Thousands of years before the Mayans built their majestic pyramids, a woman met her end at the bottom of a dark cave in what today is Mexico.
Modern advancements in forensic reconstruction technology have put a face on the "Woman of Naharon," thus providing a glimpse into life in ancient Mexico.
The finding - which was reported by the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) - was made in 2001 by spelunker and underwater researcher Octavio del Rio as part of an archaeological research project in cenotes - or sinkholes - and caves across the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
The skeleton was located some 368 meters (402.5 yards) from the surface of Naharon cenote, 22.6 meters (74 feet) deep.
A string of anthropological studies carried out by Alejandro Terrazas, with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), showed that the skeleton still retains close to 80 percent of its original structure and belonged to a 4.6-foot-tall woman of between 20 and 25 years of age.
The mass spectrometry analysis showed that the body is some 13,600 years old, which makes "Eve of Naharon" the oldest human relic found in the Americas.
In recent years, as many as eight additional skeletons of about the same age have been found in flooded caves across the region, such as the remains of a young girl who was named "Naia" after the water nymphs from Greek mythology.
Almost two decades following the discovery in Naharon, the INAH partnered with renowned Brazilian 3D designer Cicero Moraes to put a face on the prehistoric woman using advanced forensic face reconstruction techniques.
"The technique basically entails creating a virtual 3D representation from the real skull," Del Rio told EFE.
Moraes has reconstructed the faces of important historical and religious figures, including St. Anthony of Padua and poet Francesco Petrarca, as well as an assortment of human fossils.
The task is in its late stages, and the team aims to present the face of the Woman of Naharon later this year.
by Manuel Soberanes Cobo