Friday, January 2, 2009

A Really Bad Day: 13,000 Years Ago


If you have any interest in science and history, you may be interested in a story that hit the papers today about a possible 13,000 year-old extinction event that occurred when there was a human (Clovis culture) presence on Earth. Although many scientists disagree with this theory, it is a fascinating read anyway. Here is an excerpt:
The scientists, led by University of Oregon anthropologist Douglas Kennett, say their report offers a "smoking bullet"—proof that a comet set off the sudden 1,000-year freeze and wiped out the big animals of the era.

Working at multiple sites across the continent, researchers found nanodiamonds—microscopic particles thought to be found on comets—in a 13,000-year-old layer of rich sedimentary soil called a "black mat." Beneath the layer with the nanodiamonds, fossils of the animals are abundant. After that layer, they disappear, West said.

"It's extraordinary that tens of millions of animals disappeared synchronously at exactly the time when the diamonds and carbon layer are laid down across the continent," said West, whose co-authors include DePaul University chemist Wendy Wolbach.

Arrowheads and other artifacts from the Clovis culture of humans—an early hunter-gatherer society—also vanished after the black mat was laid down 13,000 years ago. [Chicago Tribuine]
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