Monday, February 23, 2009

Nano Diamonds, Clovis Culture and the Extinction of Mammoths

Clovis Point found in Milan, PA (Campbell Collection)

The earliest people known to be in North America are referred to as the Clovis culture, named after a site in New Mexico where this style of spear point (shown above)was first identified. The clovis points are rarely found in our area and at last count, 7 were known to be found in Bradford County PA. The Clovis culture lived as hunters and gatherers, not having an understanding of agriculture yet. Even more interesting is that their points like the one shown above have been found in skeletal remains of woolly mammoths and other huge creatures that died out around 12,900 years ago. It was until recently presumed that man was the cause of these huge creatures extinction...but now some scientists claim that man as well as the huge beasts all were met with the same demise.

In January of 2009, a very interesting yet brief paper was published that offers a new answer to to the questions surrounding this. Because this is a controversial topic right now for many reasons, I have used references and quotes from reliable sources below for you to learn more.

"Minuscule diamond fragments found in a sediment layer dating from thousands of years ago are bolstering the theory that a catastrophic comet impact wiped out many forms of life in North America, including what are thought to have been the first human settlers of the continent, the so-called Clovis people. The nano-diamonds are buried at a level that corresponds to the beginning 12,900 years ago of the Younger Dryas, a 1,300-year-long cold spell during which North American mammoths, saber-toothed cats, camels and giant sloths became extinct. The Clovis culture of American Indians also appears to have fallen apart during this time." [Reuters]

"Last year a 26-member team from 16 institutions proposed that a cosmic impact event, possibly by multiple airbursts of comets, set off a 1,300-year-long cold spell known as the Younger Dryas, fragmented the prehistoric Clovis culture and led to the extinction of a large range of animals, including mammoths, across North America. The team's paper was published in the Oct. 9, 2007, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Now, reporting in the Jan. 2 issue of the journal Science, a team led by the University of Oregon's Douglas J. Kennett, a member of the original research team, report finding billions of nanometer-sized diamonds concentrated in sediments -- weighing from about 10 to 2,700 parts per billion -- in the six locations during digs funded by the National Science Foundation.

"The nanodiamonds that we found at all six locations exist only in sediments associated with the Younger Dryas Boundary layers, not above it or below it," said Kennett, a UO archaeologist. "These discoveries provide strong evidence for a cosmic impact event at approximately 12,900 years ago that would have had enormous environmental consequences for plants, animals and humans across North America." (Science Daily)

What does this mean in relation to our understanding of the Paleo period of North America? More papers are being written as we speak, but for now, these papers below might offer more info for those who what to dig deeper in this:

Academic Sources

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