Humans Walked Along the Beaches of British Columbia 13,000 Years Ago

Off the shore of Calvert Island in B.C., Duncan McLaren of the University of Victoria & Hakai Institute and team discovered 29 footprints about 60 ccm below the surface of the sand. They initially found the place in ’14 and excavated it between ’15 and ’16. They published their findings several days ago in PLoS One. Adjacent clay and wound were radiocarbon dated to be 13,317 to 12,633 years old. This makes the footprints the oldest evidence of humans on Canada’s northern Pacific Coast.  See there is small of evidence for human movement along the Northern Pacific Coast during the last ice age. There are several archaeological sites this far north and none are this old.



Around 13,000 years ago, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet was receding. Exposed areas called refugia supported plants and animals. These corridors of thawed soft land likely provided ways in which people made their way south along the exposed edges of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet after crossing the Beringia Land Bridge… Kind of like high traffic throughways in a otherwise iced land. For these reasons shorelines are great places to track human behavior.

Track #20, showing a slip mark. (Duncan McLaren)
Track #20, showing a slip mark. (Duncan McLaren)

Walking barefoot, the footprints belong to three individuals. One was a child, while the other was either a woman with a larger foot or a man with a smaller one. Lastly, the third person was likely a older teenager or small adult. Some of the footprints show that they slipped and slid while walking across the wet, slippery clay of the beach. They walked in several different directions, not all together in a straight line but the general direction is toward north or northwest motion up the beach.



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