Human Journey

Ancient Americans Weren’t Wiped Out by a Comet?

Like the undead monsters in a Hollywood movie, some science theories just keep coming back to life. That’s been the case with solving the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance 13,000 years ago of the Clovis – a Paleo-Indian North American culture.  A popular theory keeps getting resurrected which fingers a comet impact in the Great Lakes region as the culprit .

The resulting air-burst from the collision would have plunged North American continent into a snap deep freeze and glacial period- which would have spelled doom for the Clovis, says the theory.

But now, researchers from over a dozen institutions across Europe and the U.S. hope they have finally shot this theory down for good.

“The theory has reached zombie status,” said co-author of the study, Andrew Scott from Royal Holloway,University of London in a press release. “Whenever we are able to show flaws and think it is dead, it reappears with new, equally unsatisfactory, arguments.”

The Clovis was a culture known for advanced stone tools, and  evidence has long suggested that they appeared to suddenly vanish off the face of the Earth . This led to the hypothesis that the entire society may have met their demise due to some sort of a major catastrophic event. But according to the new study, it looks like it wasn’t any cosmic collision.

“There’s no plausible mechanism to get air-bursts over an entire continent,” said lead author Mark Boslough, a physicist at the Sandia National Laboratories in NewMexico in a statement. “For this and other reasons, we conclude that the impact hypothesis is, unfortunately, bogus.”

The researchers rebuttal is based on the lack of both an appropriately sized impact crater and shocked material in sediments. Also they contend that samples presented in support of the impact hypothesis were contaminated with modern material.

“Hopefully new versions of the theory will be more carefully examined before they are published”,  added Scott.

Instead of disappearing the researchers believe the Clovis simply made a natural shift towards becoming another culture known as the Folsoms. Further research will need to be done however to pin down the exact reasons for the disappearance of the Clovis.

“Just because a culture changed from Clovis to Folsom spear points didn’t mean their civilization collapsed,” added Boslough. “They probably just used another technology. It’s like saying the phonograph culture collapsed and was replaced by the iPod culture.”

The comet study was published in the December 2012 American Geophysical Union monograph.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Skeptic

    BCE. C’mon people. If it’s a scientific study, the appropriate terminology is BCE (before the common era).

  • Lucas Prater

    Andrew, cool story but Jesus H. Christ, fourth sentence, second “paragraph,” never use “would of.” “Would of” doesn’t exist in the English language. The wording you were looking for was “would have.” Please proof read or have someone proof read your work before it’s published for everyone on the Internet to read.

  • kartik aher

    i dont belive it

  • Puru Singh

    Deliberations. Lets have some entertainment here.

  • V-man

    This goes back to the extinction of the dinosaurs, they all died, but somehow every other species in the world lived on, it couldn’t have been a meteor for that, either

  • Drew Stroyer

    Wow….some people are seriously far too passionate about grammar and the difference between BC and BCE (which mean the exact same thing). Interesting article though, thanks for the morning read!

  • Fall of a Thousand Suns

    There have been several impacts in recent history. Do people think SL-9 hitting Jupiter in 1994 and Comet Siding Spring passing incredibly close to Mars in 2014 are isolated events meant for other planets – but not Earth?

    There’s only one confirmed impact by EDEIS in the ocean – even though it cover roughly 70% of the planet. Using the logic of the nay-sayers, does the lack of craters in the ocean also mean that nothing every hit the ocean? Earth has a pretty good make-up artist. We don’t have to look far to see what a lack of make-up means. The Moon is pockmarked with hundreds of thousands of craters.

    In 13,000 BCE, A two-mile thick ice sheet covered much of Canada and crept into the US. I’m pretty sure that could absorb some of the fragments. Others airburst. How do these nay-sayers explain the black mat layers, nanodiamonds, and trillions of iron spherules embedded in flint around 13,000 BCE?

    For more on this subject visit

  • John M Jensen

    The actual nomenclature is YBP. Years before present. It is irrational to use an archaic religious dating system that has no practical value to date calculation. In addition, preponderance of the evidence proves (for all reasonable purposes) that an catastrophic impact event occurred within a 50 year window of -12,850 YBP. As well as the near extinction of many large to giant flora and fauna at that exact time. The event triggered the 2nd Meltwater Pulse with immediate ocean level rise of nearly 65′ over the next 800 year period. Many world class Geologists have calculated an increased ambient heat index of nearly 30 degrees to cause a rapid ice melt pulse of that magnitude over that short period of time,

    The hard geological evidence is very clear. An impact event occurred in the Pacific Northwest of North America within a 50 year window circa -12,850 YPB.

    The most likely impact culprit is an impact crater in the Pacific Northwest (Sacajawea impact crater) and a larger “exit wound” crater on the opposite side of the globe (the Taklimakan Desert in Western China), the primary impact point is near Sacajawea Peak in North Eastern Oregon. It is a complex crater with a clearly visible crater rim, and can be seen by a casual observer at about 600 mile altitude on Google Earth. An Eastern slope failure is the Yellowstone Basin. Northern ejecta is visible as the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian Range into Alaska on the NW side, and into Utah, Nevada and California on the South side.

    On the western edge of the crater are the “NW Volcano Ring”, which consists of Mt. Sister, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood in Oregon; as well as Mt St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in Washington State.

    The gigantic size of this crater at more than 600 miles wide covers 80% of the state of Washington, 100% of the state of Idaho, and about 75% of the state of Oregon, which suggests that the impactor was something in access of 25-30 miles wide.

