According to experts, ancient human footprints preserved in the earth throughout the White Sands National Park in New Mexico date back about 23,000 years to the Ice Age, according to a storey published on Thursday in Science magazine.
It is possible that the findings, if they are confirmed, could resurrect the scientific debate over how humans originally migrated across the Americas, suggesting that they did so at a period when huge glaciers covered most of their route.
Researchers who have advocated for such an early arrival have welcomed the latest research as conclusive evidence of their position.
For decades, many archaeologists have believed that people first arrived in North and South America around the end of the last ice age, and that this was the beginning of their expansion. They pointed to some of the oldest known tools, including as spear points, scrapers, and needles, which date back about 13,000 years and are still in use. Known as Clovis technology, this technology was called after the town of Clovis, New Mexico, where some of the first instruments were discovered.
The age of the Clovis artefacts corresponded perfectly with the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age. Because of this alignment, a scenario in which Siberian hunter-gatherers migrated into Alaska during the Ice Age, where they remained for generations until ice-free passages opened up and enabled them to advance southward was given a significant boost.
However, beginning in the 1970s, some archaeologists started releasing evidence of humanity’s presence in North America that was thousands of years older. Dr. Ardelean and his colleagues released a paper last year detailing the discovery of stone tools in a mountain cave in Mexico that date back 26,000 years.
Walking on wet, sandy ground on the edge of a lake created the footprints that may be seen today. Sedimentary deposits gradually filled in the impressions, and the earth hardened as a result. The prints were resurfaced as a result of later erosion. Sometimes the imprints are only visible when the ground is exceptionally wet or dry; otherwise, they are completely undetectable to the human eye. Nevertheless, using ground-penetrating radar, their three-dimensional structure, including the heels and toes, may be shown.