webinar register page

Webinar banner
Tracking the First Americans across the White Sands presentation by archaeologist Dr. Vance T. Holliday
The question of when people first arrived in the Americas, based on scientific evidence, has been argued for decades and even centuries. For many years the conventional answer was about 13,000 years ago with the appearance of people who made distinctive artifacts called Clovis points (named for a famous archaeological site near Clovis, New Mexico). Other sites have been proposed as being older than Clovis. A few early occupations ca. 14,000 to ca. 16,000 years old were about the oldest well-documented sites accepted by most (but not all) archaeologists.

The White Sands locality changed that for many archaeologists. The site provides convincing evidence that humans were in what is now southern New Mexico between 23,000 and 21,000 years ago. That is the oldest obvious case we have. Human activity in the form of footprints is quite clear and numerous and the dating is solid. At other sites considered older than Clovis, often there are debates over the age or presence of humans, which is usually based on interpretations of broken rocks or bones as tools. The time range for the tracks at White Sands is significant because it puts people in the Americas during the last Ice Age, which means they were likely here sooner, before the last Ice Age covered essentially all of Canada from coast to coast maybe 25,000+ years ago.

Dec 15, 2022 07:00 PM in Arizona

Webinar logo
* Required information


Vance T. Holliday, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Anthropology and Geosciences @University of Arizona
Dr. Holliday holds degrees in anthropology (University of Texas at Austin) and museum science (Texas Tech University), and a PhD in geological sciences (University of Colorado, Boulder). He was on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Geography Department and the University of Arizona Anthropology and Geosciences departments before retiring this year. His research career began on the Great Plains, reconstructing and interpreting the landscapes and environments in which the earliest North American occupants lived and how those conditions evolved during the Paleoindian period. After arriving at the UA he became Director of the Argonaut Archaeological Research Fund, which is devoted to research on the archaeology and geoarchaeology of the Paleoindian period in the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico. He also has been part of an international project focused on the Upper Paleolithic archaeology and paleoenvironments of southwestern Russia and central Ukraine.
White Sands site 2
Human footprints found during archaeological excavations