Researchers Find the Oldest Human Footprint in the Americas

Scientists from the University Austral of Chile (UACh) have discovered the oldest human footprint in the Americas discovered to date.

According to researchers, the footprint was left behind by ancient people living in Chile some 15,600 years ago.

The footprint was discovered in 2010 by a student of the university. For more than nine years, researchers studied the imprint left in the soil to rule out it belonged to an ancient animal species.

Discovered in Chile

Image Credit: Universidad Austral de Chile, Laboratorio de Sitio Pilauco/Handout via REUTERS.
Image Credit: Universidad Austral de Chile, Laboratorio de Sitio Pilauco/Handout via REUTERS.

The footprint was found at the Pilauco excavation in the city of Osorno (820km south of Santiago. The site has been an active archaeological and paleontological site since at least 2007.

Paleontologist Karen Moreno, as well as her colleague Mario Pino, a geologist from Chile,  worked intensively for several years to finally confirm the footprint belonged to a human.

“There are other human footprints in the Americas,” Mr. Pino told newspaper El Austral, “but none has been dated as far back.”

They’ve been able to find out the age of the footprint after radiocarbon dating the organic plant material where the footprint was discovered.

Image Credit: Universidad Austral de Chile, Laboratorio de Sitio Pilauco/Handout via REUTERS.
Image Credit: Universidad Austral de Chile, Laboratorio de Sitio Pilauco/Handout via REUTERS.

Rewriting History

Scientists believe that the footprint tells them a lot about the people who walked across Chile 15,600 years ago.

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The footprint is 23 centimeters long -equivalent to a foot of current size 43- and may have belonged to an adult man who walked barefoot across the land.

“We concluded that a human created the footprint when walking on a soft substrate, like mud or peat, saturated with water,” says Moreno.

Hominipes Modernus

Based on the imprint, researchers say that the prehistoric man weighed about seventy kilograms and belonged to the species Hominipes Modernus, a relative of Homo Sapiens.

The area where the footprint was discovered has already proven to be a treasure trove of ancient fossils.

In fact, scientists discovered evidence of an early elephant species and American Horses, including the new evidence of what is considered the oldest human presence in the Americas.

In the soil layers analyzed by experts -at a depth of around three meters- the scientists discovered stone artifacts that provide additional evidence and reinforce the idea of early colonization in South America.

A paper detailing the discovery was published in the journal PLOS One.