Controversy over what sparked the Younger Dryas, a brief return to near glacial conditions at the end of the Ice Age, includes a theory that it was caused by a comet hitting the Earth.
As proof, proponents point to sediments containing deposits they believe could result only from a cosmic impact.
Now a new study disproves that theory, said archaeologist David Meltzer, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Meltzer is lead author on the study and an expert in the Clovis culture, the peoples who lived in North America at the end of the Ice Age.
Meltzer's research team found that nearly all sediment layers purported to be from the Ice Age at 29 sites in North America and on three other continents are actually either much younger or much older.
Scientists agree that the brief episode at the end of the Ice Age officially known as the Younger Dryas for a flower that flourished at that time sparked widespread cooling of the Earth 12,800 years ago and that this cool period lasted for 1,000 years. But theories about the cause of this abrupt climate change are numerous. They range from changes in ocean circulation patterns caused by glacial meltwater entering the ocean to the cosmic-impact theory.
The cosmic-impact theory is said to be supported by the presence of geological indicators that are extraterrestrial in origin. However a review of the dating of the sediments at the 29 sites reported to have such indicators proves the cosmic-impact theory false, said Meltzer.
Meltzer and his co-authors found that only three of 29 sites commonly referenced to support the cosmic-impact theory actually date to the window of time for the Ice Age.
The findings, "Chronological evidence fails to support claim of an isochronous widespread layer of cosmic impact indicators dated to 12,800 years ago," were reported May 12, 2014, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Co-authors were Vance T.
|Contact: Margaret Allen|
Southern Methodist University