UNM team 'dates' oldest human skeleton ever found

Updated: 05/15/2014 6:37 PM | Created: 05/15/2014 11:23 AM
By: Web Staff

A team of researchers, including a professor and research scientist from the University of New Mexico, have accurately determined the age of the oldest known well-preserved human skeleton.

The female skeleton, called Naia, was discovered buried underwater in an elaborate cave system in the Yucatan Peninsula. Researchers say she apparently fell into what was then a dry, deep pit thousands of years ago.

Naia is believed to be anywhere from 12,000-13,000 years old.

"The challenge, to date, has been finding a fossil of an adult complete enough to do the morphology work, preserved enough to have mitochondrial DNA, while at the same time having appropriate material for dating," UNM professor Yemane Asmerom said. "Naia, the most complete human skeleton found, meets those requirements. Our lab here at UNM was ideally suited to do the dating work and thus why we were part of this international collaboration."

According to a news release, Naia was one of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas and has helped resolve a long-standing question of the link between ancestral Americans and modern Native Americans.

Photo: UNM

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