A shocking new discovery has revealed that the oldest human footprint in the Americas dates back 15,600 years ago and was found in Chile.
The study, published in Plos One, reveals that the 10.2-inch footprint is possible evidence of pre-Clovis people in the area, something that was long thought to be untrue.
"Based on the evidence, we conclude that the trackmaker might well have been a bare-footed adult human," the study's abstract reads. "This finding, along with the presence of lithic artifacts in the same sedimentary levels, might represent further evidence for a pre-Clovis South American colonization of northern Patagonia, as originally proposed for the nearby Monte Verde site."
The footprint itself is interesting, Dr. Karen Moreno, Director of the Masters in Paleontology program at the Austral University of Chile, said, highlighting its well-defined features. "It has the morphology of the big toe, and the well-defined lateral fingers and all the disturbance that was made in the substrate, is consistent with what would happen to anyone who tries to walk in the mud," Dr. Moreno said in a statement on the university's website.
"The trace fossil is associated with megafauna bones, plant material and unifacial lithic tools," the study's abstract adds.
Discovered in December 2010 by vertebrate paleontologist Leonora Salvadores, it took several years for Dr. Moreno and her team to verify that the footprint was in fact, human. They also had to perform carbon dating on the print to provide "detailed analysis of the Pilauco ichnite and associated sedimentary structures."
It has been assigned to Hominipes modernus, which is "usually related to species of the genus Homo, especially Homo sapiens," the statement added.
Kevin Hatala, an assistant professor of biology at Chatham University, told Live Science that the study "adds to a growing body of fossil and archaeological evidence suggesting that humans dispersed throughout the Americas earlier than many people have previously thought."
The footprint now resides in the Pleistocene Museum in Osorno, Chile.