EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — We all hope to make our mark on this world, and the recent announcement that fossilized human footprints that date back more than 20,000 years were uncovered at White Sands National Park is making us take a step back from looking ahead to the continued pandemic to think about the places, cultures, and creatures that came before us.

“Millions of prints are put down on the world  everyday but very few of those last,” David Bustos, Resource Program Manager at White Sands National Park, tells KTSM 9 News.

The fossilized footprints were found buried under many levels of gypsum soil on a large playa. 

The revelation is a massive achievement — in both science and anthropology — that confirms the presence of early man among some of the era’s most intriguing beasts. 

“Our trackways extend for long distances, some of them for over a mile. We have camel prints that go for over two miles, but because they’re so long, you can see many interactions between the track maker,” says Bustos. “So the mammoth, and the people, and the camels, there are many places where they walked back and forth, or crossed over each other,” he adds.

Researchers say the discovery illustrates the scientific process, but it also illuminates anthropological phenomena pertaining to indiginous cultures of the region.

The discovery at White Sands means that members of the Mescalero Apache tribe were living in the area much earlier than originally thought, which confirms statements made by indigenous tribes for generations — they’ve been here since before what science thought was the beginning up until last week.

KTSM reached out to the Mescalero Apache tribe and will update this story accordingly. 

Archeologists say that the discovery really cannot be overstated because it quite literally changes the timeline on North American human habitation.

NPS via AP

“This means that people in North America, maybe, were here much earlier than we believe,” says Fumi Arakawa,” Professor and Museum Director at New Mexico State University’s Department of Anthropology tells KTSM. 

“So this is just a wonderful discovery.”

For more information on the fossilized footprints, click here; for our complete coverage on New Mexico, click here.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.