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Home / Science / Controversial Study Suggests 15,600-Year-Old Impression Is the Oldest Human Footprint Ever Found in the Americas

Controversial Study Suggests 15,600-Year-Old Impression Is the Oldest Human Footprint Ever Found in the Americas



A photograph of the impression (left), a 3D perspective (top right), and cross-section (bottom left).
Image: K. Moreno et al., 2019

An apparent human footprint uncovered by archaeologists in Chile has been dated to 15,600 years old, placing it among the oldest prints ever found in the New World.

The lone print was uncovered in 2011 at the Pilauco archaeological site in the Chilean city of Osorno. This site underwent excavations from 2007 to 2016, resulting in the discovery of various animal bones, plant matter, simple stone tools, and this apparent human footprint. During the Late Pleistocene, the finding was "Significant Winning of the Ancient Footprints of the Americas," because of a longstanding debate on the peopling of South America. Karen Moreno and geologist Mario Pino from Austral University, Chile, published in PLOS One.

14,600-year-old tracks at the nearby Monte Verde, and a pair of trackways in Mexico dating back 10,700 years ago and 7,200 years ago. Last year, archaeologists uncovered 29 human footprints on the shoreline of Calvert Island in British Columbia, which were dated to 13,000 years ago. The Prints at Monte Verde are the oldest evidence of a human presence in South America, though they remain controversial. That a human footprint may have been found about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away at the Pilauco site, dating back to the same time as the Monte Verde tracks. But at 15,600 years old, it would represent the oldest print ever found in the Americas. That's obviously a big deal.

For the analysis, Moreno and Pino radiocarbon dated organic plant materials found in the same as the lone footprint. Measurements made by hand, a plaster reconstruction and a series of x-ray images allowed to analyze the print in fine detail. They estimated that the print was made by a barefoot male weighing approximately 155 pounds (70 kilograms). Due to its dimensions, shape, and level of preservation, Pilauco's "footprint of an adult human," and not some other animal, the authors wrote in the new study. 19659005] Hominipes modernus (with ichnospecies describing a distinct trace fossil). Homo sapiens as no evidence has ever been found to suggest a human species other than Homo sapiens ever made it to the Americas.

The experimental footprints.
Image: K. Moreno et al., 2019

Moreno and Pino also conducts an experiment to test different scenarios of footprint formation. The team extracted soil samples from Pilauco, rehydrating the sediment with various amounts of water. Three people, all featuring body proportions consistent with the presumed original track maker, were recruited to walk across a test bed containing the soggy mixture. The "results in a human agent could easily generate a footprint [shape] equivalent to the sedimentary structure when walking on a saturated substrate," wrote the authors in the study.

That said, the researchers did not understand why a single footprint was recovered, and not an entire trackway.

But Stuart Fiedel, archaeologist Louis Berger Group, interprets the new research differently. Fiedel does not believe the footprints found at Monte Verde, nor the one found at Pilauco, are actual human footprints.

"If you compare both of these bean-shaped, filled depressions to actual ancient human footprints, you'll The Monte Verde and Pilauco impressions, "Fiedel told Gizmodo.

What's more, he said the authors seem to be in a hurry. But this is not the normal morphology of human toes, he said. Nor do the authors convincingly explain why there is a lump in the middle of the "sole," added Fiedel.

The apparent stone tools found near the prints, Fiedel argued, are not actually broken human manufacture of use. "The animal bones, he said, were inconsequential, as well as" clearly carcasses accumulated at this location "some 16,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Fiedel said he believes the print has been made by a piece of

Nicholas Felstead from Swansea University said the new paper was interesting, telling Gizmodo that "the radiographs were obtained by the authors makes this discovery pretty compelling. "The work, he said, provides more evidence in support of the Pacific Coastal Migration Route. Indeed, there's a big debate on the Americas, with the two main theories being the Pacific Coastal Route hypothesis and the Clovis First hypothesis.

"Archaeologists on the Clovis First side believe the first humans, the Clovis people, arrived around 15,000 years ago in the far north when the ice sheet had retreated into Alaska into the northern states of the USA," Felstead , who's not affiliated with the new study, wrote in an email to Gizmodo. The primary support for this theory is not solid evidence for pre-Clovis humans in the Americas.

But as Felstead pointed out, other archaeologists believe that humans traveled down the Pacific coast of the Americas much earlier than 14,000 years ago and much faster. Monte Verde in Chile is probably the most famous site related to the Pacific Coastal Route, with footprints dating back 14,600 years ago-but these footprints are highly contentious in the debate, he said.

"These new footprints are significant as they provide solid evidence of pre-Clovis humans in the Americas," said Felstead. "If indeed human, these footprints provide compelling evidence in support of the Pacific Coastal Migration Route."

Moreno and Pino and the Ambiguity of the Both Lose Print and the Nature of the Artifacts found at the site, it would be useful to have a second research team examine the available evidence. South America wants to continue to rage on.


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