Luzia Woman (Portuguese pronunciation: [luˈzi.ɐ]) is the name for the skeleton of a Paleo-Indian woman found in a cave in Brazil. Some archaeologists believe the young woman may have been part of the first wave of immigrants to South America. Nicknamed Luzia (her name pays homage to the famous African fossil "Lucy", who lived 3.2 million years ago), the 11,500 year-old skeleton was found in Lapa Vermelha, Brazil, in 1975 by archaeologist Annette Laming-Emperaire.
Luzia was originally discovered in 1975 in a rock shelter by a joint French-Brazilian expedition that was working not far from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The remains were not articulated. The skull, which was separated from the rest of the skeleton but was in surprisingly good condition, was buried under more than forty feet of mineral deposits and debris.
There were no other human remains at the site; Luzia appeared to have died alone. But more than forty other skeletons from the same general period have been found in a nearby area called Lagoa Santa. Brazilian scientists hope to be able to test Dr. Neves's migration theory by doing radiocarbon dating on some of these remains. Among these bones was an unusual, and undated, calotte (skullcap) that somehow simply disappeared.
New dating of the bones have determined that Luzia is one of the most ancient American human skeletons ever discovered. Forensics have determined that Luzia died in her early 20s. Although flint tools were found nearby, hers are the only human remains in Vermelha Cave.
Her facial features include a narrow, oval cranium, projecting face and pronounced chin, strikingly dissimilar to most native Americans and their indigenous Siberian forebears. Anthropologists have variously described Luzia's features as resembling those of Negroids, Indigenous Australians, Melanesians and the Negritos of Southeast Asia. Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, suggests that Luzia's features most strongly resemble those of Australian Aboriginal peoples. Richard Neave of Manchester University, who undertook a facial reconstruction of Luzia (see the photograph above), stated that"that's a negroid face to me" and "I personally would stick my neck out and say it is conclusive support for his [Neves'] findings and demonstrates without any doubt at all" that Luzia was not closely related to Siberian peoples.
Neves and other Brazilian anthropologists have theorized that Luzia's Paleo-Indian predecessors lived in South East Asia for tens of thousands of years, after migrating from Africa, and began arriving in the New World, as early as 15,000 years ago. Some anthropologists have hypothesized that Paleo-Indians migrated along the coast of East Asia and Beringia in small watercraft, before or during the last Ice Age.
Neves' conclusions have been challenged by research done by anthropologists Rolando Gonzalez-Jose, Frank Williams and William Armelagos who have shown in their studies that the cranio-facial variability could just be due to genetic drift and other factors affecting cranio-facial plasticity in Native Americans.
Luzia stood just under five feet tall—about one-third of her skeleton has been recovered. Her remains seem to indicate that she died either in an accident or as the result of an animal attack. She was a member of a group of hunter-gatherers who subsisted largely on fruits and berries, and probably an occasional piece of meat.
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- C. Smith (1999). "Luzia Woman". Discovery Communications Inc. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- Beattie, O.B.; Bryan, A.L. (1984). "A Fossilized calotte with Prominent Browridges from Lagoa Santa, Brazil". Current Anthropology 25 (3).
- Larry Rohter (26 Oct 1999). "An Ancient Skull Challenges Long-Held Theories". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- Frank L'Engle Williams (2003). "Kennewick and Luzia: Lessons From the European Upper Paleolithic". AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Retrieved 2008-02-15.[dead link]
- Stuart J. Fiedel (2004). "THE KENNEWICK FOLLIES: "New" Theories about the Peopling of the Americas". Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- Rolando Gonzalez-Jose, Maria Catira Bortolini, Fabrıcio R. Santos, and Sandro L. Bonatto (2008). "The Peopling of America: Craniofacial Shape Variation on a Continental Scale and its Interpretation From an Interdisciplinary View". AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Retrieved 2008-02-15.[dead link]
- Reinaldo José Lopes (10 Oct 2005). "Os sobreviventes: Crânios de índios extintos do Brasil Central indicam elo com primeiros povoadores da América". Jornal da Ciência. Retrieved 2008-02-15.[dead link]