Age constraints on alleged "footprints" preserved in the Xalnene Tuff near Puebla, Mexico

Joshua M. Feinberg, Paul R. Renne, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Michael R. Waters, Patricia Ochoa-Castillo, Mario Perez-Campa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Impressions in a basaltic tuff located around Valsequillo Reservoir near Puebla, Mexico, have been interpreted as human and animal footprints along an ancient lakeshore, and are cited as evidence of the presence of humans in North America at 40 ka B.P. In this paper, we present new data that challenge this interpretation. Paleomagnetic analyses of the Xalnene Tuff, and lavas from the volcano from which it erupted, yield fully reversed magnetic polarities, indicating that the tuff was deposited prior to the last geomagnetic reversal (the Brunhes-Matuyama ca. 790 ka). 40Ar/39Ar dating of Xalnene lapilli and lava from the source volcano yields indistinguishable ages of ∼1.3 Ma, consistent with a period of reversed magnetic polarity (C1r.2r). Additional paleomagnetic measurements of individual millimeter-size lapilli indicate that the pyroclastic grains within the Xalnene Tuff have not been disturbed or rotated since their initial deposition, thereby ruling out the possibility that the tuff was reworked by wave action along the shores of an ancient lacustrine environment. This and other evidence indicate that the marks observed in the stone quarry site are not human ichnofossils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-270
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


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