Latest research shows humans have been living in an area of southern new Mexico for around 22,000 years. It was previously thought that humans arrived in the area closer to 13,500 – 16,000 years ago. But recently analyzed foot prints found at White Sands, the Tularosa Basin and former Lake Otero are the latest.
During the ice age, tens of thousands of years ago, a giant body of water, Lake Otero, rested within the Tularosa basin. The climate was less arid, and vegetation was abundant. One could have seen grasslands stretching for miles that would have looked more like the prairies of the Midwest rather than New Mexico’s deserts.
White Sands has the largest collection of fossilized human footprints. So scientists that study fossil footprints here are better suited to understand the ice age ecosystem at Lake Otero. The white dunes of the Tularosa Basin are just a recent occurrence on the geological timeline. Scientists are still uncovering new evidence of past life.
The beauty of lush green and blue plants and water would have naturally captured the attention of mammals like mammoth, sloth, giant beaver and others. Even ancient plant eaters like the pronghorns and camels would have been there. The scary predators like flat nose bear, direwolf and american lion were attracted. And in all, these animals footprints remained remained long after departure of the wetlands and biogeogadesically diverse region that eventually became fossilized.
Upon discovery of some markings, a few years ago, they dug a trench on the park’s western playa. And, within different layers of sediment below the surface of the dig site. Human footprints were found. Above and below these footprints were ancient grass seeds (Ruppia cirrhosa) which were analyzed using radiocarbon dating. It was revealed that the calibrated dates were of 22,860 (∓320) and 21,130 (∓250) years ago.
What does it mean? These were some old ass footprints. Of a women (or man) carrying something; and less, or dryer soil on the route back because there was less indents. Wow!
Bibliography: Fossilized Footprints – White Sands National Park (U.S. National Park Service). (n.d.). https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/nature/fossilized-footprints.htm
Wei-Haas, M. (2021, September 24). Stunning footprints push back human arrival in Americas by thousands of years. History. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/fossil-footprints-challenge-theory-when-people-first-arrived-americas
Neuman, S. (2021, September 24). Ancient Footprints Suggest Humans Lived In The Americas Earlier Than Once Thought. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/09/24/1040381802/ancient-footprints-new-mexico-white-sands-humans