The Arrival of Humans on the Yucatan Peninsula: Evidence from Submerged Caves in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico

Arturo H. González González
Carmen Rojas Sandoval
Alejandro Terrazas

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Submerged caves near Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan peninsula, contain a diverse megafaunal assemblage of latest Pleistocene age. Abundant coeval prehistoric evidence (e.g., hearths with burned bones, artifacts) indicates that human settlement in the region also reaches back to the end of the Pleistocene. Among the highlights of our ongoing multidisciplinary research are three human skeletons of preceramic age, 70– 90 percent complete and mostly articulated. These corpses, which skeletized in situ, appear to have been intentionally buried at a time when the caves were still dry, i.e., prior to the early-Holocene rise of sea level. The three individuals are the oldest skeletons found so far in southeastern Mexico and are among the oldest known from the American continent. The northern part of the Yucatan peninsula is one of the most inhospitable regions in the world as a result of the paucity of fertile soil, scarcity of drinking water, and shortage of other natural resources. Except for cenote sinkholes and caves with groundwater, most of Yucatan would be a waterless plain. Nevertheless...