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Footprints Found In New Mexico Thought To Be Oldest In Americas

An undated photo provided by White Sands National Park in New Mexico shows human footprints thought to date back 23,000 years

Tucson, US, Sep 23 (EFE).- Footprints found in New Mexico could be evidence of the earliest human presence on the American continent, 10,000 years earlier than previously believed, the University of Arizona said on Thursday.

Footprints found in White Sands National Park provide evidence of human activity in the Americas over 23,000 years ago. The findings were published in the Science journal.

"For decades, archaeologists have debated when people first arrived in the Americas. Few archaeologists see reliable evidence for sites older than about 16,000 years. Some think the arrival was later, no more than 13,000 years ago by makers of artifacts called Clovis points," said University of Arizona archaeologist Vance Holliday, who co-authored the Science journal article.

"The White Sands tracks provide a much earlier date. There are multiple layers of well-dated human tracks in streambeds where water flowed into an ancient lake. This was 10,000 years before Clovis people," he added.

Researchers Jeff Pigati and Kathleen Springer of the United States Geological Survey were able to determine the age of the footprints using radiocarbon dating of seed layers found above and below the tracks.

The dates confirm that the oldest footprints date back 23,000 years.

These dates correspond to the height of the last glacial cycle, during a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum, making the tracks found in White Sands the oldest known human footprints in the Americas.

It was previously thought that humans entered the American continent much later, after the melting of the North American ice sheets that opened up migration routes.

"Our dates on the seeds are tightly clustered and maintain stratigraphic order above and below multiple footprint horizons – this was a remarkable outcome," Springer said in the article.

The tracks give a peek into what life was at the time as judging by their size, they were left mainly by teenagers and younger children, with the occasional adult.

"The footprints left at White Sands give a picture of what was taking place, teenagers interacting with younger children and adults," said lead study author Matthew Bennett from Bournemouth University in England

The tracks were first discovered by White Sands National Park's resource manager David Bustos.

Text and images courtesy of EFE

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