2022 Video: In-Depth Reporting - Silver

Ice Age Footprints

A NOVA/GBH Production by Windfall Films Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for PBS
May 25, 2022

Thousands of ancient footprints left by Ice Age humans and animals stretch for miles across the blinding white landscape of New Mexico’s White Sands National Park. The prints capture moments when humans crossed paths with now-extinct Ice Age beasts, including mammoths, enormous ground sloths, dire wolves, and camels. Tracks usually disappear soon after they are made, but in a place like White Sands, where the chemistry is just right, the tracks can last for thousands of years, hidden beneath the dunes. A team of experts is now investigating how these tracks could show new evidence of people who lived on the North American continent earlier than archaeologists had previously known. They could help provide answers to the questions: when and how did humans first arrive in North America? Judge Blythe Terrell, supervising editor at Gimlet Media, said the filmmakers did a masterful job covering the complexities of the science while keeping viewers engaged. “They also effectively placed this story in the cultural context as it relates to Indigenous communities in the U.S.,” she said. Judge David Baron, an author and former broadcast science journalist, called the video “a great detective story well-told. Through it, viewers were able to watch a revolutionary scientific finding unfold in real time.”  Producer/Director Bella Falk said: “As filmmakers all the joy and satisfaction comes from bringing incredible stories to life, and this film was no different.  The discovery of 23,000-year-old human footprints alongside the tracks of extinct Ice Age animals is a story that has transformed experts’ understanding of the history of human migration into the Americas. So, it was a privilege just to be able to highlight the work of the scientists uncovering their secrets, but winning this award is the icing on the cake. Thank you to the judges.” Co-director David Dugan is a two-time winner of the AAAS Kavli award.