The finding of a human skull and bones of Prehistoric mega fauna, among them a gomphothere, in a flooded cave at the Peninsula of Yucatan, motivated the implementation of the interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History
(INAH) to continue exploration at the site and the study of these archaeological vestiges that could be more than 10,000 years old.
Archaeologist Pilar Luna Erreguerena, subdirector of INAH Underwater Archaeology, informed that after the ancient remains were discovered by 3 specialized speleodivers, a specific project will be formulated for the site known as Hoyo Negro, part of the Aktun-Ha flooded caves system in Quintana Roo.
This might be a very ancient site, so we need to protect it with great care. According to images captured to conduct registration, materials present a good conservation state. Besides the skull, we found a large bone that might be a humerus.
The INAH specialist mentioned that the finding took place after a long exploration stage that began 4 years ago. Speleodivers covered the 1200 meters long tunnel up to the entrance to a pool known as Hoyo Negro and then descended 60 meters, where they detected a human skull and long bone, remains of extinct mega fauna and ashes of a bonfire.
She added that material was found at 3 different points of the flooded cave, they were found 20 to 30 meters away from each other, so we cannot determine that they all correspond to a single event; it is necessary to conduct further studies. Vestiges cannot be connected yet with any culture nor establish its exact dating.
Luna Erreguerena commented that while other findings of bone remains made in flooded caves at the Peninsula of Yucatan are dated 10,000 years old, this discoverys age cannot be determined until morphological and DNA studies are completed.
This will happen after the In-situ registration stage and sampling for their analysis is concluded. Based on a meticulous study, we will consider taking the vestiges off the water without damaging them.
Pilar Luna commented that the multidisciplinary project will count on with the participation of archaeologists from the INAH Underwater Archaeology Sub direction (SAS), specialists in other disciplines and the speleodivers that made the discovery.
The SAS head remarked the role of the speleodivers that made the discovery, Alex Alvarez, Attolini Franco and Alberto Nava, who, facing the importance and fragility of the elements, gave notice to INAH to protect the site from alterations.
Pilar Luna commented that INAH has exhorted divers not to explore caves like Hoyo Negro or other caves with archaeological vestiges, since they are at risk of being damaged and even destroyed due to human activity.
Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, from the National University of Yucatan (UAdY) commented that this is the first exploration of the flooded cave, implying a long registration and observation process, tasks that have required special water transportation devices and specialized speleodivers.
De Anda remarked the relevance of coordination been conducted by INAH, as well as the formalization of the multidisciplinary project, to investigate the remains that correspond to humans and mega fauna, among which a gomphothere has been identified.