As epic prehistoric journeys go, it’s hard to look beyond the crossing of the Bering Land Bridge. It’s got the significance: this strip of land, which once connected Asia to Alaska, is responsible for the first human settlement of the Americas. It’s got drama, featuring Pleistocene woman, man and child battling along the Arctic fringe, in the middle of an ice age, in search of food and shelter. And it’s got more than a dash of suspense – because, as the ice around these pioneers began to melt, their precarious land bridge would slowly begin to sink back beneath the sea.

It’s a marvel that Hollywood hasn’t picked it up. But if they had, the script would need updating. For decades, scientists believed humans first set foot in North America around 16,500 years ago, as the last ice age was melting into slush. But a team working in New Mexico has unearthed a set of fossil footprints they’ve shown to be 23,000 years old. Their discovery, as archaeologists involved in the study have shared with us, could rewrite the history of human migration to the Americas.

It’s not quite ice-age Siberia outside but, with autumn upon us, insects are already making their own miniature migrations into our homes. We’ve heard how they know the season’s changing. And with Germans heading to the polls on Sunday, an economist explains why the outgoing Angela Merkel leaves behind an economy that, if anything, has underachieved during the 16 years she’s been chancellor.

Plus check out the latest The Conversation Weekly podcast on how some scientists are beginning to worry they’ve underestimated the speed of climate change.

Alex King

Commissioning Editor, Science + Technology

Are these the footprints of the first-known American teen? Matthew Robert Bennett

Fossil footprints prove humans populated the Americas thousands of years earlier than we thought

Matthew Robert Bennett, Bournemouth University; Sally Christine Reynolds, Bournemouth University

The New Mexico findings could rewrite the history of human migration to the Americas.

Angela Merkel 2015 portrait by Colin Davidson. Raymong Tang

Merkel’s caution has made Germany the great economic underachiever of our times

Muhammad Ali Nasir, University of Huddersfield

Germany was steady under its longstanding chancellor, but also stagnant.

Spider’s webs have been used as an indicator of winter weather through the ages, but this is not backed up by research. Charlie Goodall/Shutterstock

As autumn approaches here’s why we see more spiders in our houses and why wasps are desperate for sugar

Elizabeth Duncan, University of Leeds; Thomas Dally, University of Leeds

Insects are changing their behaviour as they prepare for winter.

The latest climate change assessment by scientists is a ‘code red for humanity’, according to the UN. Toa55/Shutterstock

Have climate change predictions matched reality? Podcast

Gemma Ware, The Conversation; Daniel Merino, The Conversation

How scientists are improving their understanding of the connection between extremes and climate change – and what’s to come. Listen to The Conversation Weekly.

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