Since 2011, our own Jim Chatters has been the scientific lead on a most fascinating paleontological project in Mexico. The site, called Hoyo Negro, is an immense pit in an underwater cave on the Yucatan Peninsula. 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, when much of the world’s water was bound up in glaciers, tunnels leading to Hoyo Negro were dry and the site was a natural trap. An ephemeral pool in the bottom of the 100-foot deep pit drew at least 14 species of thirsty large mammals, including a human, to their deaths. Seven of the species are now extinct, including a new form of ground sloth and two carnivores never before documented north of Venezuela. The preservation of the bones is phenomenal and the crystal clear water makes for stunning photography.
Jim Chatters is an archaeologist and paleontologist who owns the consulting firm Applied Paleoscience. He formerly managed contract paleontological and cultural resources research for the University of Washington, Central Washington University, Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Foster Wheeler Environmental, and AMEC. Officially “retired” he is actively involved in research and publishing on the Pacific Northwest and Mexico, and consults to the commercial radiocarbon dating laboratory DirectAMS. In 1996, Chatters recovered, and was the first scientist to study, the PaleoIndian skeleton now known as Kennewick Man. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and monographs and the public-oriented book Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans (Simon & Schuster, 2001).