HOYO NEGRO, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO
A project of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) in collaboration with CHEI
The submerged cave site of Hoyo Negro, located along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, contains a diverse fossil assemblage of extinct megafauna as well as a nearly complete human skeleton. The remote nature of the site, and its limited access for researchers, requires the use of specialized documentation techniques in order to fully record the site and all its elements in three dimensions. The Proyecto Arqueologico Subacuatico Hoyo Negro of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) and the Proyecto Espeleologico de Tulum in cooperation with CHEI are developing advanced protocols for structure-from-motion documentation and visualization of underwater cultural heritage sites.
The cenotes and underwater cave systems of the Yucatan Peninsula are emerging as one of the most promising frontiers for Late Pleistocene and Paleoamerican studies. Following the end of the last glacial maximum, rising sea levels flooded the region’s maze of underground passageways and preserved a diverse Late Pleistocene fossil assemblage. A relatively well preserved female human skeleton (named “Naia”) found in spatial association with the remains of now-extinct fauna in the submerged subterranean pit of Hoyo Negro presents a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary Paleoamerican and paleoenvironmental research in Quintana Roo, Mexico. At 13,000-12,000 years BP, the young woman’s skeleton represents the oldest nearly complete individual yet found in the Americas.
Investigations have thus far revealed a range of associated features and deposits, which make possible a multi-proxy approach to identifying and reconstructing the processes that have formed and transformed the site over millennia. Recent and ongoing studies involve osteological and taphonomic analyses; absolute dating of human and geological samples; human DNA analyses; and a consideration of site hydrogeology and sedimentological facies. Additionally, innovative recording and imaging techniques are enabling researchers to analyze deposits and their contexts with minimal impact to the site.