Clovis Culture Not Wiped Out by Attacking Comets; Apocalyptic Disappearance Debunked

First Posted: Jan 30, 2013 12:21 PM EST

Around 13,000 years ago, a prehistoric human culture known as Clovis thrived. It was the earliest well-established culture in North America at the time. Yet abruptly, the culture vanished. Scientists have long wondered what exactly caused the disappearance of this people. While they may not have an answer, they have narrowed down the options. A long-held theory that comet attacks ended the 9,000-year-old culture has officially been debunked.

The Clovis culture is named after the town in New Mexico, where distinct stone tools from the period in the 1920s and 1930s. What killed off this ancient civilization has been a product of speculation for years.

This newest study, published in the journal Geophysical Monograph Series, found evidence that rebuts the belief that a large impact or airburst caused an abrupt change to Earth's climate, killing off the Clovis culture. The researchers point out that no appropriately sized craters from that time period have been discovered. In addition, no shocked material or any other features of impact have been found in sediments. The samples that were collected in support of the hypothesis, in fact, were contaminated with modern material.

Even the laws of physics don't support the previous theory. Researchers found that physics-based models could not support the impact hypothesis.

Researchers hope that these new findings urge scientists to use caution when publishing their theories. The impact theory had reached "zombie status" over the years, according to Professor Andrew Scott, one of the researchers. Whenever flaws in the theory were exposed, it reappeared with new arguments.

This time, though, scientists believe that they have finally laid the theory to rest. While the disappearance of the Clovis is still a mystery, they certainly weren't wiped out by attacking comets.

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