Theories emerged that a comet may have slammed into the ice fields of eastern Canada, sufficiently altering the climate enough to wipe out large animals such as mastodons and woolly mammoths, and devastate the population of the continent’s first human inhabitants.
Yet, in a new study led by Vance Holliday, an anthropology professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the researchers found that archaeological evidence for such a catastrophic event seems rather thin.
“We looked at the archaeological record, and the more we dug, the weaker the evidence got in support of a comet impact,” Holliday told LiveScience. “Nothing unusual jumped out at us.”
In fact, Holliday and his colleague David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, argue that whether or not such an extraterrestrial event occurred, there is nothing in the archaeological record that indicates the Clovis hunters suddenly perished along with the animals.
“With hunters and gatherers, you almost never find continuous occupation of places, so there are gaps in the archaeological record all over the place” Holliday explained. “People looked at the gaps, and therefore claims were made that these Clovis sites were sterile and the people were wiped out. But, if you look at the archaeological record, that’s very normal at the time. The lack of archaeology post-Clovis doesn’t mean anything.”