Human footprints found in New Mexico may be even older than scientists originally thought, dating back to more than 20,000 years ago.
In 2021, American and British archaeologists estimated that the prints found in White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico were around 21,000 to 23,000 years old. This suggests some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the Americas, some 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
However, many scientists were skeptical. But a follow-up study published Thursday in the journal Science confirmed those findings based on radiocarbon dating, which examines decay as old as 60,000 years.
Footprints found in White Sands National Park in New Mexico date back 23,000 years ago, making them the first “conclusive evidence” of Homo Sapiens in the New World, thousands of years before most estimates
Dr. Jeff Pigati, lead researcher on the 2021 study and a geologist at the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, said: “Every dating technique has strengths and weaknesses, but when three different techniques all converge on the same age group, the result is age exceptionally robust.’
The co-author of the study, Dr. Kathleen Springer, of the USGS, added: “Our original results were controversial, and we knew from the start that we needed to independently assess the age of the seeds to increase the community’s confidence in them.” This paper is that confirmatory exercise. ‘
Homo sapiens emerged more than 300,000 years ago in Africa and later migrated around the world. Scientists believe our species reached North America from Asia via a land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska.
The prints – which are flat, a possible sign that people were barefoot – reveal more than just a date, the researchers said. They offer a glimpse into life in the Upper Paleolithic, which began around 40,000 years ago.
Previous archaeological evidence suggests that human occupation of North America began about 16,000 years ago, according to study co-author Dr. Matthew Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Studies at Bournemouth University in England.
“Indigenous peoples were there earlier than thought, before the great ice barrier at the height of the last glacial maximum blocked the route south from Alaska. How and how they got there remains to be determined. “White Sands is just a dot on the map right now,” he said.
“The work confirms the chronology we established for the site in 2021 using independent methodologies, laboratories and approaches.”
Most of the prints were left by teenagers and younger children, with occasional tracks from adults as well as some from mammoths, giant sloths and dire wolves, researchers said.
“The footprints left at White Sands give a picture of what happened – teenagers interacting with younger children and adults,” Dr. Bennett in 2021.
Previous prints found along the White Sands trail suggest that young people in the area hunted giant ground sloths by intentionally stepping in the animal’s tracks.
Other studies have found evidence that humans lived on the North American continent thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
In July 2020, stone tools were discovered in a cave in Mexico called Chiquihuite, providing archaeological evidence of human habitation 27,000 years ago.
In 2018, 150,000 “unique” stone tools were found northwest of Austin, Texas, suggesting that humans lived on the continent as early as 20,000 years ago.
In 2019, human footprints dating back 15,600 years were found in Chile. At the time, they were believed to be the oldest known human footprints in America.
Designated a Megatrack site in 2014, White Sands contains the world’s largest collection of Pleistocene fossilized footprints, dating from 2.58 million to 11,700 years ago.