World’s longest fossilized human trackway discovered at White Sands

New Mexico

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – Scientists in Alamogordo made an unusual discovery as a team found footprints of what they believe was a female or young male and a child at White Sands. The prints go for almost a mile along the shore of what used to be Lake Otero and are believed to be more than 10,000 years old.

The National Park Service reports that the ancient footprints were found at White Sands in 2018 and show that the person alternated from carrying the child and shifted them from side to side, which is determined by how the footprints broadened and slipped in the mud with the additional weight. The child’s footprints periodically show up alongside the other set of footprints. According to NPS, White Sands was designated a megatracksite in 2014 and contains the largest collection of ice age fossilized footprints in the world.

These footprints have been left behind by more than just humans including mammoth, giant ground sloth, dire wolf, and American lion tracks also being found at White Sands. “I am so pleased to highlight this wonderful story that crosses millennia,” said White Sands National Park’s Superintendent Marie Sauter in a press release. “Seeing a child’s footprints thousands of years old reminds us why taking care of these special places is so important.

NPS officials say that fossilized footprints have been the highlight of intense research over the last decade as they are rapidly being lost to soil erosion. A paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews documents the world’s longest fossilized human trackway.

An international team of scientists in partnership with National Park Service Staff have produced evidence through footprints that show how animals may have been hunted. Additional information on the fossilized footprints at White Sands can be found at NPS.gov.

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