Human footprints recently discovered off Canada’s Pacific coast may be 13,000 years old, suggesting there was migration to the area during the last ice age.
A report, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, supports previous research that suggests humans migrated from Asia to the Americas during the last ice age – which ended about 11,700 years ago – across what was then a land bridge to North America.
For the study, a team of researchers excavated intertidal beach sediments along the shoreline of Calvert Island, British Columbia, where at the end of the last ice age the sea level was 6 to 10 feet lower than it is today.
In these sediments, the scientists uncovered 29 human footprints of at least three different sizes, which radiocarbon dating estimated to be about 13,000 years old.
“This article details the discovery of footprints on the west coast of Canada with associated radiocarbon dates of 13,000 years before present,” said lead author Duncan McLaren, an archaeologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. “This finding provides evidence of the seafaring people who inhabited this area during the tail end of the last major ice age.”
Measurements and digital photographic analyses – when a computer or electronic device examines an image to find useful information – showed the footprints likely belonged to two adults and a child, all of whom were barefoot.
The team believes additional excavations with more advanced methods will uncover more human footprints in the area and help researchers identify the patterns of early human settlement on the west coast of North America.
The research was funded by the Tula Foundation, a nonprofit focused on the intersection of science and education in British Columbia as well as health concerns in rural Guatemala.
Members of the foundation participated in meetings regarding the overall scope of the project but had no role in the preparation of the report.