Footprints show evidence of humans 21,000 years ago

Early human habitation in North America has been disputed by scientists for years. However, recent fossilized evidence displays that there were humans living in the Americas as far back as 21,000 to 23,000 years ago.

Matthew Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographic sciences at Bournemouth University in the UK spoke on this discovery in an interview with CNN.

“It’s the earliest unequivocal site and a good data point that places people in the American South West around the Last Glacial Maximum,” Bennett said.

The LGM was the time when ice sheets and glaciers around the world were at their maximum extent during the last ice age.

The fossil footprints found in New Mexico were first discovered back in 2009 by David Bustos, the resource program manager for White Sands National Park.

Since then, he has brought together an international team of scientists to help learn more about early humans in the Americas.

Over the years, the group has found thousands of human footprints in the park.

Ciprian Ardelean, an archeologist at Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico and co-author of an article in the journal Science spoke about the research.

“I think this is probably the biggest discovery about the peopling of America in a hundred years,” Ardelean said. “One path of footprints they found showed that someone walked in a straight line for a mile and a half.”

There was another footprint that showed a mother setting her baby down on the ground.

Other notable footprints were made by children.

Thomas Urban mentioned in an interview with NBC that the smaller footprints made by teenagers and children were able to explain that the children were involved in tasks that involved simple labor.

The researchers believe that one of the responsibilities of the children during this time was to gather food, water and raw materials for their community.

In an interview with the New York Times, Sally Reynolds, a paleontologist at Bournemouth University in England, explained how she was able to differentiate the footprints.

“The children tend to be more energetic,” Reynolds said. “They’re a lot more playful, jumping up and down.”

Matthew Bennet also made a statement about this discovery.

“The footprints left at White Sands give a picture of what was taking place, teenagers interacting with younger children and adults,” Bennet said. “We can think of our ancestors as quite functional, hunting and surviving, but what we see here is also activity of play, and of different ages coming together. A true insight into these early people.”

In 2019, the team discovered tracks with undisturbed sediment above and below them.

What is so unique about this study is not the presence of human footprints themselves, but the seeds that were found near them.

Hundreds of seeds of Ruppia Cirrhosa, also known as common ditch grass, were radiocarbon dated which revealed the age of the footprints.

This evidence showed that humans were roaming the Americas as far back as 21,000 to 23,000 years ago.

Not only does this evidence point to human occupation of the Americas thousands of years ago, but it can also tell scientists more about how they got here originally.

Some believed that humans arrived in the Americas by means of a northern route from Siberia before or after the height of the last ice age, but during that time, the vast sheets of ice that covered that region would have made migration along the Pacific Coast and through western Canada impossible.

Although now scientists believe that fossilized footprints found in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, may point to human arrival as far back as 30,000 years ago.

Yet, human footprints were not the only ones that these scientists have found.

According to the New York Times, mammoths, dire wolves, camels and other animals have left footprints as well.

David Bustos, co-author of an article published in “Science” elaborated on the study.

“One of the neat things is that you can see mammoth prints in the layers a meter or so above the human footprints, so that just helps to confirm the whole story,” Bustos said.

In fact, one set of footprints found near ancient Lake Otero, a body of water that dried up more than 10,000 years ago, showed a giant sloth trying to avoid a group of people according to National Geographic.

The fossil footprints are a major breakthrough for the archeological community, but they are faced with one major problem.

The erosion in the area that originally revealed the footprints is likely to also erase them within the next few months or years.

“We’re racing to try to document what we can,” Bustos said.