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In pictures: Scientists link 12,000-year-old skull to prehistoric settlement of North America

Cave divers in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula unearth evidence shedding new light on how North America was populated

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The upper right third molar of Naia, which was used for both radiocarbon dating and DNA extraction. The tooth is held by ancient genetics expert Brian Kemp of Washington State University, who led the genetic research on the skeleton.

James Chatters

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A broad view of Hoyo Negro, shot from the floor near the south edge, showing the immensity of the chamber and the complexity of the boulder-strewn bottom. One access tunnel can be seen near the ceiling at top left. This photo was taken by the "painting with light" method on a 30-second exposure.

Roberto Chavez Arce

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Alberto Nava at 145-ft depth in Hoyo Negro, inspecting a forelimb of an extinct Shasta ground sloth, one of two sloth species found in the cave. The Shasta ground sloth has not previously been found so far south in the Americas.

Roberto Chavez Arce

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The skull of Naia as it was discovered in 2007, resting against the left humerus (upper arm bone).

Daniel Riordan Araujo

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The skull of Naia on the floor of Hoyo Negro, as it appeared in December 2011, having rolled into a near-upright position.

Roberto Chavez Arce

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Cave diver Alexandro Alvarez inspects the newly-discovered skull of Naia, the 12,000-13,000 year-old human skeleton discovered in a submerged cave on the Yucatn peninsula of Mexico.

Daniel Riordan Araujo

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Divers Susan Bird and Alberto Nava search the walls of Hoyo Negro, an underwater cave on MexicoÕs Yucatn Peninsula where the remains of ÒNaia,Ó a 12,000- to 13,000-year-old teenage girl, were found.Researchers detailed their analysis of the oldest most complete, genetically intact human skeleton discovered in the New World in a paper published today in the journal Science. This project was led by the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and supported by the National Geographic Society.

Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

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Diver Susan Bird working at the bottom of Hoyo Negro, a large dome-shaped underwater cave on Mexico’s Yucatn Peninsula. She carefully brushes the human skull found at the site while her team members take detailed photographs.Researchers described their analysis of the oldest most complete, genetically intact human skeleton discovered in the New World in a paper published today in the journal Science. This project was led by the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and supported by the National Geographic Society.

Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

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Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3-D model.Researchers detailed their analysis of the oldest most complete, genetically intact human skeleton discovered in the New World in a paper published today in the journal Science. This project was led by the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and supported by the National Geographic Society.

Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

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