The girl’s skull was found along with most of her skeleton deep in a cave now inundated with water on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Bones of a Teenage Mother Who Died 12,000 Years Ago Tell Researchers a Dark Story of Carnivores and Malnutrition

(Read the article on one page)

One of the earliest known people to live in the Americas, a girl dubbed Naia who roamed the Yucatan Peninsula about 12,000 years ago, was slender and short and endured hardship, childbirth, and death all by age 16 or so. Naia’s remains were found in an underwater cave so huge, deep, and dark that researchers named it Hoyo Negro or Black Hole.

Researchers have determined she was aged 15 to 17 when she died, which probably happened when she fell into Hoyo Negro. At that time, the cave was not underwater because sea levels were considerably lower, by as much as 300 feet (91.4 meters).

A diver in a Yucatan cenote.

A diver in a Yucatan cenote. ( Public Domain )

From the state of her leg bones, it appears she traveled a lot on foot. The smoothness of her arm bones where the muscles attached indicates she apparently didn’t carry much with her or do much grinding of seeds or working of animal skins, says a report on about recent research and analysis of Naia’s bones.

The Nature article says her build was so slight her upper arm bone was about the size of an adult male finger. This may have been because of poor nutrition. Her leg bones have lines marked by halted growth. She might have gotten too little food or been infested with parasites that blocked absorption of nutrients. Her teeth show Naia’s nutrition was “rather limited quite often,” according to archaeologist James Chatters.

Naia’s cranium

Naia’s cranium (

Her pelvis is also pitted in a way that is visible in young, slender women who have given birth, Nature says.

“She’s telling us a story. It was a very hard life,” quotes Chatters, who is with Applied Paleoscience in Bothell, Washington. He is the principal investigator of the research on the young woman for Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City.

The site describes the cave where Naia’s remains were found:

“On the floors and walls of Hoyo Negro the divers discovered the remains of many animals from the late Pleistocene period, most of which are now extinct. They are remarkably well-preserved - intact and unbroken except by their falls over 100 ft to the floor of the cave. Giant ground sloths, gomphotheres [elephant-like creatures], saber-toothed cats, and bears, pumas, peccaries and many other animals entered the chamber at least 8,000 years ago, tunnels leading into the pit were mostly dry. At that time the sea level was considerably lower (up to 300 ft) transforming these underwater passages into dry caves that animals could walk through in search for water or refuge.”

A carnivore’s skull from the Hoyo Negro

A carnivore’s skull from the Hoyo Negro (Photo from

Researchers announced that they had first found the skeleton in 2007, but intruders disturbed it. So, in 2014 and 2016, divers carried the bones out, which allowed for better analysis and study.

The researchers led by Chatters presented the results of their analysis of Naia’s remains at the March 30 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada. As states:

“Naia has already helped to illuminate the origins of the first Americans. In 2014, Chatters and his colleagues reported that her DNA confirms the idea that a single group of Asian emigrants gave rise to both the earliest American settlers and modern Native Americans.”

This statement may be controversial among Native Americans. It has been argued that their ancestors were not necessarily solely from northern Asia and may have come from across the oceans from Africa, East Asia and islands near there and Europe.

Bering land bridge.

Bering land bridge. ( Public Domain )

The Nature article linked in the quote above states that researchers examining DNA of Amazon natives determined that the first Americans came across the Bering land bridge between Alaska and Asia about 15,000 years ago—well before Naia was born. Many Native Americans also say their ancestors very well may have been here longer than 15,000 years.

Whenever people first arrived, Naia’s remains indicate some early Americans were in a wild world of large carnivores and possibly suffered nutritional deficits and other hardships.

The Lithic peoples or Paleo-Indians are the earliest known settlers of the Americas.

The Lithic peoples or Paleo-Indians are the earliest known settlers of the Americas.  ( Public Domain )

Top Image: The girl’s skull was found along with most of her skeleton deep in a cave now inundated with water on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Source: Paul Nicklen/NGC


This articles proves something few will think about. That arctic ice has been melting for millennia and there is no such thing as man made global come the barbs in 1,2,3...

It has long been established by science that earth went through many episodes of cooling and warming during its history, so this article brings nothing new about global warming.

The alarming fact is that the annual mean temperature of earth raised one full celsius degree just between 1970 and 2016, which is a totally unprecedented speed as older warming episodes extended over centuries.

Tsurugi's picture

It is not unprecedented. There have been huge swings of temperature in the past that happened very quickly, as much as 18 degrees C in a decade in and around the Younger Dryas.

In any case the warmer periods have always been more stable in terms of weather and life is more prolific. The Medieval Warm Period, with global average temps higher than today, was a time of plenty. The little ice age which followed caused crop failures, famine, malnutrition, and plague.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

King Leonidas by David Baldo
Mythologically descended from the hero Herakles, the Agiad dynasty of ancient Sparta reigned alongside the Eurypontids almost since the beginning of the city-state. When war was on the borders of their land, and that of their neighboring city-states, it was to the current Heraklean descendent that those city-states turned.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Ancient Places

The highly-decorated tomb is built in a distinctive ‘L’ shape
A mysterious ancient tomb with “unusual and rare” wall paintings has been discovered in Egypt. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told BBC reporters the discovery of a 4,400-year-old tomb found during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery “likely belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, who assisted women in childbirth.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article