Peopling the playas: North American evidence for an earlier pre-Clovis migration at the Last Glacial Maximum
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Affiliation: Bournemouth University
Abstract: Recently, the discovery of the oldest human footprints in North America, dating to between 23,000 and 21,000 years ago has caught public attention. The White Sands site, lying on the shores of an ancient ice age lake that once filled the Tularosa Basin in south-central New Mexico, has transformed our understanding of when North American human habitation began, but also what extinct species they existed with, including giant ground sloth, dire wolf and Columbian mammoth. To date, a total of 61 footprints, mostly from teenagers and children, have been excavated from five distinct horizons that span nearly two millennia. These new discoveries, confirm that humans were present in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum, but also providing a temporal range extension for the coexistence of early inhabitants and the Pleistocene megafauna. In this presentation, I will review what is currently known of the site as an archive of early human behaviour in the region, and what is planned for the next stages of excavation, dating and research. Finally, I will discuss how this longer temporal period of coexistence alters our views on the spread of humans into the Americas and the role of humans in megafaunal extinctions.
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