In a western corner of White Sands, scientists recently found a human print inside a ground sloth’s paw marks, they report in a new analysis of the park’s tracks in the journal Science Advances.“Thousands and thousands of trackways” crisscross the area, said Vince Santucci, a senior palaeontologist with the National Park Service and an author of the new report.
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This survey revealed the first collection of human tracks: 27 individual footprints that vanished into a dune.
Santucci and his colleagues measured the stride and the gait to predict where beneath the dune the next print should be and excavated the dune.
“Having these human tracks that are interacting with Pleistocene megafauna – it’s never been seen before.” What’s more, this suggests a minimum age of the prints.
They are at least 11,000 years old, as ancient as the last ground sloth.
Yet National Park Service paleontologists struggled to determine the age of the human prints using geologic techniques like carbon dating.
“The dates are coming up all over the place,” Santucci said.
In 2016, they invited experts from around the world to help examine the tracks.