Start of “Anthropocene” pushed back to Late Pleistocene

20 October 2011
Old American theory is ‘speared’

By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

An ancient bone with a projectile point lodged within it appears to up-end – once and for all – a long-held idea of how the Americas were first populated.

The rib, from a tusked beast known as a mastodon, has been dated precisely to 13,800 years ago.

This places it before the so-called Clovis hunters, who many academics had argued were the North American continent’s original inhabitants.

News of the dating results is reported in Science magazine.

In truth, the “Clovis first” model, which holds to the idea that America’s original human population swept across a land-bridge from Siberia some 13,000 years ago, has looked untenable for some time.

A succession of archaeological finds right across the United States and northern Mexico have indicated there was human activity much earlier than this – perhaps as early as 15-16,000 years ago.

The mastodon rib, however, really leaves the once cherished model with nowhere to go.


The timing of humanity’s presence in North America is important because it plays into the debate over why so many great beasts from the end of the last Ice Age in that quarter of the globe went extinct.

Not just mastodons, but woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, giant sloths, camels, and teratorns (predatory birds with a nearly four-metre wingspan) – all disappeared in short order a little over 12,700 years ago.

A rapidly changing climate in North America is assumed to have played a key role – as is the sophisticated stone-tool weaponry used by the Clovis hunters. But the fact that there are also humans with effective bone and antler killing technologies present in North America deeper in time suggests the hunting pressure on these animals may have been even greater than previously thought.

“Humans clearly had a role in these extinctions and by the time the Clovis technology turns up at 13,000 years ago – that’s the end. They finished them off,” said Prof Waters.

“You know, the Clovis-first model has been dying for some time,” he finished. “But there’s nothing harder to change than a paradigm, than long-standing thinking. When Clovis-First was first proposed, it was a very elegant model but it’s time to move on, and most of the archaeological community is doing just that.”

First things first… This “discovery” does not alter the fact that the original human inhabitants of the Americas most likely migrated into North America from Siberia across the Bering land bridge.  It remains the only viable pathway.  Pushing their migration back in time a few thousand years into the Pleistocene just means that the first wave arrived before the Bølling /Allerød interstadials during the Oldest Dryas instead of during the Younger Dryas.

GISP2 ice core climate reconstruction of the Late Pleistocene through Holocene (after Alley, 2000)

The Real Clear Science link to this article was titled, “First Americans Not From Siberian Land-Bridge.”  The BBC reporter seemed to draw a similar erroneous conclusion… “In truth, the ‘Clovis first’ model, which holds to the idea that America’s original human population swept across a land-bridge from Siberia some 13,000 years ago, has looked untenable for some time.”  The paper in Science is behind a pay-wall; but the abstract doesn’t seem to cast any doubt on the Bering land bridge theory.  The significance of this discovery is that the Anthropocene may have begun much earlier than previously thought… At least several thousand years before mankind discovered capitalism…

Science 21 October 2011:
Vol. 334 no. 6054 pp. 351-353
DOI: 10.1126/science.1207663


Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunting 13,800 Years Ago at the Manis Site, Washington

Michael R. Waters1,*, Thomas W. Stafford Jr.2,5, H. Gregory McDonald3, Carl Gustafson4, Morten Rasmussen5, Enrico Cappellini5, Jesper V. Olsen6, Damian Szklarczyk6, Lars Juhl Jensen6, M. Thomas P. Gilbert5, Eske Willerslev5

The tip of a projectile point made of mastodon bone is embedded in a rib of a single disarticulated mastodon at the Manis site in the state of Washington. Radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis show that the rib is associated with the other remains and dates to 13,800 years ago. Thus, osseous projectile points, common to the Beringian Upper Paleolithic and Clovis, were made and used during pre-Clovis times in North America. The Manis site, combined with evidence of mammoth hunting at sites in Wisconsin, provides evidence that people were hunting proboscideans at least two millennia before Clovis.

A previous post of mine, Run Away!!! The Anthropocene is Coming!!!, drew some criticism about my assertion “that modern man migrated out of Africa and hunted the megafauna of Europe and North America into extinction.”  My comment was at least somewhat sarcastic… And yes, I do know that the human migration out of Africa began long before the Holocene, but, it is a simple fact that mastodons, stegodons and mammoths had “weathered” all of the prior Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles just fine.   The only major distinction between the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene and the previous glacial-interglacial transitions was the migration of humans out of Africa, across the world and the demise of most of the mega fauna that were in the path of that migration…

Mammoths, Stegodons and Mastodons loved the Pleistocene but never got acquainted with the Holocene.

While I may profusely ridicule the notion that mankind’s industrial activities over the last 200 years have given rise to a unit of geological time, distinct from the Holocene… I fully believe that mankind’s conquest of Earth since the late Pleistocene is the only thing that truly distinguishes the Holocene from previous Quaternary interglacials.


20 Responses to “Start of “Anthropocene” pushed back to Late Pleistocene”

  1. David Middleton Says:

    “The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” said Martin Hoerling, Ph.D. of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo… Reds and oranges highlight lands around the Mediterranean that experienced significantly drier winters during 1971-2010 than the comparison period of 1902-2010.

