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Oldest human footprints in North America found

September 26, 2021 | Comment icon 17 comments

The footprints were mostly left by children and teenagers. Image Credit: National Park Service
Archaeologists have identified what are now thought to be the oldest footprints ever found on the continent.
Dating back between 21,000 and 23,000 years, the fossilized footprints were discovered in layers of soil at the White Sands national park in New Mexico.

The find is particularly significant as, until now, the available evidence (such as stone spears) had suggested that humans had first arrived in North America between 11,000 to 13,000 years ago.

To determine the age of the tracks, scientists from the US Geological Survey conducted an analysis of tiny seeds that were embedded inside them.
"The evidence is very convincing and extremely exciting," said archaeological scientist Tom Higham from the University of Vienna. "I am convinced that these footprints genuinely are of the age claimed."

The discovery could serve to rewrite what we know about the history of modern humans in North America and might even push their arrival on the continent back further still.

"These finds indicate the presence of humans in North America for approximately two millennia during the Last Glacial Maximum south of the migratory barrier created by the ice sheets to the north," the researchers wrote in a study published in the journal Science.

"This timing coincided with a Northern Hemispheric abrupt warming event, Dansgaard-Oeschger event 2, which drew down lake levels and allowed humans and megafauna to walk on newly exposed surfaces, creating tracks that became preserved in the geologic record."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (17)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by Trelane 14 days ago
I don't believe so. The fact that there are consistent finds of H. Sapiens' activity and nothing in regards to H. Erectus is pretty telling.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Abramelin 14 days ago
And how do we distinguish finds of H.Sapiens activities from those of H.Erectus?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Trelane 13 days ago
I would guess that's up to the scientists who are making those finds and reporting them. Is there an item you would dispute as being attributed to H. Erectus?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Abramelin 13 days ago
I only want to know how scientists are able to distinguish signs of Erectus' activity from Sapiens' activity. If they don't find bones, how do they do it?? So, we will have to wait till someone finds the answer on the internet, or better, when a paleo-anthropologist shows up here.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Hammerclaw 13 days ago
The age of the artifacts and signs of human presence will pretty much nail down the species of humans. In the New World, all but the most extravagant and disputed claims indicate the the presence of Homo Sapiens, long after the extinction of other human lineages.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Abramelin 13 days ago
Even scientists do not agree about what to conclude from the finds: And Siberia and Alaska are not the easiest places to go dig for ancient human remains. It will most probably be future chance discoveries that will give us answers. And with the present melting of Siberian permafrost I expect we are in for some surprizes.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Hammerclaw 13 days ago
I agree, There just is as yet no evidence. My own opinion is that if the animals they hunted made it across, they could. too. I think they came by boat, hunting and fishing along the glaciers and dry land 'till they reached the Americas. There's no reason they couldn't have came from Europe the same way. There's just a paucity of evidence for it.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Abramelin 13 days ago
From Europe?? Where did I mention that? Edited to add: And why do your quotes turn up black? Maybe that problem is on my side.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Manwon Lender 13 days ago
While I think few make the assumption orbelieve that Homo Erectus ever made the Migration to the Americas, I think things could change, do to areass that have been under Ice for many many thousands of years do to global wRming.This is mainly because Homo Hdied out approximately 100,000 years ago, and if there was a migration itwas very limited, which makes the chancesof discovering any evidence nearlyif not completelyimpossible. Last concerning Homo Erectus, even the DNA evidence that has been collected and analyzed in the last 40 years also shows no evidence of his presence in the Am... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Trelane 13 days ago
That's also true. I just personally think they never made it here. If they had made it, it stands to reason there would have been some sort of find by now here in N. America.

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