Previous discoveries determined that the first humans settled in the Americas just 13,500 years ago. But did you know that a recent discovery in 2021 may provide evidence that humans settled in the Americas as far back as 21,000 years ago?
The oldest evidence of humans in the Americas was found just in 2021. Upon further investigation, it was estimated to be thousands of years older. It was found in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park.
New Evidence of Human Settlement in the Americas
In 2021, a team of researchers led by Matthew Bennett from Bournemouth University in England discovered and examined a set of footprints preserved as they studied exposed outcrops of Lake Otero in White Sands National Park in New Mexico. (Source: Science)
Bennett and his team uncovered numerous human footprints in the area and concluded that the footprints were made some 21,000 to 23,000 years ago. According to Bennett, the date would show evidence of humans in the Americas during the Last Glacial Maximum. At the time, much of North America was covered by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Bennett’s discovery pushes back evidence of humans in the region 5,000 years earlier.
Bennett and his team published a paper in Science, describing that their discovery was several tracks believed to be from different people. Upon further inspection, Bennett found that the footprints belonged to children and teenagers. What is more interesting is that the footprints had different periods. This may prove that humans frequented the area for at least a thousand years. (Source: NPR)
Tom Higham, an archeological scientist and radiocarbon-dating expert from the University of Vienna who was part of the team, felt very excited with the findings. In an interview with Nature, he mentions that he is convinced that the footprints genuinely belong to the age they claimed them to be.
The discovery raised questions about how and when humans from Siberia settled in the region and how they traveled. Spenser Lucas, a paleontologist from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Sciences, claims that Bennett’s finding is a game-changer. The paper presented a very compelling case that the footprints were not only human, but they’re also older than 20,000 years. (Source: Nature)
When Did the First People Inhabit the Americas?
For many years, archeologists associated the earliest human inhabitation in the Americas to be within 11,000-13,000 years ago. The idea was supported by primitive tools and evidence of settlement known as the Clovis culture.
However, some research journals claim that human settlements were found as far back as 130,000 years ago in California. This claim, along with several others that are claimed to be earlier than 16,000 years, has been debunked due to the quality of evidence presented.
Bennett’s discovery has now created a stir in the archeological community. His evidence points out the possibility that there were already settlers earlier than the accepted time frame of 11,000-13,000 years. Bennett hopes his discovery will lead to further investigations and finally provide an exact date of when humans first settled in the Americas. (Source: Nature)