Naia was one of the first inhabitants of the Americas born, raised , became mother and died at the age of 16 in the Yucatan, Mexico around 12,000 years ago. The remains of Naia were discovered in an underwater cavern deep and dark that the researchers named “Hoyo Negr” – Black Hole. The girl was between 15 and 17 years old when she died. She didn’t die drowned though as the sea level was back then approximately 91 m lower (300 ft).

The pit tells Naia’s story

On the seabed and walls of the Hoyo Negro the scuba divers discovered animal remains from the late- Pleistocene, most of which are extinct today. The bones are well preserved and include the famous giant ground sloths, the gomphotheres (similar to elephants), saber toothed felines, bears, pumas, and many other animals which fell in the hole at least 8,000 years ago.

Below: the skeleton of a carnivore, shared by Hoyonegro

The bones of Naia allowed the researchers to gather a lot of information on the populations who colonised the Americas. Her legs shows that she was an assiduous walker while the attachment and thickness of her bones tell that she was not able to lift great weights so it was unlikely she was doing farming jobs or dealing with animal leather. The article on “Nature” says that her build was so slight that the bones of her arms were “as thin as those of a normal human finger”.

Below: Naia’s skull

It is hypothesised that such a slight build could have been caused by prolonged nutritional deficit. The bones of her knees have some lines incised which indicate a growth stop, maybe due to malnutrition or an infection of a parasite which could have prevented her body from absorbing nutrients. The irregular layout of her teeth suggests to the researchers an irregular certainly very limited diet.

Below: illustration of a Glyptodont, animal survived in Naia’s era

A little portion of Naia’s pelvis went lost through the pit, but the remaining parts have a thickness that explain how the young woman had become mother at a young age. The thickening of the bones is a fundamental indicator which makes believe archeologists along with the scientists of the Autonomous University of Yucatán that Naia was a child-mother.

James Chatters, archeologist and researcher who conducted the project commissioned by the National Institute of History and Anthropology of Mexico City, declares that Naia

“tells us a story: it was a very tough life”.

Naia lived a terrible existence, but it helped the anthropologists to determine a branch of origin of the first native Americans. The skeleton was found in 2007 but most of the thorough studies on it started only in 2014-16, extracting all the remains from the Hoyo Negro. In 2014 Chatters and his colleagues published an article where they explained that the DNA of the girl was coming from Asian immigrants and they supported the thesis that from those types the modern Native Americans were originated.

The article was controversial and questioned by the Natives associations which instead affirmed to have multiple origins. That means Europe, Asia, Africa, and not only from the Northern Asians that, around 15,000 years ago crossed the Bering Strait.

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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