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How long have humans occupied the Americas?

Humans have been around for over 200,000 years, but for most of our history, it is believed humans have not roamed the Americas.
How long have humans occupied the Americas?
Posted at 1:03 PM, Oct 06, 2023

There has long been evidence that humans first stepped foot in the Americas 14,000 years ago, crossing a land bridge into Alaska and migrating to the south. 

There is now confirmation that humans arrived in the Americas thousands of years prior. 

A research team led by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Berkeley released findings this week that humans were in North America at least 21,000 years ago. 

In 2021, the researchers released initial findings that footprints found in New Mexico were dated from 21,000-23,000 years ago. Using two different techniques, researchers have grown more confident of the footprints' age. 

The footprints were found in the same area where the Clovis culture once roamed. Evidence of this human population dates back 13,000 years in New Mexico. 

"When the original paper was published in 2021, the authors were very cautious about claiming a paradigm shift, which is what this is all about," said study co-author David Wahl, a UC Berkeley adjunct associate professor of geography and a USGS scientist. "I mean, if people were here 7,000 years prior to the Clovis culture, why don't we see more evidence?"

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To determine the age of the footprints, researchers used radiocarbon dating of conifer pollen. 

“Pollen samples also helped us understand the broader environmental context at the time the footprints were made,” Wahl said. “The pollen in the samples came from plants typically found in cold and wet glacial conditions, in stark contrast with pollen from the modern playa, which reflects the desert vegetation found there today.”

A consensus of scientists says humans evolved in Africa over 200,000 years ago. There is fossil evidence of humans in Israel up to 100,000 years ago. The Natural History Museum of the U.K. said there is evidence of humans in western Europe as early as 54,000 years ago.

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