Dozens of ancient footprints, one of which is shown at the dig site on Calvert Island in B.C., have been confirmed as the earliest known of their kind in North America. (University of Victoria via The Canadian Press)

UPDATED: Ancient B.C. footprints confirmed as earliest known in North America

The prints, found on an island on the province’s central coast, are pegged at 13,000 years old

Buried deep below a sandy beach and pressed into soft clay, footprints from an ancient time hold clues to life for some of North America’s early humans.

At least 29 footprints have been identified on Calvert Island in British Columbia and confirmed as the earliest known of their kind on the continent.

Researchers at the University of Victoria’s Hakai Institute published their findings in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday, corroborating earlier indications of the age of the prints at about 13,000 years old.

Lead author Duncan McLaren first reported 12 single footprints in 2015.

The footprints come in at least three shapes and sizes, including at least one child and two adults. They appear to have been left by bare feet that had gathered around a focal point, likely a firepit or hearth, rather than following a path.

Two side-by-side left and right footprints give a picture of a figure standing with feet slightly apart and facing inland, with his or her back to the prevailing winds.

READ MORE: Ancient fossil discovered off coast of Vancouver Island

“The footprints were impressed into a soil just above the paleo-shoreline, possibly by a group of people disembarking from a watercraft and moving toward a drier central activity area,” the journal article says.

Researchers determined the age of the prints by carbon-dating preserved wood embedded in the tracks. The dating puts them in the Pleistocene epoch.

“Fossilized footprints are rarely found in archaeological sites,” McLaren said in an emailed statement.

A single footprint in Chile was found to be more than 14,000 years old, while two tracks in Mexico date back more than 10,000 and 7,000 years ago.

What researchers thought to be a 40,000-year-old trackway in central Mexico has since been attributed to recent quarrying activity, the article says.

Ancient footprints are typically revealed in coastal areas through erosion, making the B.C. samples rare for the way they were found below the surface, in an area where researchers believed there might be ice-aged sediment alongside archeological remains, McLaren said.

“This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that people who used watercraft were able to thrive on the Pacific Coast of Canada at the end of the last ice age,” he wrote.

It also gives new information to the line of archeological research into human migration in the Americas during the last ice age, which McLaren said is in its infancy.

The researchers believe there to be more even more footprints at the Calvert Island site, but are leaving them untouched. They hope future scientists with more advanced technology might glean more answers to pre-historic life on the continent.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ladysmith Interact club students inspired and inspiring

Ladysmith Secondary School group making a difference in their community

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

Mount Washington opening for winter season this weekend

The resort’s original opening day was delayed due to lack of snow

VIDEO: Kitten rescued from under school bus in Duncan

School staff have affectionately called kitten “Axle”

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Windstorm topples tree onto townhouse in Nanaimo

Heavy winds have thousands of B.C. Hydro customers without power

Most Read