A prehistoric human skeleton has been discovered in a cave system that was flooded at the end of the last ice age 8,000 years ago, according to a cave-diving archaeologist on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
Archaeologist Octavio del Rio said he and fellow diver Peter Broger came across the shattered skull and skeleton partly covered by sediment in a cave near where the Mexican government plans to build a high-speed tourist train through the jungle.
Given the distance from the cave entrance, the skeleton couldn’t have gotten there without modern diving equipment, so it must be over 8,000 years old, Del Rio said.
“There it is. We don't know if the body was deposited there or if that was where this person died,” said Del Rio. The skeleton was located 26 feet underwater, about one-third of a mile into the cave system.
Some of the oldest human remains in North America have been discovered in the sinkhole caves known as “cenotes” on the country's Caribbean coast, and experts say some of those caves are threatened by the Mexican government’s Maya Train tourism project.
Del Rio said Tuesday that institute archaeologist Carmen Rojas said the site was registered and would be investigated by the institute's Quintana Roo state branch Holocene Archaeology Project.
He stressed that the cave was near where the government has cut down a swath of jungle to lay train tracks and could be collapsed, contaminated, or closed off by the building project and subsequent development.
“There is a lot more study that has to be done in order to correctly interpret” the find, Del Rio said, noting that “dating, some kind of photographic studies and some collection” would be necessary to determine how old the skeleton is.