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Human Timeline Upended!

Fossilized foot prints at White Sands NM Ntl Park Service via AP

For years scientists believed that the first residents of North America came here from Siberia some 15,000 years ago due to fossils found from the Clovis Period.

Thanks to advances in the human genome sequencing and new DNA data scientists have pushed that date back even further by comparing the DNA of Paleo-Americans with the DNA of Paleo-Siberians to pinpoint the moment when those two human populations diverged. In October 2023, the human timeline was upended when a study was published detailing the discovery of fossilized footprints found in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico that were radiocarbon-dated back 21,000 - 23,000 years by the seeds surrounding them!

The footprints were found on the shore of the long-ago dried up 1600 square mile Lake Otero in what is known as the Tularosa Basin. I grew up in El Paso, Texas and White Sands is a short drive away, so this announcement was of special interest to me. We went on many picnics in the Park and surfed on the sandy dunes. Apart from dunes, it is hard to imagine that there was ever a lake in this dried up Chihuahua Desert, but that is exactly why the footprints were so carefully preserved - the dry, bright white gypsum sand. The basin is surrounded by mountains and forests.

Map of Tularosa Basin in NM By Huff, Glenn F. (United States Geological Survey) - Huff, Glenn F. (2005) "Simulation of Ground-Water Flow in the Basin-Fill Aquifer of the Tularosa Basin, South-Central New Mexico, Predevelopment through 2040" Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5197, United States Geological Survey, Washongton, D.C., fig. 1., Public Domain,
The Tularosa Basin of South-Central New Mexico

You can see that the National Park where the footprints were found is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range which was the home of the Trinity Project for development and testing of the atomic bomb in World War II. The Park is near the "R" in "Tularosa" and the testing area was up on the top of the map in the area of the word "Basin."

Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University in England advises in his paper on the project published in the journal "Science" that the footprints were mostly those of children and teenagers, with some that appear to be those of mothers carrying their children.

There are hundreds of thousands of footprints! Indications are that people inhabited this area for thousands of years. The nearby tribes are consulted whenever Native American lands are studied, and some of the members of the Acoma Tribal Historical Office found the footprints of a ten foot tall, one ton giant sloth and humans in the same level of earth in 2020. This certainly suggests that contrary to prior beliefs, humans and "dinosaurs" might have existed at the same time!

The debate of how humans got from Siberia to North America continues. Was it a land bridge, or by boats? What about the remains of a settlement found in Monte Verde, Chile? A study published in 2015 found that there was shared DNA between Siberians and an indigenous population in the Amazon and people of Australasia (Australia, Papuans and New Guineans). That's a lot of walking from Alaska to Chile or Australia. What motivated these people to move so far so fast (relatively)?

PigPen by Charles M. Schultz -

Now as I think back on the white sand I shook out of my shoes all those years ago, I am reminded of Pig-Pen from the comic strip by Charles Schultz about Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" who maintained that he was not surrounded by a cloud of ordinary dirt, but by "the dust of ancient civilizations." Maybe not such a far-fetched idea!

The things we are learning from genome sequencing and DNA analysis are amazing! I can hardly wait to see what the future brings. How about you? What are you learning? What is amazing you about your family history? Got any Siberian DNA?

Thanks for stopping by again this week! If you'd like some help with your brick wall, send me an email to get a free evaluation and quote!

Yours truly,

Leslie Ryan

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

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