

These ancient remains were discovered in locations such as Naharon, Las Palmas, and El Templo cenotes. According to researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Anthropological Research (IIA), these findings represent some of the oldest evidence of human habitation on the Yucatán Peninsula.

The skeletal remains are remarkably similar, suggesting they belonged to the same human populations that lived in the area at the end of the Ice Age. This continuity indicates a stable, enduring community despite the harsh climatic conditions of the era. Among the findings, one individual appears to have fallen accidentally into a cenote. In contrast, two others were placed there deliberately, possibly as part of ritual practices that would later become commonplace among the ancient Maya.

Secrets of 13,000-Year-Old Tulum Bones

Further analysis reveals striking differences between the ancient cenote dwellers and contemporary indigenous populations. “The modern indigenous skull tends to be round with a protruding forehead and flat face, closely resembling modern East Asians,” explains Alejandro Terrazas, a researcher from IIA. In contrast, the Ice Age skulls are elongated, narrow, and high. “This shouldn’t be surprising, as over 9,000 years, populations evolve significantly,” Terrazas added.

Comparisons with other ancient Mexican skeletal remains, such as the well-known Man of Chimalhuacán and the Man of Tlatilco, reveal consistent elongated skull shapes, pointing to a common ancestral lineage. These comparisons have led some experts to speculate that the first Americans were not the direct ancestors of today’s Native Americans but were part of a separate, earlier migration wave from Asia over 15,000 years ago, crossing the Bering Strait.

Secrets of 13,000-Year-Old Tulum Bones
Man of Chimalhuacán.

The notion of multiple migration waves is supported by varying cranial features, suggesting distinct population groups arriving at different times. This theory posits that while the Paleo-Americans arrived first, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans came in a later wave, between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago.

As research continues, DNA analysis of these ancient populations is expected to shed further light on these migration theories. Such studies are crucial for understanding human settlement’s dynamic and complex history in the Americas.

Secrets of 13,000-Year-Old Tulum Bones

This ongoing research deepens our understanding of human history and underscores the importance of Tulum’s cenotes as both archaeological and cultural treasures. These natural wells, formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock and filled with groundwater, have proven repositories of ancient human history, preserving secrets only now being brought to light through careful scientific study.

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