A recent discovery in New Mexico lends credence to the fact that humans were present on the North American continent as far back as 23,000 years ago.
The proof of human existence was found in a set of fossilized footprints found in New Mexico in a lake called the Alkali Flat in White Sands National Park. Numerous footprints were found that dated back from 21,000 to 23,000 years ago. The footprints were naturally preserved on the ancient lakeshore.
The prehistoric footprints are important in American history because they provide a definite timeline for the existence of humans on the continent. Previously, it was thought that humans had only arrived 13,000 - 17000 years ago.
The debate about when people first arrived in America remains ongoing. However, for the majority of scientists, the footprints found in New Mexico are solid evidence of the existence of humans because they are fixed and very precise unlike evidence such as stone tools or bones.
The prehistoric footprints are also evidence that humans lived in North America during the Ice Age and that they might have interacted with Ice Age animals such as the saber-toothed cat, the Columbian mammoth, and others.
Still, scientists wonder about what might have happened to these Ice Age inhabitants who lived 23,000 years ago.
One theory is that these 23,000-year-old humans were the original colonists of the Americas and they were replaced when the ice corridor formed. They were replaced by the second wave of colonists who were the ancestors of modern Native Americans.