    Forty years ago, I’m pretty sure Dr. Hoerling would have thought that the significantly wetter winters during 1958-1970 were evidence that the magnitude and frequency of the wetting that had occurred was too great to be explained by natural variability alone.

    These sort of stories always remind me of a classic episode of Jungle Jim

    Jungle Jim (TV series 1955)
    Power of Darkness

    Jungle Jim leads a party into the Himalayas to observe a solar eclipse. They stumble into a strange Tibetan kingdom ruled by a white man. Jim must effect their escape by trying to convince the superstitious natives that he can make the sun disappear.

  2. BioBob Says:

    We don’t know why various and sundry ancient species went extinct. We have to live with that sorrowful lack until we learn more ;>D

  3. David Middleton Says:

    Sleepalot says:
    November 2, 2011 at 4:26 am
    NZ Willy says: November 2, 2011 at 12:18 am

    “It is ludicrous how anthropologists deny that man was responsible for the mass extinction, when it so obviously was the case. Climate was irrelevant in “recent” (c 100,000yr) times.”

    Except, of course, that Africa remains full of large, tasty animals.

    Grey lensman says:
    November 2, 2011 at 4:57 am
    So thats why all the elephants are extinct in Africa and Asia. Modern stone age hunters. not Neanderthals, Peking Man or Java man or even Davidsovians. All those mega mammals lived in USA until Clovis man arrived. Seems that Clovis man did not eat bison or elk or deer only mega mammals.

    The megafauna of Africa and human ancestors had co-existed for at least several hundred thousand years. As humans spread out through Africa and South Asia, the megafauna had time and space to adjust to human predation. The megafauna of North America, Europe and North Asia had far less time and space (suitable habitat) to adapt to human predation.

    But i seem to recall that Clovis man went extinct about the same time.

    Fake science, fake assumptions, are the same in every field.

    Jack and Dave can make a simple crop circle thus they made every crop circle.

    Have we not moved beyond that grade of science?

    The Clovis people did not go extinct…

    Early Paleoindian (9500 B.C. to 9000 B.C.)

    The first subperiod, Early Paleoindian, is characterized by Clovis or Clovis-like large fluted stone points. It is believed that the distribution of these points throughout all the environmental zones in the Southeast represents the initial exploration and colonization of the region. Great mobility of the Paleoindians of this subperiod is suggested by the finding of stone tools and debitage traded or transported by these small bands over hundreds of kilometers from their quarry source. The Southeast, at this time, consisted of three broad environmental zones, running west to east. They were cool-climate boreal forests, temperate oak-hickory-pine forests, and subtropical sandy scrub. The last area was confined to the Florida peninsula and the coastal plain in the Southeast, which extended several kilometers outward from its present location due to the lower sea level. Megafauna of the Late Pleistocene was found in these three environmental zones.

    Middle Paleoindian (9000 B.C. to 8500 B.C.)

    The second subperiod, the Middle Paleoindian, is characterized by a number of fluted and unfluted points, both larger and smaller than Clovis points. The point types of this subperiod in the Southeast are Cumberland, Redstone, Suwannee, Beaver Lake, Quad, Coldwater, and Simpson. This subperiod is viewed as a time when the population was adapting to optimum environmental resource zones instead of randomly moving throughout the Southeast. Concentration on specific zones and resources may account for the variation in the stone points of this subperiod.

    Late Paleoindian (8500 B.C. to 7900 B.C.)

    The last subperiod, the Late Paleoindian, is characterized by Dalton and other side-notched-style points. The replacement of fluted point forms by nonfluted points is believed to reflect a change in the adaptive strategy, away from hunting Late Pleistocene megafauna toward a more generalized hunting of small, modern game, such as deer, and a collecting subsistence strategy within the southern pine forests as they replaced the boreal forests.

    Chert deposits may have attracted Paleoindian groups of this subperiod to specific locales in order to replenish their stone tools. Such a tendency may have constrained these groups to a specific landscape, setting the stage for the intensive regional specialization that characterized the succeeding Archaic Period. It is possible that large Paleoindian sites in the Southeast are permanent or semipermanent base camps from which resources of specific territories were exploited. Trade or transportation of stone tools appear to decrease as Late Paleoindian groups relied on local materials for their needs.


  4. David Middleton Says:

    TRM on November 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm said:


    One of the biggest issues is that no one’s ever identified a glacial-period “ice-free corridor” through Canada. That makes the coasts much, much more likely. ”

    That was the gist of the book I mentioned Lost World. They went into detail about the 2 ice sheets covering North America and how there was no path down the middle.


    The Cordilleran and Laurentide Ice Sheets were fully separated by 14.5 kya. Beringia, including large areas of Siberia and Alaska, never glaciated. And, as you pointed out, the coastal route was also intermittently open enough for island/beach hopping long before the Alberta route opened up.

    On the other hand, the Atlantic coastal route did not open up before 10-12 kya.

