Naia: The Water Nymph of Hoyo Negro

Once upon a time, there was a land bridge that connected Asia and North America. The Bering Land Bridge. It looked nothing like our modern land bridges today. It was a landmass that stretched 1,000 miles north and south. 

Some 13,000 years ago, a young woman walked into a cave looking for water. One misstep is all it took for her to fracture her hip and drown. That’s what scientists discovered as they dived into Hoyo Negro and found her skeleton – a time capsule preserving a unique record of the Ice Age on the American continent. 

Who were the first people to arrive in North America? The general consensus is that it was the last continent that was settled by humans since we left Africa 80,000 years ago. In this blog, I’ve shared a fair bit about my ancestors – but what about our antecessors? The word antecessor comes from Latin and means ‘explorer’, ‘pioneer’ or ‘early settler’. 

I don’t even know how to think that far in time. We have evidence, sure. But new evidence has a way of discrediting old evidence. And even in the face of evidence, humans still have a way of believing whatever they want. Can we ever truly uncover the truth behind our origins? 

Nevertheless, there’s something riveting about watching archeologists dig deep into the ground to find treasure troves of knowledge that was previously inaccessible to humans about the history of our species on this earth. With carbon dating, scientists say that this adolescent girl existed some 13,000 years ago – but when did the time even begin? My mind comes up with some seriously strange unanswerable questions. 

Naia – the water nymph of Hoyo Negro – is one of the oldest skeletons found in the Americas. She is named after Greek water spirits known as naiads. Excavating her remains from a 100-foot pit deep cave in Mexico’s Yucatán was a monumental task. It is called Hoyo Negro (black hole) because there is no light. And yet, Naia lived in the dawn of human life in the Americas. 


That’s not really what her skeleton looked like, but there’s nothing like a bit of mythology to make things more poetic. 

In The First Face of America, James Chatter, the Co-Director and Principal Investor of the Hoyo Negro Project says, “Naia lived a very difficult life, but in her death she left us this incredible record of life of these earliest people.”

Close to 13,000 after her passing, Naia’s untimely death leaves her mark in human history. Her story will be studied by scientists and archeologists for years to come. Which leads me to wonder – do the dead ever truly die?


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