Discovering Hoyo Negro

Dear Friends of AIA-Houston,

When divers discovered the underwater Mexican cave site known as Hoyo Negro, the conditions in the cave were so pristine and the water so clear, says archaeologist Dominique Rissolo, that “it looked like no one had ever exhaled a breath there.”

But at least one person had been inside the underwater cave before the divers: A Paleoamerican girl (since nicknamed Naia) who had fallen into the cave, presumably while fetching water, during the late Pleistocene era, between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago. The divers found her complete skeleton, as well as the remains of several Ice Age animals, on the cave floor.

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This discovery is the first time human remains have been found in direct association with extinct megafauna in the Americas, says Rissolo, executive director of the Waitt Institute in La Jolla, California. Furthermore, mitochondrial DNA from one of Naia’s wisdom teeth reveals that her ancestry derives from an Asian genetic lineage only seen in Native Americans. Naia’s remains present the first hard evidence to support the theory that Native Americans descend from Siberians who crossed into America via a land bridge over the Bering Strait.

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On November 12, Dr. Rissolo will speak to an AIA-Houston audience about the discovery of Naia and the implications of the site in defining the history of humans in North America, and also about the innovative tools and techniques his team is using to study this remarkable find. His talk will be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at 6:30 p.m. I hope to see you there for a very interesting evening!

Best wishes,

Rob Arndt
President, AIA-Houston

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