Footprints found at White Sands National Park in New Mexico provide the earliest unequivocal evidence of human activity in the Americas and offer insight into life over 23,000 years ago.
The footprints were formed in soft mud on the margins of a shallow lake that now forms part of Alkali Flat, a large playa at White Sands. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey dated these tracks using radiocarbon dating of seed layers above and below the footprint horizons. The dates range in age and confirm human presence over at least two millennia with the oldest tracks dating from around 23,000 years ago, which corresponds to the height of the last glacial cycle—making them the oldest known human footprints in the Americas.
The research, published in Science on Sept. 24, was conducted by scientists from Cornell, Bournemouth University, the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Arizona. The tracks at White Sands were first discovered by David Bustos, resources manager at the park.
Many resins, oils and waxes have been used over the centuries to provide a glossy finish to fine timbers. One of the most important is shellac, a resin produced from a secretion of the lac beetle (Laccifer lacca), which feeds on tree sap. The insect’s name is derived from the word lakh, the Sanskrit word for the number 100,000, and relates to the number of insects found on infested trees. The tree branches become covered in the secreted material which, in its raw form, is called sticklac. It is harvested extensively in India and, to a lesser extent, in China, Burma and Thailand.
An international team of researchers has reported the discovery of hand and foot prints from Quesang, in the Tibetan Plateau. The fossil impressions, which date to between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago and seem to have been created intentionally, could represent the earliest known art of its kind.
Called parietal art, this form of ancient visual expression typically crops up on cave walls but can also be made on the ground, as appears to be the case for the recent Tibet discovery. The fossil is a series of hand and foot impressions, none of which overlap.
Besides potentially being the oldest known parietal art, the site is the earliest evidence for hominins so high on the Tibetan Plateau, which sits about 12,000 feet above sea level. The team’s work describing the fossilized prints was published this week in Science Bulletin.
When researchers in northern Saudi Arabia found a series of life-size camel sculptures in 2018, they estimated that the artworks dated back some 2,000 years. Now, a new study suggests that this proposed timeframe was off by as much as 6,000 years.
The findings, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, suggest that the so-called Camel Site actually dates to between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago. As Arab News reports, this timeline would likely make the sculptures the world’s oldest surviving large-scale, three-dimensional animal reliefs. In contrast, Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza are 4,500 years old, while England’s Stonehenge was built about 5,000 years ago.