Researcher using radar to uncover ‘ghost’ footprints at White Sands National Park

New Mexico

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – A researcher from Cornell University is giving White Sand officials a unique look at tracks left behind mammals from the Ice Age.

“White Sands has perhaps one of the highest concentrations of human, fossil and megafauna footprints in the world,” said Thomas Urban a research scientist at Cornell University

These fossils and footprints can be impossible to see sometimes. “One of the difficulties of these footprints is we call them ghost prints because you can’t always see them,” said Urban.

That’s why Urban was called in by White Sands officials to help get a more in-depth look at the prints left behind during the Ice Age.

Urban uses a unique technology that allows him to see prints that are not visible to the naked eye. “We literally drag a radar detector across the surface, which we protect with foam pads. It’s sending energy down into the ground and that’s how we detect the footprints,” said Urban.

He says the prints tell an interesting story. “People are moving around in their daily tasks. They may be hunting an animal, they may be getting water or any number of things that people do,” said Urban.

They don’t have an exact guess on how old the footprints are, but they estimate they could date back at least 12,000 years.

There are replicas of a few of the prints in the White Sands Visitor’s Center for people to look at and touch. They say they hope to have more exhibits in the future.

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