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The age of these ancient traces in White Sands, New Mexico, was cast in doubt in 2021.

Now, a new team, including some of the same scientists from 2021, has carried out more rigorous dating, confirming the controversial conclusion.

The footprints were declared to be at least 21,500 years old.

Dating the footprints 21,000 to 23,000 years ago, the original dating was based on radiocarbon dating of the seeds of an aquatic plant called Ruppia cirrhosa (spiral ditch grass) found embedded in fossilized prints.

"We were confident in our original ages and the strong geologic, hydrologic and stratigraphic evidence, but we knew that independent chronological control was critical," said Geologist Kathleen Springer of the US Geological Survey (USGS), who led the research.

"Our new ages, combined with strong geologic, hydrologic and stratigraphic evidence, clearly support the conclusion that humans existed in North America during the last Glacial Maximum.