Girl's 12,000-year-old skeleton found

Last updated 12:26 19/05/2014
PAUL NICKLEN/National Geographic

UNDERWATER BOUNTY: Diver Susan Bird inspects the skull on an underwater turntable.

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This post was originally published on Mashable.

Scientists have discovered what they say is the "oldest, most complete" human skeleton in the Western hemisphere, the National Geographic Society reports.

The 12,000-year-old skeleton includes major bones, an intact cranium and a set of teeth. Naia, as the skeleton is named, was thought to be a girl around 15 or 16 years old when she died.

She was found among the remains of extinct animals - like sabertoothed cats and giant sloths - in Hoyo Negro, a flooded cave 40 metres below sea level on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Researchers used radiocarbon dating of tooth samples and the surrounding animals to estimate Naja's age.

A team of 16 divers, archaeologists and paleontologists documented the find with video in the water.

Researchers say the discovery shows evidence of a connection between Paleoamericans, who lived on the continents after the last ice age, and modern Native Americans.

The discovery will be featured in National Geographic Magazine and in a PBS documentary in 2015. In the meantime, preliminary findings are published in the journal Science.

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