The oldest camp site in North America has been discovered where a man, woman, and child had been walking around what was an ancient camp fire. The discovery was found on a remote British Columbia island.
The now fossilized human footprints are believed to be more than 13,000 years old.
The footprints were found on Calvert Island, which is only accessible by boat or sea plane. The island is on British Columbia’s central coast.
The footprints where first discovered in April of last year by Daryl Fedje and Duncan McLaren, both from the Hakai Institute and University of Victoria and are both archaeologists, who were looking for a few stone tools or even some butchered bones. After getting to the bottom of a test pit, Fedje found what looked like a black footprint pressed into the grey clay. Because time had run out on their dig, McLaren decided to fill in the pit and go back next season.
In April of this year, McLaren, Fedje, and a small team returned. After three days of digging, they had a four square meter pit. Fedje had reached the grey clay where he had made the discovery a year earlier. To his surprise, there was not only one, but 12 footprints.
“To see those footprints, it’s really evocative,” McLaren said with amazement. “It’s something we can all relate to because it represents a brief moment of time.”
According to Scientific American, two footprints were side by side, while others pointed in different directions; they were all near a stone-lined hearth.
“You could see individual feet, you could see the heel pads, the toes, the arch of the foot,” Fedje said. “It was just mind-boggling.”
Just when ancient coastal dwellers made these tracks is now the big question. A tiny piece of charcoal found in the first footprint yielded a radiocarbon date of 13,200 years, which suggests that humans walked the shore of Calvert Island not long after the last Ice Age ended along the coast.
“We’re very excited about it,” Fedje said. If the impressions are conclusively dated to 13,200 years ago, they will be the oldest known human footprints in North America.
They would also be just 1,300 years younger than the oldest footprints in the New World, which were found at the site of Monte Verde in Chile, wrote Hakai Magazine.
“We figure that at some point people were hanging out around this fire,” McLaren said. “They left their footprints in the grey clay, and then they were subsequently filled by this black sand, which essentially preserved the footprints.”
According to Huffing Post, the footprints’ sizes indicate they were made by a large adult, likely a man, a smaller adult, believed to be a woman, and a child whose feet would fit a present-day child’s size-seven shoe. McLaren said the footprints illustrate how long people have lived along B.C.’s coast. He said the Calvert Island footprints are 800 years older than human footprints discovered on nearby Haida Gwaii.
“It shows that this place we inhabit has a long history,” said McLaren. “Often in Canada and North America, the history of the land is glossed over as being very recent, but if you look at the archaeology, its showing there’s a very long-term history of occupation and land use going back 13,000 years.”