Human footprints from White Sands National Park, New Mexico. Dated 21,000–23,000 years old.

Human footprints from White Sands National Park, New Mexico. Dated 21,000-23,000 years old.

A team of scientists announced the discovery of the oldest human footprints in North America in November of 2021.

These fossilized prints were made between 23,000 and 21,000 years ago along the shores of an ice age lake that once filled the Tularosa Basin in south-central New Mexico, in what is now White Sands National Park.

This finding fundamentally changes the timeline on North American human habitation — turning back the clock of human arrival in the Americas nearly an additional 10,000 years.

The team studying these ancient trackways in White Sands National Park excavated a total of 61 footprints and found they were mostly from teenagers and children. The hypothesis is that the adults were performing skilled tasks at the lake edge, while ‘fetching and carrying’ were delegated to teens, who left more imprints than adults. The small children could have also simply played, making more prints.

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