Putting a Face to Eva of Naharon, The Oldest Human Relic Found in the Americas
Eva of Naharon, also known as the Woman of Naharon, is the name given to the oldest known human remains found in the Americas to date. She met her demise in a cenote (sinkhole) some 13,600 years ago, but modern imaging technology has enabled researchers to reconstruct what the prehistoric woman may have looked like.
Archaeology News Network reports that the reconstruction has been made almost two decades after the remains of Eva of Naharon were found in a cenote in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Her body was found by spelunker (cave explorer) and underwater researcher Octavio del Rio in 2001 while he was exploring the Quintana Roo cenotes for an archaeological research project.
A diver in a Yucatan cenote. ( Public Domain )
Eva of Naharon’s skeleton was analyzed by Alejandro Terrazas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Terrazas found that the remains belonged to a woman measuring about 4.6 feet (140.21 cm) tall. She died between the ages of 20-25 years old and mass spectrometry analysis showed that the body is about 13,600 years old. Not much else has been discerned about Eva of Naharon, but other studies have shown people living in Yucatan at the time were hunter-gatherers.
The Mexican National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) sought the expertise of Brazilian 3D designer Cicero Moraes to digitally reconstruct the face of the Woman of Naharon. Moraes used advanced forensic face reconstruction methods to complete the task. Del Rio explained , “The technique basically entails creating a virtual 3D representation from the real skull.”
Reconstruction process to recreate the face of Eva of Naharon, who would have lived about 13,600 years ago. (Cicero Moraes/ CC BY 4.0 )
Moraes is respected for his work in reconstructing the faces of St. Anthony of Padua and poet Francesco Petrarca as well.
Other skeletons have been found in cenotes across the region, such as the remains of a girl who has been called “Naia” (a Greek water nymph). Naia was 15 to 17 years old when she died about 12,000 years ago. She probably died by falling into Hoyo Negro, a cave that was not underwater at the time.
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Naia’s cranium ( HoyoNegro.org)
Her bones show that Naia’s life was full of hardships. The state of her leg bones suggests she traveled a lot on foot, her very slim build and the state of her teeth have been given as evidence for her poor nutrition, and her pitted pelvis shows she had given birth at a young age.
In total, eight well-preserved skeletons, ranging in age from 9,000 to 13,000 years old have been recovered from cenotes in the region where Eva of Naharon and Naia have been found. Scientists are still unravelling the secrets that they hold, with hopes of achieving more information on how the Americas were first populated.
A cenote in Quintana Roo, Tulum, Mexico. (L uis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Top Image: Reconstructed face of Eva of Naharon, who would have lived about 13,600 years ago. Source: Cicero Moraes/ CC BY 4.0
Why do facial reconstructors go out of their way to make ancient people look as dorky as possible? Eva might have looked more like Jennifer Lopez.
How is the shape of the nose, which is not bone, determined?