Cave Divers Near Tulum Find An 8,000-year-old Human Remains
The discovery was made, according to one archaeologist engaged, in a network of underwater caves flooded during the last Ice Age.
Near the projected Playa del Carmen-Tulum portion of the Maya Train train, a human skeleton thought to be more than 8,000 years old was discovered in an underwater cave, or cenote. According to archaeologist Octavio del Río and diver Peter Broger, they discovered the remains buried beneath dirt in a network of caves that was submerged 8,000 years ago at the conclusion of the last Ice Age. Last weekend, Broger took the archaeologist to the skeleton after finding it earlier on a diving expedition. The skull and other parts of the bones are fragmented.
Del Río, who has worked with the National Institute of Anthropology and History's (INAH) underwater archeology branch for for three decades, told the Associated Press1 that the remains are 500 meters from the cave system's entrance, at a depth of around eight meters. Del Río adds,
“Because of where it was found [and] the depth, it could only have arrived there when the cave was dry. This was at least 8,000 years ago.”
According to him, it's unknown if the deceased individual died where the skeleton was discovered or if the body was dumped there after passing away. Del Río stated that the person's sex is also unknown in an interview with the Reforma newspaper2. Further analysis would determine such details after the remains have been removed from the cave.
Although the archaeologist hasn't specified the the site of the cave where the skeleton was discovered, he did mention that it is close to Tulum in a post on his personal Facebook page. He mentioned that it was the region's eleventh find of ancient human remains. Del Río wrote,
“They date from the origin of man in America, with a chronology that ranges from 13,700 years ago to 8,000 years ago.”
The skeleton of Eve of Naharon, which was uncovered in an underwater cave close to Tulum around 20 years ago and has been carbon-dated to 13,600 years ago, was discovered and cataloged with the help of the archaeologist.
Del Río informed INAH of the most recent discovery and was informed by INAH archaeologist Carmen Rojas that the site had been registered and will be looked into by the Quintana Roo branch of the organization. Del Río forewarned that the Maya Train's construction might cause the cave system where the skeleton is located to collapse, get contaminated, or be cut off.
The #SelvameDelTren (Save me from the Train/Save the Jungle from the Train) organization, a vocal opponent of the contentious Playa del Carmen-Tulum portion of the Maya Train (Tramo 5 Sur), claimed that the finding highlighted the significance of safeguarding caverns in the region. The train work may have an impact on the cave where the ancient skeleton was discovered as well as other archaeological and paleontological artifacts. The group wants Tramo 5 Sur to be constructed as originally intended, parallel to Federal Highway 307, to safeguard these ancient sites. After the Playa del Carmen business sector objected that the construction of the railroad adjacent to the highway would essentially divide the city in two, the federal government opted to change the route early this year. To make room for the rerouted segment, substantial portions of the Mayan Jungle were cleared of vegetation.
Del Río said that,
“the train will go through a 60-kilometer area that is a unique archaeological site” if construction of Tramo 5 Sur continues as planned.
“What we want is for them to change to route at this spot, because of the archaeological finds that have been made there, and their importance,” he told AP.
“They should take the train away from there and put it where they said they were going to build before, on the highway, … an area that has already been affected.”
Stevenson, M. (2022, September 13). Ancient skeleton found in Mexico cave threatened by train. Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/floods-science-mexico-caribbean-ca311afd8f066c7fbabf79f6bf72f9a0
Login Grupo Reforma. (n.d.). Reforma.com. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://www.reforma.com/hallan-fosil-de-8-mil-anos-en-caverna-bajo-tren-maya/ar2469292