The science series NOVA will premiere the one-hour documentary “Ice Age Footprints” on Wednesday, May 25 at 9:00 pm ET/8C on PBS. The film, which will also be available for streaming online at pbs.org/nova, on NOVA’s YouTube channel, and via the PBS Video app, follows archaeologists as they investigate remarkable ancient footprints found in White Sands National Park, New Mexico. For the first time, scientists date the footprints, and if confirmed, their results would indicate that humans were present in North America much earlier than archaeologists previously thought.
These footprints include tracks from mammoths, ground sloths, dire wolves, and camels. Alongside them, though, is something even rarer—footprints of humans that have been buried for thousands of years and are gradually being exposed by wind erosion. The film uses immersive 3-D graphics to bring viewers face to face with some of the creatures that roamed North America during the last Ice Age-animals that went extinct more than 10,000 years ago–while revealing an untold story of human history on the continent.
While the findings may be surprising for some scientists, for many Indigenous people, they are confirmation of long-held beliefs. “The tribes talk about going way back. We all talk about having been here forever,” explains archaeologist and SoA affiliate Dr. Joe Watkins, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, in the film. “We have the evidence. It really does put our footprints firmly into the past here in North America. These are our relatives.”
Ice Age Footprints also features Kim Pasqual-Charlie, Tribal Historic Preservation Board Member of the Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico, who speaks about the significance of the footprints to her community; and Clara Lee Tanner Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Edward Jolie, archeologist and citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, who together with Joe Watkins and archaeologist and SoA affiliate Carol Ellick, investigates some of the ancient technology that might have been used by the Ice Age inhabitants of the area to transport heavy loads, including the meat of giant mammoths.