    Based on the oblong scar opposite the Sacajawea impact crater, in the Taklimakan Desert in Western China, the exit scar appears larger than the impact crater at about 800 miles in width. It certainly appears to be an exit wound with errata and ejecta into Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. It has an obvious visual appearance of an “exit wound” with several smaller ‘exit wounds’ in its general vicinity. If a large meteor struck the earth that was over 25 miles in diameter, could it penetrate the crust and Earth’s upper mantle, travel through the liquid molten center, and exit through the upper mantle and crust on the opposite side of the globe?

    Simple ballistics will give us a good idea. If we reduce the Earth down to the size of a large goose egg, (about 10″ in circumference around its longer side) the Earth’ crust and upper mantle would be roughly the thickness of the goose egg’s shell and inner membrane. The inter mantle, magma and core of the Earth would be roughly equivalent to the goose egg’s inner white and yolk sack, although the goose egg interior mass is probably less dense, when compared to the Earth’s core. But generally speaking they are roughly equivalent. For the experiment I would recommend draining the egg though a small hole, and filling it with a gel like substance to mimic the Earth’s core density.

    The Earth is just less than 8,000 miles in diameter (actually 7,918 miles) at the equator. But more importantly, the surface (circumference) of the Earth at the Equator is just less than 25,000 miles. (Actually 24,901) Divided by 30 miles, (the size of the ‘asteroid’) readily shows us the the projectile would be 1/830th the size of the Earth.

    Reducing 1/830th of the Earth’s surface to the size of a large goose egg (measuring around the egg the long way) which is, on average about 10″ more or less, when converted to millimeters, 10″ equals 254 millimeters. Dividing the 254 millimeters by 830, returns a projectile roughly 0.30 millimeters in diameter. (Or about 1/64th of an inch) Or, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

    Now, if we look at the speed of the 30 mile asteroid, which generally enters the atmosphere at (give or take) 25 miles per second, (or about 132,000 fps), and impacting the Earth at something less than that, less than 90,000 fps). Which takes into consideration the very slight braking effect of our atmosphere. (traveling at 25 miles per second means the asteroid would be in our atmosphere for about 7-8 seconds.

    Reducing the ‘asteroid’ projectile to the ‘sentence period’ as defined above (as it relates to the goose egg), means the period sized projectile would travel about 1,084 fps on impact and travel on through the egg. Depending on internal deflection, it would exit the egg roughly on its trajectory, without much surface damage to the egg shell. If equivalent to the Earth, the entry hole on the eggshell would have roughly a 5 mm entry wound. The exit wound would be a ‘blow out’ crater, significantly larger than the impact crater, which is exactly what the Taklimakan Crater in China shows. If the impact spherule were larger, it would damage the entire egg structure, but its small size in comparison to the egg shell suggests it would penetrate the shell, travel through the egg center and exit out the other side.

    The above is quite easy to test in a laboratory setting. If the ballistic dynamics are as close to what is related here, it would demonstrate that a 30 mile diameter object could and did penetrate the Earth’s crust sometime in the past, leaving the residue of the Sacajawea Crater and the Taklimakan Crater as its calling card.

    This is different information than has been presented before, so it puts in question the long held macro time scales for large impact craters of a lot smaller size. There are several good solution to this problem. One might be to do 14c tests on Clam beds in the high Plateau of the Colorado Rockies. Another is to definitively c14 test the Yellowstone Gorge. That geological anomaly is currently dated to between 10,000 and 14,000 years in age based on preliminary c14 tests.

    he Sacajawea Crater, based on the c14 dates of the Yellowstone Gorge, fits the model as the driver of the mega-extinction of giant flora and fauna at the Younger Dryas evemt at about 12,800 years ago. It is not my purpose to argue the Y-D barrier, only to postulate the Sacajawea impact as the primary driver for the ensuing mega extinction. It also fits most other anomalies in the geological record surrounding the Y-D event. For example, the deliberate burial of Gobelki Tepi, and the megalithic cultures of the high Andes, Egypt and the Near East.

    It is not the object of this report to speculate on the ensuing global cataclysm following the impact. It is, however, quite evident that the catastrophe that followed would have been more devastating than the Chicxulub impact event that ‘supposedly’ killed the dinosaurs, as argued to have happened 65 million years ago.

    I will make the declarative statement that the Sacajawea impact event at 12,800 ybp DID in fact drive many giant flora and fauna INCLUDING some surviving species of dinosaurs into near extinction, with a few remaining scattered groups surviving into the late Holocene (near modern times), providing models for rock drawings, clay models, tapestry and figurines, etc. The Younger-Dryas event is recognized to be centered in North America, which also fits the model. In a later Blog, I will make the case for Dinosaurs living up into the late Holocene, but the primary proof is the more than 63 DNA tests done on un-fossilized dinosaur bones returning dates of 12,000 to 42,000 ybp. (In addition to Dr. Mary Schweitzer (of North Carolina State) who found “elastic collagen and hemoglobin elements” in a T-Rex hind limb. (that is “Blood and Tissue” for you non techies.) 13K years is the extreme outer limits for survival of unstable biological elements. Certainly NOT 65 million years. If you don’t believe me, ask any biologist or chemist.

    Your review and counter argument is appreciated.

    Location first brought to my attention from the website:!

  • Normandie Kent

    There was no catastrophic comic impact that killed of the Clovis culture and the Megafauna. The ancestors of the Native Ameticans had already been in the Americas for thousands of years, there is no break in the archaeological record. The Paleo-Coastal Maritime ancestors of the Chumash People were living on the Northern Channel Islands in California off the Coast for more 12,000 years. Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands all have continuous occupancy of at least 13,000 at the same time as the Clovis Culture, though they are not Clovis. The ancestors of the Chumash were not Using Clovis tools, but were using western stemmed points to kill Pygmy mammoth, and they had a Maritme adapted tool kit for deep sea fishing and diving. There is no way there was a comet that killed of the Clovis hunters , but left the Paleo-Coastal Islanders and Fishermen alive and well.

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