UC Berkeley researchers provide proof of humans in North America during Ice Age

November 13, 2023

Geography Professor Dave Wahl UC Berkeley Professor Dave Wahl and Quaternary Paleoecology Lab researcher Marie Champagne co-authored a new paper in Science titled "Independent age estimates resolve the controversy of ancient human footprints at White Sands," which rewrites the history of humans in the Western Hemisphere.

Up to now, the conventional story of the peopling of the Americas has Asians migrating across a land bridge into Alaska during the last glacial maximum and gradually spreading southward across a land never before occupied by humans only after an ice free passage opened around 14,000 years ago. However, new research by Professor Wahl, Champagne and U.S. Geological Survey researchers reaffirms that human footprints found in White Sands National Park, N.M., were between 23,000 and 21,000 years old. It provides seemingly incontrovertible proof that humans were already living in North America during the height of the last Ice Age.

"By removing any doubt that humans have been present in the Western Hemisphere since the last glacial maximum, these findings challenge our fundamental understanding of how and when people arrived in the Americas," Wahl said.

Read about the research in Berkeley News