Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Evidence on What Killed the Woolly Mammoths

ScienceDaily.com (July 21, 2009) — "A 17-member team has found what may be the smoking gun of a much-debated proposal that a cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago ripped through North America and drove multiple species into extinction."

As reported earlier, the earliest people in North America are known as the Paleo culture. These people were hunters of the great woolly mammoth and used finely made points and tools. We know this because some of their points have been found thousands of years later in the remains of the woolly mamoths. One of our SRAC members, Stan Vanderlaan actually has been involved in Paleo excavations in New York state, one was found on his own property.

The next culture in North America are referred to as the Archaic and many believe that the fine workmanship and technique used to make tools of the earlier Paleo culture actually far surpass the later Archaic culture's abilities.

Just as strange is the fact that MANY large animals that lived in North America seem to have gone extinct at the same time that the evidence of the Paleo culture disappears.

Earlier theories to explain these events include the idea that the Paleo Indians became such great hunters that they wiped out the large beasts.

Today, that theory is being contested by another one that states that at about 12,900 years ago, a huge comet storm rained down in North America and even other areas of the world that was so horrific that it killed the majority if not all living beings in its path.

The actual evidence are called nanodiamonds, and the particular ones that were recently found in 12,900-year-old sediments on the Northern Channel Islands off the southern California coast may just be what closes the chapter on the debate.

Sciencedaily.com reports that "the diamonds were found in association with soot, which forms in extremely hot fires, and they suggest associated regional wildfires, based on nearby environmental records...The age of this event also matches the extinction of the pygmy mammoth on the Northern Channel Islands, as well as numerous other North American mammals, including the horse, which Europeans later reintroduced. In all, an estimated 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct near the end of the Pleistocene with some of them occurring very close in time to the proposed cosmic impact, first reported in October 2007 in PNAS."

The 17 co-authors on the PNAS paper are Douglas Kennett, Erlandson and Brendan J. Culleton, all of the University of Oregon; James P. Kennett of UC Santa Barbara; Allen West of GeoScience Consulting in Arizona; G. James West of the University of California, Davis; Ted E. Bunch and James H. Wittke, both of Northern Arizona University; Shane S. Que Hee of the University of California, Los Angeles; John R. Johnson of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; Chris Mercer of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and National Institute of Materials Science in Japan; Feng Shen of the FEI Co.; Thomas W. Stafford of Stafford Research Inc. of Colorado; Adrienne Stich and Wendy S. Wolbach, both of DePaul University in Chicago; and James C. Weaver of the University of California, Riverside.

Sources: Douglas Kennett, professor of archaeology, department of anthropology, .edu.

James Kennett, professor emeritus, UC Santa Barbara, 805-893-4187, .edu (home phone number for media access is available from either media contact above)

Links: Doug Kennett faculty page: http://www.uoregon.edu/~dkennett/Welcome.html; anthropology department: http://www.uoregon.edu/~anthro/

James Kennett faculty page: http://www.geol.ucsb.edu/faculty/kennett/Home.html

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