Inquisitive

New footprints discovery will shift long-held beliefs about humans

Findings in New Mexico set to rewrite history

There’s little sweeter than seeing footprints in the sand as you run along a beach.

While they’re usually washed away by the sea in seconds, a set of footprints has been unearthed in New Mexico that will completely rewrite history.

The discovery, fossilised under multiple layers of a special soil at the infamous White Sands National Park, is believed to date back 23,000 years.

This is hugely significant as it makes them the oldest known footprints in North America.

[Credit: Shutterstock]

Back in 2009, another set of prints were discovered and recently it was determined they were between 22,800 to 21,130 years old after scientists analysed seeds stuck in them.

Now, evidence points to human existence in the Tularosa Basin – a valley between the Sacramento Mountains and San Andres Mountains – beginning at least 23,000 years ago.

This means humans were present long before the Ice Age glaciers melted, approximately 22,000 years ago, which had previously not believed to be the case.

[Credit: White Sands National Park]

When the last glacial period happened, Homo Sapiens (the primate species to which modern humans belong) began using tools comparable to ones used by now-extinct Neanderthals.

However, this could have been taking place a lot earlier given the findings of the new footprints.

A spokesperson for the United States Geographical Survey, Allison Shipp, said the latest study “illustrates the process of science, new evidence can shift long-held paradigms”.

Over at White Sands National Park, they are home to the world’s largest collection of fossilised footprints – with their prints affectionately coined ‘ghost tracks’.

[Credit: White Sands National Park]

These ghost tracks are said to reveal life and death stories of our ancestors from the Ice Age, giving a picture as to what took place and how teens interacted with younger children and adults.

In addition to showing our forefathers as functional, many of the prints also point to activity of play and of different ages coming together.

It is quite remarkable that even though hunting would have been a primary objective for them to thrive, that playtime and socialising were just as crucial to surviving.

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