Jim Chatters Presents Naia’s Hard Life at Society for American Archaeology Meeting

During Jim Chatters’ presentation on March 26, NPA members and guests got an exclusive sneak preview of new discoveries coming out the Hoyo Negro underwater cave in Mexico, including some information that can’t be discussed pending formal scientific publication. One of topics that can be mentioned now was how X-rays of the bone structure of the teenage girl Naia’s skeleton reveal a hard life, with periods of nutritional stress, and evidence of pregnancy and injuries. On March 30, a few days after his NPA presentation, Chatters gave a more technical version of the Naia story at the 2017 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada, as reported in the journal Nature and elsewhere.  




From the abstract for his talk as posted online:

“The Life of the Adolescent Paleoindian Female from Hoyo Negro, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cave divers discovered remains of an adolescent human female in an immense, submerged chamber of the Sac Actun cave system in 2007. Until recently, her remains had only been studied from photographs, photo-based 3D models, and minimal sampling. Now her skeleton has been removed from the cave, conserved, and subjected to bioarchaeological, chemical, and histomorphological analysis. Her unusually complete and well-preserved skeleton, a rarity for late Pleistocene females in the Americas, provides striking insights into the lives of women among the earliest Americans. Naia, as she is known, had endured a healed spiral forearm fracture—a potential indicator of rough handling—and died between 15 and 17 years of age, having suffered a period of intense metabolic stress in the last months of her life. Radiographs and macroscopic analysis reveal numerous, strongly patterned Harris lines in her long bones, carious lesions, moderate LEH, malocclusion, dental crowding, and delayed development of the mandible, demonstrating that she struggled to maintain a stable protein supply and providing strong hints about the nature of Paleoindian subsistence in Central America. Dated between 13,000 and 12,000 cal BP, Naia’s remains join the few other early females to suggest that America’s first women led short, difficult lives.”

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