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human trackway fossilized footprints

What is a trackway? Above are fossilized footprints from ancient humans in New Mexico. | PBS NewsHour Extra.

April 6, 2022

What's A Trackway? Ancient Footprints Raise Questions About When Humans First Came to North America


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When humans first populated North America and how they arrived has long been a matter of spirited debate. A recent study detailing what archeologists believe are the oldest known footprints in the United States is sparking new questions and upending long-held beliefs. 

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Discussion Questions: Trackways and Ancient Movements

  1. What is a trackway? How have these changed how historians understand when people first came to the Americas?
  2. Where was this discovery made?
  3. How did the prints survive so long, and how can researchers determine how old they are?
  4. Why does this evidence change researchers’ understanding of when people first came to North America?
  5. What might the lives of the people who left the prints been like? How can the researchers tell?

Focus Questions

How do scientists and historians use physical evidence to tell stories about the past? How do they determine what is true or not true?

Media literacy: What did researchers claim with certainty about their methods and discoveries, and what did they say required further research?

Additional Resources
  • For another story on discoveries that are changing ideas about human prehistory, see this story.
  • For more resources on indigenous peoples and ancient civilizations, visit Share My Lesson's Indigenous Peoples collection.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Classroom.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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