Fossilized footprints found in New Mexico show that human beings were living in North America roughly 23,000 years ago, the Associated Press reported Friday.
The footprints were found in a dried-up lake bed in the White Sands National Park in 2009, according to the Associated Press. Scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed seeds embedded in the footprints to determine that fossils were 22,800 to 21,130 years old.
The fossils could help answer the question of when human beings first arrived in North America, the Associated Press reported. Fossilized footprints provide more definitive evidence compared to “cultural artifacts, modified bones, and other more conventional fossils,” scientists said in the journal Science.
“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” the scientists wrote in the study.
Based on the size and shape of the fossils, scientists think that the footprints belonged to kids or teenagers who lived through the most recent ice age, the AP reported.
“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” said David Bustos, the Sands National Park’s resource program manager who first saw the prints in 2009, the AP reported.
The prints were made of silt and clay, making them fragile and forcing scientists to gather their samples quickly, Bustos said. “The only way we can save them is to record them – to take a lot of photos and make 3D models.”
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