Oldest footprints in the Americas dated in White Sands


Dan Odess

The footprints look like they were left behind just moments ago by a barefoot visitor to New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, the amblings of a slightly flat-footed teen, each toe and heel impression crisply defined by a fine ridge of sand.

But this is no tourist track. These prints are among the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas, marking the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that challenges when and how people first ventured into this unexplored land.

According to a paper published today in the journal Science, the footprints were pressed into the mud near an ancient lake at White Sands between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago, a time when many scientists think that massive ice sheets walled off human passage into North America.

Exactly when humans populated the Americas has been fiercely debated for nearly a century, and until recently, many scientists maintained this momentous first occurred no earlier than 13,000 years ago. A growing number of discoveries suggest people were in North and South America thousands of years before…

…After decades of the field centering around a Clovis culture of only 13,000 years ago, change may finally be on the horizon. “I think we will not speak in terms of pre-Clovis possibilities,” Ciprian Ardelean says. “We will speak in terms of pre-White Sands and post-White Sands.”

I haven’t been to White Sands since I retired. There was a time I would pass by there [and stop in for a spell] every three or four weeks. One of the most beautiful places on this planet. Coupling that natural beauty with the earliest human settlers just makes it all the more intriguing.

2 thoughts on “Oldest footprints in the Americas dated in White Sands

  1. p/s says:

    “The footprints were first discovered in 2009 by David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager. Over the years, he has brought in an international team of scientists to help make sense of the finds.
    Together, they have found thousands of human footprints across 80,000 acres of the park. One path was made by someone walking in a straight line for a mile and a half. Another shows a mother setting her baby down on the ground. Other tracks were made by children.
    “The children tend to be more energetic,” said Sally Reynolds, a paleontologist at Bournemouth University in England and a co-author of the new study. “They’re a lot more playful, jumping up and down.”
    Mathew Stewart, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, who was not involved in the study, said that the evidence that humans had left the footprints was “unequivocal.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/23/science/ancient-footprints-ice-age.html
    See also “Footprints Mark a Toddler’s Perilous Prehistoric Journey : Mammoths and giant ground sloths roamed the same terrain that a young adult swiftly moved through while toting a young child.” 10/23/20) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/science/ancient-footprints.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

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