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

Good attendance at picnic for Autism Awareness Month

Looking for community input for a similar event next year

CRD encourages residents to prepare for spring melt

High stream flows, flooding, debris flows, high water tables or landslides could occur so residents should be prepared

Increase in property crime, caution urged handling street drugs

The weekly police report for the South Cariboo area

New Parkside exhibit full of feathers

‘You don’t expect miracles but this to me is miraculous’

Smoke between Gateway and 100 Mile House

(UPDATE: April 23, 10:10 a.m.) 100 Mile Fire Rescue at the scene until 7 p.m.

VIDEO: B.C. man recognized for spinning basketball on toothbrush

Abbotsford man holds world record for longest duration of time of 60.5 seconds

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Former Social Credit MLA dies at 88

Lyall Hanson was mayor of Vernon in 1981 and moved to provincial politics from 1986-96

Police searching for escaped prisoner in B.C.

Ralph Whitfield Morris, 83, is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder

B.C. set to introduce pot laws, but years of fine tuning likely: minister

Legislation regulating recreational marijuana is expected to be introduced Thursday

Canadian driver uses lawn chair as driver’s seat, gets caught

Ontario police detachment caught the male driver during a traffic stop

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

VIDEO: Vets, volunteers set up vaccination station for sick bunnies

Volunteers, vets try to stop spread of lethal virus

If you see a dog in a hot car, don’t break in: SPCA

People are being discouraged from smashing windows to free animals. The SPCA has tips on what else you can do.

Most Read