Dozens of ancient footprints, one of which is shown at the dig site on Calvert Island in B.C., have been confirmed as the earliest known of their kind in North America. (University of Victoria via The Canadian Press)

UPDATED: Ancient B.C. footprints confirmed as earliest known in North America

The prints, found on an island on the province’s central coast, are pegged at 13,000 years old

Buried deep below a sandy beach and pressed into soft clay, footprints from an ancient time hold clues to life for some of North America’s early humans.

At least 29 footprints have been identified on Calvert Island in British Columbia and confirmed as the earliest known of their kind on the continent.

Researchers at the University of Victoria’s Hakai Institute published their findings in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday, corroborating earlier indications of the age of the prints at about 13,000 years old.

Lead author Duncan McLaren first reported 12 single footprints in 2015.

The footprints come in at least three shapes and sizes, including at least one child and two adults. They appear to have been left by bare feet that had gathered around a focal point, likely a firepit or hearth, rather than following a path.

Two side-by-side left and right footprints give a picture of a figure standing with feet slightly apart and facing inland, with his or her back to the prevailing winds.

READ MORE: Ancient fossil discovered off coast of Vancouver Island

“The footprints were impressed into a soil just above the paleo-shoreline, possibly by a group of people disembarking from a watercraft and moving toward a drier central activity area,” the journal article says.

Researchers determined the age of the prints by carbon-dating preserved wood embedded in the tracks. The dating puts them in the Pleistocene epoch.

“Fossilized footprints are rarely found in archaeological sites,” McLaren said in an emailed statement.

A single footprint in Chile was found to be more than 14,000 years old, while two tracks in Mexico date back more than 10,000 and 7,000 years ago.

What researchers thought to be a 40,000-year-old trackway in central Mexico has since been attributed to recent quarrying activity, the article says.

Ancient footprints are typically revealed in coastal areas through erosion, making the B.C. samples rare for the way they were found below the surface, in an area where researchers believed there might be ice-aged sediment alongside archeological remains, McLaren said.

“This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that people who used watercraft were able to thrive on the Pacific Coast of Canada at the end of the last ice age,” he wrote.

It also gives new information to the line of archeological research into human migration in the Americas during the last ice age, which McLaren said is in its infancy.

The researchers believe there to be more even more footprints at the Calvert Island site, but are leaving them untouched. They hope future scientists with more advanced technology might glean more answers to pre-historic life on the continent.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Bella Coola sees biggest eulachon run in almost 20 years

Runs have been slowly coming up since 2012

O’Reilly found guilty of manslaughter in 2014 Anahim Lake murders

The court will set a date for sentencing on April 19

B.C., Alberta clash as Kinder Morgan suspends Trans Mountain work

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley promises “serious economic consequences” for B.C.

VIDEO: Moose found licking salt off B.C. man’s pickup truck

Tab Baker was in his garage in Prince George when the small moose gave his truck a clean

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

Alberta man dead after snowmobile collision on B.C. mountain

The incident occurred on Boulder Mountain Friday morning

B.C. parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

Elliot Eurchuk, 16, died at his Oak Bay home Friday, after taking street drugs

16 of 20 fastest improving B.C. schools are public: Fraser Institute

Independent elementary schools remain at top of the chart in think tank’s annual report card

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Pulp mill fined $900,000 for leaking effluent into B.C. lake

Mackenzie Pulp Mill pleaded guilty to depositing deleterious substance into water frequented by fish

B.C.’s 2-year lobbying ban starts May 1

Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists can grant exemptions from the prohibition if public interest

Most Read