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New study adds detail to debate over age of ancient footprints found in White Sands NP

Hidden within the seemingly barren expanse of White Sands National Park in New Mexico are human footprints. But these impressions are much more than random tracks: They are ancient vignettes cast in gypsum-rich sand. The footprints tell stories of hunters stalking a giant sloth; a traveler slipping in mud with a child on one hip; children jumping in puddles, splashing in play; and more.

But one question has plagued researchers studying these prints. Exactly how long ago were they made? A paper published in 2021 offered a surprising answer: Humans could have pressed their feet in the sand as early as 21,000 to 23,000 years ago, making the tracks some of the oldest evidence yet found of people in the Americas.

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