Staff Writer, J.J. WestArcheology / Native American History
Who knew when a teenage girl went for water in an underwater cave on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that she would be making the history books nearly 13,000 years later?
The unfortunate girl named Naia (a water nymph from Greek mythology) must have fell to her death looking for fresh water and ended up in a submerged museum of an ice age La Brea Tar Pits.
Scientists exploring deep beneath the jungles of Mexico's eastern Yucatán peninsula discovered the girl's remains underwater alongside bones of more than two dozen beasts including saber-toothed tigers, cave bears, giant ground sloths and an elephant relative called a gomphothere.
Naia's remains are described as:
The bones are the nearly intact remains of a small, delicately built teenage girl who stood about 4 feet 10 inches (149 centimeters) tall and was about 15 or 16 years old at the time of her death, based on the development of her skeleton and teeth.
A different image than that of Native Americans look like now but that is only phenotype. The interest of scientists is to reveal her genetic make up. With undamaged DNA from a wisdom tooth, science now had empirical data.
Based on direct radiocarbon dating of tooth enamel and indirect uranium-thorium dating of flowerlike crystalline deposits on Naia's bones, the researchers suggest her remains are 12,000 to 13,000 years old. This hinted that she could help reveal a long-standing controversy regarding the mysterious relationship between the earliest Americans and modern Native Americans.
Scientists did further testing of her DNA:
But mitochondrial DNA - passed down from mother to child - extracted from the girl's wisdom tooth showed she belonged to an Asian-derived genetic lineage shared only by today's Native Americans.
In the end evolution played a part in confusing scientists about Native American lineage in the New World. Naia, the water nymph, has solved an age old mystery at the bottom of a cave in Mexico.
Source: Reuters, CBSNews,