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

Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire grows to 340 hectares

BC Wildfire is on scene of what is being called the Good Creek blaze

Highway 97 closed again due to wildfire

Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland is being shut down due to wildfires

Progress made on fires above West Kelowna

A cluster of three fires are burning above West Kelowna

Wildfire near Peachland puts 150 people on evacuation alert

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

Wildfire near Peachland puts 150 people on evacuation alert

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

On the street: Kelowna reacts to 2018 wildfires

BC Wildfire is working with local departments to battle multiple blazes near Kelowna.

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

No decision on B.C. school stabbing suspect’s mental fitness for trial

The BC Review Board could not determine whether Gabriel Klein, 21, is fit to stand trial

Update: Size of large fire near Keremeos unknown

Two significant fires are burning in the Lower Similkameen, smoke can be seen as far away as Osoyoos

Penticton bans open burning

Temporary fire ban takes effect noon Friday

Man shot dead in Oliver home

RCMP major crime unit investigating after 58-year-old man was shot and killed

Syrian refugees fear for lives at home

Former head of Salmon Arm Refugee Coalition says Canada should be doing more

Shuswap’s first Syrian refugee wants world to stop dictatorship

Six of nine refugee families remain in Salmon Arm, all settling well ‘in paradise’

Most Read