Luzia Woman (Portuguese pronunciation: [luˈzi.ɐ]) is the name for an Upper Paleolithic period skeleton of a Paleo-Indian woman who was 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. New dating of the bones announced in 2013 confirmed that at an age of 10,030 ± 60 14C yr BP(11,243–11,710 cal BP). 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 described it as negroid.
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. The oldest confirmed date for an archaeosite in the Americas is 14,800 cal years BP, for the Monte Verde site in southern Chile. Some anthropologists have hypothesized that an Australoid population from coastal east Asia migrated in boats along the Kuril island chain, the Beringian coast, and down the west coast of the Americas during the decline of the Last Glacial Maximum.
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.
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- C. Smith (1999). "Luzia Woman". Discovery Communications Inc. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- Fontugne, MIchel (2013). "New Radiocarbon Ages of Luzia Woman, Lapa Vermelha IV Site, Lagoa Santa, Minas Gerais, Brazil". Proceedings of the 21st International Radiocarbon Conference 55 (2-3). doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16253. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Larry Rohter (26 Oct 1999). "An Ancient Skull Challenges Long-Held Theories". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- Erlandson, Jon M., and Braje, Todd J., history.uoregon.edu/sites/default/files/mnch/Erlandson_and_Braje_2011.pdf From Asia to the Americas by boat? Paleogeography, paleoecology, and stemmed points of the northwest Pacific Check
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