Oldest human footprints in North America found
September 26, 2021 | 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
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