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Human Footprints Could be Oldest Ever Found in North America


Researchers have discovered impressions of human footprints buried at a shoreline archaeological site on Calvert Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Charcoal found with the prints has been radiocarbon dated to 13,200 years before present. Adjacent samples were dated to 2,000 years ago, and additional samples are currently being processed to hone the chronology. If the footprints can be conclusively dated to 13,200 years ago, they will be the oldest known footprints in North America, and the second oldest in the Americas after the Monte Verde site in Chile.

With help from a small team of researchers, Hakai Institute and University of Victoria archaeologists Daryl Fedje and Duncan McLaren excavated an area just below the high tideline, unearthing a dozen human footprints impressed in clay.

Sea level changes since the end of the last ice age have drowned most historic coastal settlements, but on Calvert Island, Fedje describes a, “…relatively stable shoreline history, which is very unusual.” Duncan McLaren explains that this unique shoreline stability results in, “very thick, layer cake-like archaeological sites.”

Fedje added that for archaeologists, “…it is new to us in terms of focusing in and seeing the people part of the picture, the cultural side, the action part, which is something we just do not get to see from this early time.”

Hakai Institute is a research and post-graduate teaching institution that promotes field research at remote locations on the British Columbia coast. The Institute is also involved in community-based initiatives for fostering leadership and technical capacity, working in particular with neighbouring First Nations.

For more information and interviews, contact:
Josh Silberg, Science Communications Coordinator, Hakai Institute: or 604-512-8949


B-roll footage of the dig can be downloaded here with the password "simple":

B-roll aerial footage of Calvert Island can be found on our B-Roll page.

The photos below can be used to accompany this story. Please use the credit indicated.

The location of the Hakai Institute, Calvert Island on Google Maps:

View of the dig site on Calvert Island where the footprints were found. Credit: Joanne McSporran
Hakai Institute and University of Victoria archeologists Daryl Fedje (background, in red) and Duncan McLaren (foreground, in orange) at the dig site. Credit: Joanne McSporran
One of the footprints in the waterlogged clay. Credit: Joanne McSporran
The same footprint from above, but stained blue by photo enhancement to show the outline more clearly. Credit: Joanne McSporran
One of the footprints being prepared for transportation. Credit: Joanne McSporran