Ancient footprints provide migration clue
Archaeologists have unearthed, on an island off Canada, what they believe are the oldest footprints in North America, boosting the theory that ancient humans first explored the continent by walking along the Pacific coast. Discovered beneath the dense forest and thick bogs of British Columbia’s Calvert Island, the 29 prints date back 13,000 years, to the end of the last ice age. The size of the tracks suggests they were left by two adults and a child, walking barefoot on the beach, reports The New York Times. They face inland, which may indicate that the small group was coming ashore after arriving on the island by boat. It is widely believed that humans first migrated to North America via a land bridge between Asia and Alaska. But because Canada was at the time covered by two giant ice sheets, it is unclear how these early settlers moved south. While some archaeologists believe they traveled through an “ice-free corridor” between the two sheets, the Calvert Island footprints suggest that other people ventured into the continent by hugging the Pacific coastline. “This line of research is really in its infancy,” says lead author Duncan McLaren, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria and the Hakai Institute in British Columbia. He and his team are now trying to locate the settlements where these coastal explorers lived.
Joanne McSporran, NASA/ESA/P. Kelly/University of Minnesota, NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCI ■