Arturo GonzálezIn search of the first Americans

Published in 2008icon-clockTime to read: 0min 53s

Arturo González’s expeditions through the flooded labyrinths far beneath the jungle covering Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are shedding light on the origins of the Americas and challenging traditional theories about its earliest inhabitants.


Mexican biologist and underwater archaeologist Arturo González is helping to reassess American prehistory by recovering evidence that humans lived in the Yucatán Peninsula region before sea levels rose in the last Ice Age and inundated local caves.

As an inhabitant of the Americas, I’m interested in knowing who these people were, where they came from, and when their first steps in the Americas occurred.

Skeletons found in the caves by González are possibly older than any other human remains in the Americas. One has been estimated by three foreign laboratories to be more than 11,600 years old and bears no resemblance to the Maya who came to dominate the region thousands of years later. If anything, according to González, the newly discovered skeletons have a cranial morphology resembling that of people in eastern Asia.

The findings are forcing the scientific community to rethink its theories about when and how early humans travelled to the Americas. The relics González and his team of specialists have discovered in the caves and the resulting research have been displayed in the Maya Museum of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History in Cancún, as well as in many other Mexican museums.

His work has been the subject of more than 60 articles in magazines.

  • 11,600 years

    Estimated age of one of the skeletons discovered by González

  • 10,000 - 60,000

    Age range of fossils retrieved by González and his colleagues, including those of extinct camelids, giant armadillos and horses, from Yucatán’s caverns

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