2,500-year-old footprints of people, dogs found in Arizona

I don’t quite have it in me yet to do a research-intensive post but I can’t stand to be out for three days in a row, especially since you have all been so incredibly solicitous of my health. Thank you so much for your wonderfully supportive comments, good wishes, wise advice and even recipes. :thanks:

Archaeologists excavating the site of a new highway to be built along Interstate 10 outside Tucson, Arizona, have discovered footprints left by a Native American farming community 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. The prints of men, women, children and dogs were left in the mud during a wet day. The mud dried into a solid crust and then a few days later a flash flood inundated the area with a layer of sandy silt that preserved the prints in perpetuity.

The prints are so extensive and clear that it’s possible to trace people’s movements during the course of the day. The imprints of irrigation ditches have also survived, and the business of the print groupings suggest the adults were working assiduously to manage the irrigation system during heavy rain or a rise in the nearby Santa Cruz River. They walked from one irrigation gate to another, building or flattening earthwork dams to direct the extra water to their maize plants. There are prints of an adult walking next to a child and marks left when the adult picked up the child before putting him or her back down. There are prints of adults walking to the irrigation canals while children and a dog follow them.

While far older footprints have been found in North America (ca. 13,000 years old), these are likely the oldest ever discovered north of Mexico in the Southwest, and they are the earliest evidence of formal farming in the US Southwest.

The ancient civilization that lived here represents what archaeologists call the early agricultural period, a time even before people in the region had developed ceramics.

“It’s a transition era from a lifestyle defined by hunter-gatherers to a settling down,” said Jerome Hesse, with SWCA Environmental Consultants.

Exactly how the people here lived their lives or organized their society is unknown, but Hesse said they likely lived at least part of the year at this and other sites in the region, cultivating crops in irrigated fields.

So far 4,300 square feet of the site have been exposed, and there’s likely more to be found, but time is not on archaeology’s side. The construction project will not be delayed or moved and it will destroy this unique discovery. In order to preserve what they can of this treasure, archaeologists have taken latex and epoxy molds of specific footprints, and the site is being documented virtually with high-resolution 3D models.

Here are a few of the models for you to explore. Keep an eye on the Southwest Archaeology blog for more to come.

Sunset Mesa Footprints
by Doug Gann
on Sketchfab

Sunset Mesa Footprint
by Doug Gann
on Sketchfab

Sunset Mesa Footprints
by Doug Gann
on Sketchfab

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16 Comments »

Comment by Rebecca
2016-01-28 01:43:37

Those images are amazing! So glad you’re feeling well enough to post. I hope you’re able to enjoy food and coffee again soon.

 
Comment by Tom
2016-01-28 04:53:59

Very cool and also glad you were able to post today! All hail the :chicken: soup!

 
Comment by dearieme
2016-01-28 05:29:32

Nasty bugger, flu. Keep hydrated and carry on.

Nice tale about the footprints, but is there any sign that one Indian walked in another’s footprints, eh? What did I read as a child where that featured? Fenimore Cooper?

 
Comment by G.B.A.
2016-01-28 05:52:57

Nice to see you back up on your horse a bit and feeling better. Stay strong. G

 
Comment by Virginia Burton
2016-01-28 06:11:08

You’re a brave soul to entertain us even when sick. Thank you!

 
Comment by rita Roberts
2016-01-28 08:32:18

Thanks for a brilliant post. Nice to see you are back with us again and feeling much better. But still, don’t overdo it and keep taking the pills/medication.!!

 
Comment by Genaro Prieto
2016-01-28 08:42:21

Who is the ‘phantom girl of Siberia’? Mystery surrounds identity of girl who appears in dozens of photographs taken in Russian city 100 years ago

 
Comment by bort
2016-01-28 11:36:37

Much pawprint
Very native
Such historical
wow

 
Comment by mike
2016-01-28 11:43:25

Welcome back! Regarding your recent illness, when will we see a post by you on the great flu pandemic of a century ago??

 
Comment by Mary
2016-01-28 12:10:41

Continue to wish you feeling normal soon. Thank you for the gift of this story. I truly wish we could keep this place intact. Modern man can be so destructive.
.

 
Comment by Katherine Dhalle
2016-01-28 12:29:29

Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on how you are doing, and for sharing this new post with us. Stay on the road to recovery, and don’t overdo it along the way.

 
Comment by Shelley
2016-01-28 12:56:37

Glad you are a little better, but don’t rush it! Joining the throngs chorusing “you are my favorite blogger” – by far, I might add! Take care!

 
Comment by Classof65
2016-01-28 19:15:09

Hope you’re feeling much better.

Too bad the highway project cannot be delayed while the archeologists gather all info possible.

 
Comment by CinTam
2016-01-28 21:22:03

So glad to see that you have improved enough to post this very interesting article. Hope you continue to feel better! :yes:

 
Comment by Petrea Burchard
2016-01-28 23:09:22

I do wish we could keep all the old traces. I much prefer archaeology to progress. Thanks for the story. Footprints. So tangible, like messages sent to us through time.

 
Comment by Annie Delyth
2016-01-30 18:23:18

What? Delay construction of a highway? Are you mad? Civilization as we know will cease to exist. Oh, wait, that might not be a bad idea. There is something wrong with a culture who worships cars and roads more than they respect evidence of our ancestors (by “our” I mean all of us). We all can learn about our history through places like this. I kinda wonder if any of those footprints might have been made by someone I am related to. Never know. Some of my ancestors were from somewhere down that way; don’t know if they went back that far, though. Glad you are feeling better, livius.

 
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