The contentious argument regarding the first humans in North America is fueled by mammoth bones and “ghost” footsteps.

The most recent evidence in the scientific argument over when the first humans arrived in the Americas includes mammoth bones and ghostly human footsteps.

Particularly the petrified bones may point to human habitation in North America tens of thousands of years prior to the usually assumed arrival of the first Native Americans in the region about 10,000 B.C.

According to researchers, radiocarbon tests of chemicals in the mammoth bones from a mother and her calf show the animals lived in what is now New Mexico about 37,000 years ago. The bones’ fracture patterns indicate that they were butchered by humans, who must have been been living in the area at the time because of this, the researchers stated. Other scientists, however, contest the results and assert that the cracks might have occurred spontaneously.

Meanwhile, the most recent ghost footprints were found a few weeks ago on an Air Force missile range in a Utah desert. This is just the second time that such footprints have been discovered, according to scientists, and they support the finding of ghost footprints in New Mexico last year, which were considered to be at least 21,000 years old, though that claim is also under debate.

A footprint discovered on an archaeological site is marked with a pin flag on the Utah Test and Training Range on July 18, 2022.

The Hartley site in northern New Mexico, where the mammoth bones were discovered on rocks high above a branch of the Rio Grande, is heralded as the clearest indication yet that people crossed a land bridge from what is now Siberia to Alaska to reach the Americas up to 50,000 years ago.

The fractures on them, according to the researchers, were brought about by multiple strikes with sharp instruments during their intentional butchering. They are confident in their dating and interpretation of the fractures. Additionally, they claim there is proof that several of the bones were cooked using a selective use of fire.

Paleontologist Timothy Rowe, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, said, “I think it’s a rock-solid radiocarbon date.” Skeptics will scrutinize everything, but I believe we ticked all the boxes.

a study of the mammoth bones published last month in the publication Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution is the primary work of Rowe.

He said that similar-aged butchery sites in Europe and Asia have the same unique fractures and microscopic flakes of bone left over from the butchering process: Nobody would blink if this location were in northern Siberia.

The top rib shows a fracture from blunt force impact; the middle rib shows a puncture wound, probably made by a tool; the bottom rib shows chopping marks.

Other recent discoveries, such as the human footprints at White Sands National Park in New Mexico and what are thought to be stone tools manufactured 33,000 years ago in a cave in northern Mexico, bolster the hypothesis that the mammoths were killed by early people.

Other scientists, however, disagree with the theory and the supporting data. Some scientists disagree with the White Sands footprints’ age and believe the artifacts from Mexico are actually naturally pointed pebbles rather than tools.

They further contest that only humans could have created the fractures in the mammoth bones, suggesting that a landslide or other natural occurrence may have been to blame.

According to anthropology Andre Costopoulos, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton who has uploaded an detailed online examination of the most recent research, the patterns of fractures on those mammoth bones at that location may clearly be attributed to humans. However, they are not always indicative of a human presence.

Because other potential explanations need to be checked out first and haven’t been, he said, we don’t yet have conclusive evidence.

Another issue with the Hartley site is the lack of recognizable stone implements. According to the experts, those who murdered the mammoths may not have employed sophisticated stone tools, but rather simple implements that may have been mistaken for natural rocks or bones.

A mix of ribs, broken cranial bones, a molar, bone fragments, and stone cobbles that belonged to mammoths were excavated in New Mexico. It was preserved beneath the adult mammoths skull and tusks.

However, other experts claim that there is no proof for this and that even the most rudimentary humans might be expected to have had more advanced tools at this period.

There is evidence from Africa, Europe, and the Far East that Homo sapiens began using sophisticated stone tools around 47,000 years ago, so their absence at the Hartley site is important, according to archaeologist Ben Potter, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

He stated in an email that he is not persuaded by the most recent research on the mammoth bones and the notion that it demonstrates how long ago mankind first arrived in the Americas. Everything is conceivable. He added that all we need is proof to back up the assertion. I don’t believe they have enough evidence yet, definitely not at this location.

Although some scientists are more certain, others may be hesitant to accept the idea that some humans may have landed in the Americas as long as 50,000 years ago.

Spencer Lucas, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, said the research appears to be quite thorough. When will the archaeological profession start to smell the coffee? There is a ton of evidence, he claimed.

I’m not claiming this is the conclusive piece of evidence, but with the White Sands footprints and the Mexico site, as well as the other mounting data, it’s hard for me to believe that the New World wasn’t inhabited by humans before 20,000 years ago.

(August 4, 2022, 6:34 p.m. ET) CORRECTION: The employment of Ben Potter at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was incorrect in a previous version of this article. He is a professor there right now, not in the past.