The oldest human footprints in North America have been discovered in New Mexico, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced on Thursday.
Scientists discovered the fossilized footprints in White Sands National Park while conducting research.
“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,” USGS Superintendent Marie Sauter said in a news release.
According to a new article in the journal Science detailing the research, the footprints and seed layers within them were radiocarbon-dated to approximate their age. The analysis found that the footprints originated between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago, establishing the oldest known presence of humans in North America, which the USGS states is “thousands of years earlier than previously thought.”
"This study demonstrates the process of science — new evidence can shift long held paradigms," said USGS acting Rocky Mountain Regional Director Allison Shipp.
White Sands National Park is home to the world’s largest known collection of ice age fossilized footprints, having been identified in 2014 as a mega tracksite for the large quantities of tracks and fossils discovered there. Previous discoveries at the park from the Pleistocene age include Columbian mammoth tracks, a saber-toothed cat and a dire wolf.