The footprints are the first undisputed evidence that humans were actually found in the Americas during the so-called Last Ice Max.
The researchers write this in the journal Science. In the center there is a good collection of footprints that were found in White Sands National Park, located on the southern border of the United States. Dating suggests that the oldest prints are around 23,000 years old. “This corresponds to the peak of the last glacier, also called the last maximum glacier, and makes it the oldest footprints known to us in the Americas,” researcher Kathleen Springer said.
kids and teens
Given their size, the footprints appear to have been left mainly by teenagers and young children. Only a few prints are attributed to adults. People left their fingerprints as they searched in the soft mud at the edge of a shallow lake. In addition to the 23,000-year-old footprints, somewhat smaller footprints have been discovered; Together they testify that people have been present here for nearly 2,000 years.
Giant wolves and mammoths
And people weren’t the only ones walking around there; Imprints of mammoths, birds, large ground sloths, and dire wolves have also been found in the same area. “It’s an important place, because all the traces we found here testify to human interaction in landscapes that were also home to extinct animals such as mammoths and ground sloths,” said study researcher Sally Reynolds. We can see how people and animals coexisted here, and the dating of the prints gives us a better idea of what the landscape looked like at the time.”
But what makes the discovery of these footprints particularly interesting is that the oldest prints are at least 23,000 years old. For years, scientists have been hotly debated about when the first humans arrived in America. It is generally believed that this only happened after the North American ice sheets melted, or about 16,000 years ago. But the footprints prove that people set foot in America before. “White Sands provides us with the first definitive evidence of the presence of humans in the Americas during the Last Maximum Ice Age,” said study researcher Dan Odis.
Important for previous discoveries
In recent years, there have been initial indications that humans were actually roaming the Americas more than 16,000 years ago. But those clues weren’t very convincing on their own. “One reason this discovery is so important (for footprints, ed.) is that it makes the more reasonable idea that other, very ancient sites do indeed point to humans — even if the evidence they contain is less convincing. This does not mean that all of these sites are real (and therefore Humans left it behind over 16,000 years ago, ed.), but it means we can’t rule that out right away.”
Finally, the prints also give us unique insight into the lives of these early “Americans”. “The footprints left at White Sands provide a picture of what happened here,” said study researcher Matthew Bennett. “Teens interact with young children and adults. We can see our ancestors as very functional people who were involved in hunting and survival, but what we see here is that they also played and people of different ages got together.”
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