Mammoth bones and 'ghost' footprints add to heated debate about first humans in North America

Mammoth bones and “ghost” footprints of ancient people are the latest evidence in a scientific debate about when the first humans reached the Americas.

Mammoth bones and “ghost” footprints of ancient people are the latest evidence in a scientific debate about when the first humans reached the Americas. 

The fossilized bones, in particular, could suggest people lived in North America tens of thousands of years before the generally accepted date for the arrival of the first Native Americans of about 10,000 B.C.

Researchers say radiocarbon dates of chemicals in the mammoth bones, from a mother and her calf, indicate the animals lived about 37,000 years ago in what’s now New Mexico. Patterns of fractures on the bones show they were butchered by humans, who must therefore have lived there at the same time, the researchers added. But the findings are disputed by some other scientists, who say the fractures could have been caused naturally.

The latest “ghost” footprints, meanwhile, were found a few weeks ago on an Air Force missile range in a desert in Utah. Scientists think they’re about 12,000 years old, but this is only the second time that such footprints have been found, and they support the discovery last year of ghost footprints in New Mexico thought to be at least 21,000 years old — although that finding, too, is disputed.

A footprint discovered on an archaeological site is marked with a pin flag on the Utah Test and Training Range on July 18, 2022.R. Nial Bradshaw / U.S. Air ForceThe mammoth bones at what’s called the Hartley site in northern New Mexico, on rocks high above a tributary to the Rio Grande, are hailed as the most conclusive evidence so far that humans arrived in the Americas up to 50,000 years ago walking over a “land bridge” between what are now Siberia and Alaska. 

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/mammoth-bones-ghost-footprints-add-heated-debate-first-humans-north-am-rcna40238


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