World news in brief

10,000 year old footprints identified in New Mexico, Neolithic assemblage found in Norway, and AMS dating of Upper Palaeolithic cave art in Spain.

Human trackways

A set of human tracks created over 10,000 years ago have been found at White Sands National Park, New Mexico. Covering more than 1.5km, showing both the outward and the return journeys, they represent the longest double human trackway known from the Late Pleistocene. Study of the footprints, recently published in Quaternary Science Reviews (, revealed that they were made by an adolescent or small adult female who was carrying a young child in at least one direction, with footprints showing where the child was put down on three separate occasions. In between the two journeys, which were separated by several hours, there is evidence that both a giant ground sloth and a Columbian mammoth crossed the human tracks, although neither the human nor the mammoth prints seem to show any changes in behaviour related to predator/prey awareness.

Icy assemblage

Image: Glacier Archaeology Program, Innlandet County Council.

Melting ice in the Jotunheimen Mountains, Norway, has revealed archaeological evidence of activity at the site covering several millennia. Amid the assemblage discovered at Langfonne ice patch were almost 300 faunal finds, mostly composed of reindeer bones and antlers, in addition to 68 arrows, some with arrowheads still attached, confirming the popularity of the area for hunting reindeer in the past. The oldest of these arrows has been radiocarbon dated to c.4100 BC, while the most recent dates to AD 1300. The results of the research are presented in a recent paper in The Holocene (, which considers the nature of archaeological assemblages frozen in ice patches. This project has revealed that their stratigraphy is less reliable than was previously assumed, due to the ice melting and refreezing several times over the years.

Dating a decorated cave

Radiocarbon Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dating of material from the Sala de las Pinturas at Ojo Guareña (Burgos, Spain) has confirmed that the earliest art in the cave dates to the Upper Palaeolithic, and that human groups continued to use the decorated cave over multiple periods until c.1,000 years ago. The study, recently published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (, used charcoal to determine that the black paintings, the oldest in the cave, were created by hunter-gatherers c.13,000 years ago. The cave appears to have held a special significance for many groups at different points over the next 12,000 years, with visitors throughout the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, and medieval periods, many of whom would have seen the Palaeolithic drawings that the early artists left behind.

TEXT: Amy Brunskil.