Divers uncover mysteries of earliest inhabitants of Americas deep inside Yucatan caves

Divers uncover mysteries of earliest inhabitants of Americas deep inside Yucatan caves“What is remarkable is not only the preservation of the mining activity, but also the age and duration of it."Ochre has long been an important material throughout human history.Cave divers made the discovery several hundred meters into an underwater cave.

It was all about the ochre.

Thousands of years ago, the first inhabitants of the Americas journeyed deep into caves in present-day Mexico to mine red ochre, a highly valued, natural clay earth pigment used as paint.

Now, according to a new study, scientists and divers have discovered the first evidence of this mining operation deep within underwater caves in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

“What is remarkable is not only the preservation of the mining activity, but also the age and duration of it," said study lead author Brandi MacDonald of the University of Missouri. "We rarely, if ever, get to observe such clear evidence of ochre pigment mining of Paleoindian age in North America, so to get to explore and interpret this is an incredible opportunity for us.

"Our study reinforces the notion that ochre has long been an important material throughout human history.”

A diver examines a landmark of piled stones left in the oldest ochre mine ever found in the Americas, used 10,000 to 12,000 years ago by the earliest inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere to procure the ancient commodity.

While MacDonald and her colleagues are uncertain exactly how this ochre was used, evidence from other parts of North America suggest it may have been used as an antiseptic, sunscreen or vermin repellent or for ritual and symbolic purposes such as funerals or art decoration.

Scientists said it's the oldest known ochre mine in the Americas.

This evidence of ancient cave exploration and mining spans a period of many generations over about 2,000 years and dates from 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, according to the study. That was 8,000 years before the establishment of the Maya culture for which the region is well known.

The caves have all filled with water in the thousands of years since the original mining was done because of rising sea levels that led to floods.

You may like:Scientists are able to see 'inside' the planet core for the first time

Cave divers made the discovery hundreds of feet into an underwater cave, at some points squeezing themselves through tiny crevices to reach the find. During nearly 100 dives totaling more than 600 hours, divers found extensive evidence of the prehistoric ochre mining operations.

The finds included remarkably preserved ochre extraction beds and pits, digging tools, shattered debris that has been piled by human effort, navigational markers and fire pits.

“Most evidence of ancient mining on the surface has been altered through natural and human processes, obscuring the record," said study co-author Eduard Reinhardt, expert diver and professor at McMaster University in Ontario. "These underwater caves are a time capsule. With all the tools left as they were 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, it represents a unique learning opportunity."

In addition to the international team of scientists, the divers were also from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and from the Quintana Roo Aquifer System Research Center (CINDAQ).

Experts say the find is only the beginning of discoveries possible in the caves of the Yucatan.

“It is not what we have found so far, but what we have yet to discover that gets us out of bed every morning," said Sam Meacham, cave exploration researcher and founder of CINDAQ. "We have no doubt that there is so much more out there just waiting to be found and understood."

The study was published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

'Only plausible explanation':Study finds asteroid impact, not volcanoes, made the Earth uninhabitable for dinosaurs

Read this:Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/07/03/ochre-mines-mexico-divers-uncover-ancient-mysteries-caves/5366768002/

News Related

ORTHER NEWS

Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment is premature and deadly. We have not defeated COVID.

Desperate for crowds and adoration, Trump has put his most fervent supporters at risk of getting a deadly disease. Future historians will be astonished. Read more »

NFLPA president JC Tretter says NFL is putting season, players at risk with its coronavirus approach

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said Tuesday the NFL is putting the 2020 season at risk with its coronavirus approach, calling on the league to better “prioritize player safety.” “Like many other... Read more »

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he tested positive for the coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity. Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and... Read more »

Venice Film Festival forges ahead amid COVID-19 pandemic with reduced lineup

The show will go on for the Venice Film Festival in September, but with a few modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said Tuesday that they are pushing forward with plans for... Read more »

Amtrak offers buy-one, get-one promotion on its sleeper trains amid COVID-19 — with a catch

Amtrak wants you to have sweet dreams the next time you travel — so much so that it’s sweetening the deal on its sleeper “roomettes.” The rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free discount... Read more »

Florida teen treated with hydroxychloroquine at home before dying of COVID-19, report says

FORT MEYERS, Fla. – The family of a 17-year-old Florida girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a... Read more »

Mookie Betts worried MLB coronavirus testing woes could prevent him from ever playing for Dodgers

During nearly four months away from the game, Mookie Betts said he “stayed away from baseball to keep myself sane.” It’s not hard to understand why. The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player... Read more »

Tom Hanks doesn’t get ‘how common sense has somehow been put into question’ with coronavirus

Read more »

Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As concern about the state order spread online, some school leaders said: Not so fast. As Florida educators puzzle over how to start the new academic year, Gov. Ron... Read more »

Texas surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases after 4th of July holiday weekend

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reached 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, just 17 days after crossing the 100,000 threshold, a figure that took the state nearly four months to hit. The grim milestone came... Read more »