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A team of archaeologists has found in the Nicaraguan town of Bleera Kaanu, the remains of a young woman buried 5,900 years ago, being the oldest human remains in southern Central America, adding a significant chapter to the archaeological record of the region.
The woman's remains were protected by a ancient mound of assorted shells (designed to mark burial sites or certain places in the landscape) that preserved it from the tropical conditions of the Caribbean, allowing the burial to remain intact for almost six millennia.
The team, made up of Canadian, German and Nicaraguan researchers, has explained in an article published in the Antiquity magazine, that the finding "represents an important contribution to our understanding of the early Caribbean population."
They also observed that women it was still in its original burial position when the tomb was reopened. Although the skeleton was largely complete, the quality of the bones has been somewhat compromised by the climate of the region.
Ancient human remains are very rare in the southernmost regions of Central America and in tropical regions, since arid soils tend to damage bones. Mirjana Roksandic, an anthropologist at the University of Winnipeg in Canada and lead author of the research, explained that "the mound of shells placed on the grave reduced the acidity of the soil and helped preserve the remains."
The woman was approximately 1.48 cm tall and had strongly developed forearm musculature, "possibly due to rowing or similar strengthening activities."
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