Ice-age footprints shed light on North America’s early humans

Footprints laid down by Ice-Age hunter-gatherers and recently discovered in a U.S. desert are shedding new light on North America's earliest human inhabitants.

Dozens of fossilized prints found in dried-up riverbeds in the western state of Utah reveal more details about how the continent's original occupants lived more than 12,000 years ago just as the frozen planet was starting to thaw.

The fossils could have remained unnoticed if not for a chance glance out of a moving car as researchers Daron Duke and Thomas Urban drove through Hill Air Force Base chatting about footprints.

"We were talking about 'what would they look like?'," Duke told AFP. "And he said: Kind of like that out the window.'"
What the two men had found turned out to be 88 distinct prints left by a mixture of adults and children.

"They vary between just looking like discolored patches on the ground and... little pop ups, little pieces of dirt around them or on them. But they look like footprints," Duke said.

What came next was a painstaking few days of very careful digging - sometimes lying on his belly - to ensure that what they were looking at was as old as it appeared.

"What I found was bare feet of people... that had stepped in what looks to be shallow water where there was a mud sub layer," Duke explained.

"The minute they pulled their foot out, the sand infilled that and has preserved it perfectly."

Duke, of the Nevada-based Far Western Anthropological Research Group, had been in the area looking for evidence of prehistoric campfires built by the Shoshone, a people whose descendants still live in the western United States.

He had brought Urban over from Cornell University because of his expertise in uncovering evidence of...

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