Footprints put people on Canada’s west coast 13,000 years ago


footprints
FOOT FALL Human footprints on a Canadian island date to around 13,000 years ago. One print (left) revealed toe impressions after digital enhancement (right, near peaked line).

People who reached what’s now Canada’s Pacific coast around 13,000 years ago made some lasting impressions — with their feet.

Beach excavations on Calvert Island, off British Columbia’s coast, revealed 29 human footprints preserved in clay-based sediment, says a team led by archaeologist Duncan McLaren. About 60 centimeters below the sandy surface, the deposits contained the footprints of at least three individuals, the Canada-based researchers report March 28 in PLOS ONE.

Smudged remains of many more footprints surrounded these discoveries. Ancient people walking on the shoreline apparently trampled those footprints and distorted their shapes, the scientists say.

Radiocarbon dating of bits of wood from shore pine trees found in the clay sediment narrowed the age of the footprints from 13,317 to 12,633 years old. Who these footprints belonged to is unknown. Their arrival roughly coincided with the North American appearance of Clovis people, makers of distinctive spearpoints who may have entered the New World via an ice-free, inland route (SN: 5/13/17, p. 8). But stone tools unearthed with the Calvert Island footprints were not made by Clovis people, says McLaren of the Hakai Institute, a research organization in Heriot Bay, and the University of Victoria.

“This discovery places Clovis-age people on the British Columbia coast, far from a so-called ‘ice-free corridor’ and where no Clovis technology has ever been found,” says archaeologist Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon in Eugene. A long-standing idea…

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