Scientists found an ancient human footprint in Chile dating at least 15,600 years ago, making it the earliest evidence of human presence in the Americas.
It took more than a decade of digging at the site, but archaeologists have finally confirmed their discovery of the oldest human footprint ever found in the region.
Oldest Human Footprint In The Americas
According to a news release in Phys Org, the archaeologists found the print at the Pilauco excavation in the city of Osorno in southern Chile.
The team have been digging at the site since 2007. Then, a student from the Universidad Austral of Chile first discovered the footprint back in 2010, according to a report from Reuters.
After the discovery, researchers worked continuously to determine the true nature and age of the footprint. It took years for the team to verify that the footprint actually belonged to a human as well as to confirm its actual age.
"There are other human footprints in the Americas, but none has been dated as far back," said study author and geologist Mario Pino in a report from El Austral, adding that the team used radiocarbon dating techniques on the organic plant material where the footprint was found.
Findings, detailed in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, revealed that the print appears to have belonged to a barefoot man who weighed about 155 pounds (70 kilograms). He is part of the species Hominipes modernus, which is a relative of modern humans.
Authors say that the evidence of human populations in South America during the late Pleistocene is still controversial, but it's also gaining more acceptance as the discoveries pile up in recent years.
Chile Revealed To Be An Archaeological Hotspot
Many valuable fossils have been unearthed in Chile, highlighting the historical significance of the country to archaeologists. Previously, scientists found a human footprint south of Osorno that's been dated to around 1,000 years more recent than the new print.
Karen Moreno, study author and a paleontologist with the Universidad Austral, told Reuters that bones of animals have also been discovered in the same site, including a number of ancient elephant fossils.
"Little by little in South America we're starting to find sites with evidence of human presence, but this is this oldest in the Americas," said Moreno, adding that it's the first evidence of humans older than 12,000 years in the Americas.