The Oldest Record of Human Footprints May Be Found in New Mexico

According to recent study, the earliest direct evidence of human habitation in the Americas is probably a fossil of human footprints discovered in the US state of New Mexico. The footprints were found in southern New Mexico’s White Sands National Park near the edge of what was once an ancient lake. According to the study, which was just published in Science, the fossil may have been created between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago. The footprints’ estimated age was initially published in Science in 2021. Yet the dates were questioned by other scholars. Researchers questioned if old carbon from the lake may have been absorbed by seeds from plants that were utilized in the early date.


Two other lines of evidence supporting the earlier date range are included in the new paper. It makes use of quartz grains and pollen from ancient trees, two distinct materials discovered on the site. The assumption that people did not arrive in the Americas until approximately 15,000 years ago is called into question by the footprints’ apparent age. That occurred several millennia prior to the Bering land bridge, which connects Asia and North America, being submerged by increasing ocean levels. Scientist Thomas Urban works at Cornell University in New York, where he investigates ancient humans. He was not a part of the new study, but he was in the 2021 one. It’s a field “that’s always been controversial,” he claimed.


Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Thomas Stafford is an independent scientist who specializes in the study of ancient humans and the Earth. He did not participate in the research. He claimed that even though he “was a bit skeptical before,” he is now convinced. About 75,000 distinct pollen grains were extracted from the same rocks where the footprints were discovered for the new investigation. The new work was co-authored by Kathleen Springer, an Earth scientist researcher at the United States Geological Survey. According to her, dating pollen is an extremely challenging task. She went on to say that experts think dating land plants with radiocarbon produces more accurate results than dating plants that are submerged in water. However, she stressed that a sufficient number of plants must be present for the study.

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