Oldest known human footprints in North America discovered at White Sands

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ALAMOGORDO, N.M. — New research conducted at White Sands National Park has uncovered the oldest known human footprints in North America.

White Sands officials said the discovery reveals evidence of human occupation in the Tularosa Basin beginning at least 23,000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

“These incredible discoveries illustrate that White Sands National Park is not only a world-class destination for recreation but is also a wonderful scientific laboratory that has yielded groundbreaking, fundamental research,” Superintendent Marie Sauter said.

The fossilized human footprints were buried in multiple layers of gypsum soil on a large playa in White Sands National Park. The seeds embedded in the footprints were radiocarbon dated and analyzed by the U.S. Geological Survey to figure out how old they were.

"This study illustrates the process of science – new evidence can shift long-held paradigms," said USGS Acting Rocky Mountain Regional Director Allison Shipp.

The scientific findings are published here. White Sands contains the world’s largest-known collection of Pleistiocene age (ice age) fossilized footprints in the world. Not only that, but researchers have also identified footprints from the Columbian mammoth, saber-toothed cat, dire wolf and other ice age animals at the national park as well.