First Peoples: Americas on PBS. Learn About Eva of Naharon (Tulum).
As early humans spread out across the world, their toughest challenge was colonizing the Americas — because a huge ice sheet blocked the route. It has long been thought that the pioneers, known as Clovis people, arrived about 13,000 years ago, but an underwater discovery in Mexico suggests people arrived earlier than previously thought — and by boat, not on foot. How closely related were these First Americans to today’s Native Americans? It’s a controversial matter, focused on Kennewick Man. Few other skeletons engender such strong feelings.
Eva of Naharon. The first American?
13,600 years, Eva lived in the Yucatan – in the area near Tulum on the coast of the Mexican Caribbean. Like all prehistoric people, she was a hunter-gatherer, feeding herself from the animals and birds of the forest. But when she died her clan took the trouble of burying her deep within a labyrinth of caves – a quarter of a mile from the nearest opening. They clearly thought of the underworld as a place of spiritual significance.
Today, Yucatan’s caves are submerged because sea levels have risen since the end of the Ice Age, but when Eva was discovered by cave divers in 2008, her skeleton was still intact and undisturbed. Mexican archaeologists excavated the skeleton and worked out she was only 4’7’’ tall and had died in her twenties. But what made her so exceptional was the age of her bones. According to radio-carbon dating, they were older than any other human remains in the Americas.
Her presence so early is an archaeological mystery. It has long been thought the first Americans were Clovis people who journeyed through an opening in the Canadian ice sheets, 13,000 year ago. But Eva was on the Yucatan Peninsula centuries before the ice sheets parted. Her people must have found another route into the Americas.