Nope: A giant comet did not wipe out an early prehistoric culture

Chris Gayomali
The Week
This never happened.

For a long time, scientists suspected an icy comet led to the Clovis' undoing 13,000 years ago. But on second thought...

More than 13,000 years ago, North America was inhabited by the Clovis, a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture known for advanced stone tools, scientists believe. Then, the evidence suggests, the entire culture vanished — seemingly overnight.

For a long time, scientists speculated that a massive asteroid slammed into the planet, causing bursts of cold air to blanket the continent and triggering an icy glacial period known as the Big Freeze. The hypothesis went that the Clovis, unprepared for the sudden temperature drop, quickly died out. 

SEE ALSO: How your cup's color changes the taste of your drink

Now, according to Science Daily, a team of researchers from 14 academic institutions are arguing that the big impact never happened. "There's no plausible mechanism to get airbursts over an entire continent," said researcher Mark Boslough, a physicist. "For this and other reasons, we conclude that the impact hypothesis is, unfortunately, bogus."

Boslough argues that the Clovis didn't die as suspected, but rather made the transition to Folsoms, another Paleo-Indian culture, sometime between 9000 B.C. and 8000 B.C. "Just because a culture changed from Clovis to Folsom spear points didn't mean their civilization collapsed," says Boslough. "They probably just used another technology. It's like saying the phonograph culture collapsed and was replaced by the iPod culture." (Via Science Daily, Science 2.0)

SEE ALSO: Why do our fingers wrinkle when wet?

View this article on Get 4 Free Issues of The Week

Other stories from this section:

Like on Facebook - Follow on Twitter - Sign-up for Daily Newsletter