    Grey lensman on November 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm said:

    DNA Evidence, Haplogroup X is very clear and well documented plus the stone tool matching. Crete was occupied by pre-humans who used boats, long before modern man. The Extinct people of Tierra Del Fuego, were not only Australian they needed no clothes or shelter to live in that wild climate.


    The only pre-Clovis human DNA identified to date (Paisley Caves, Oregon) “belonged to Native Americans in haplogroups A2 and B2, haplogroups common in Siberia and east Asia.”

    The highest modern concentration of Haplogroup X is found in the Druze of Lebanon. Traces of Haplogroup X in some modern American Indians, concentrated in the US Southwest, only provides evidence of an ancient connection to a rare haplotype found in Europe. It does not provide evidence of a migration from France to North America…

    Hoser on November 2, 2011 at 4:01 am said


    “These findings leave unanswered the question of the geographic source of Native American X2a in the Old World, although our analysis provides new clues about the time of the arrival of haplogroup X in the Americas. Indeed, if we assume that the two complete Native American X sequences (from one Navajo and one Ojibwa) began to diverge while their common ancestor was already in the Americas, we obtain a coalescence time of 18,000 ± 6,800 YBP, implying an arrival time not later than 11,000 YBP.”

    The Mediterranean is not analogous to the North Atlantic. The lower sea levels of the LGM exposed and expanded many islands in the Mediterranean and the climate was relatively mild. There were no ice-free land areas along the Greenland or North American Atlantic coasts north of Nova Scotia and no glacially exposed islands from Iceland to the Grand Banks at the time of the Clovis/pre-Clovis migrations and the North Atlantic climate was a bit more harsh than the Mediterranean.

    As I’ve previously posted, the data don’t preclude the Solutrean hypothesis; they just don’t support it.
    There is no DNA evidence indicative of an Australian aboriginal linkage.

  5. David Middleton Says:

    That blog is 100% science fiction.

    There is nothing mysterious about the “Chihuahuan Ignimbrites”… And the rhyolitic eruptions from which they were sourced occurred in the Mid-Tertiary…

    Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
    Volume 74, Number 3, 271-284 (1980)
    Petrogenesis of voluminous mid-Tertiary ignimbrites of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Chihuahua, Mexico
    Maryellen Cameron, William C. Bagby and Kenneth L. Cameron
    The mid-Tertiary ignimbrites of the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico constitute the largest continuous rhyolitic province in the world. The rhyolites appear to represent part of a continental magmatic arc that was emplaced when an eastward-dipping subduction zone was located beneath western Mexico.
    In the Batopilas region of the northern Sierra Madre Occidental the mid-Tertiary Upper Volcanic sequence is composed predominantly of rhyolitic ignimbrites, but volumetrically minor lava flows as mafic as basaltic andesite are also present.

    Major ignimbrites and volcanic centers of the Copper Canyon area: A view into the core of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental
    Eric R. Swanson, Kirt A. Kempter, Fred W. McDowell and William C. McIntosh
    Reconnaissance mapping along Copper Canyon highway has established ignimbrite stratigraphic relationships over a relatively large area in the central part of the Sierra Madre Occidental volcanic field in western Chihuahua, Mexico. The oldest ignimbrites are found in the central part of the area, and they include units previously mapped from north of the study area, in and around the Tomóchic volcanic complex. Copper Canyon, at the southern end of the study area, exposes younger units, including the intracaldera tuff of the Copper Canyon caldera and five overlying ignimbrites. Well-exposed calderas are found near San Juanito, in the central part of the map area, and at Sierra Manzanita, to the far north. Stratigraphic evidence for yet another caldera in the northern part of the area is found in the Sierra El Comanche. The stratigraphic and limited available isotopic age data suggest that volcanism was particularly active ∼30 m.y. ago. This reconnaissance survey also documented lava-flow lithologies consistent with previous observations from Tomóchic that intermediate lavas have erupted throughout that area’s volcanic history and that basaltic andesite became particularly abundant as felsic volcanism waned.


    Even if the mid-Tertiary ignimbrites of the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico were caused by an extraterrestrial impact event, it would have happened ~30 million years prior to the extinction of the North American megafauna.

  6. David Middleton Says:

    Pristine? Undisturbed?

  7. David Middleton Says:

    Dennis Cox says:
    November 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm
    Even after I specifically point out that the area of study described in the Craterhunter blog is not in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, someone still feels the need to post a picture from there.
    I get a kick out of folks trying to tell me that the Copper Canyon Tuff is the same geologic material as the pristine radial outwards flowing pyroclastic density current surrounding the mountain a couple of hundred miles away at 29.703101, –105.686395.

    But folks should note that while the mountain is clearly the source location for the pristine radial curtain of pyroclastic materials, there is no vent there. It is not an ancient, eroded, volcanic structure.

    Whatever produced that radial curtain of pristine pyroclastic materials, it wasn’t terrestrial volcanism.

    What “radial curtain of pristine pyroclastic materials?”
    Enough with the Erik Van Danniken stuff already… The NE striking ridge that you seem to be focusing on is Cretaceous limestone & shale. Have you ever even looked at a geologic map of the region? The stuff surrounding it is Quaternary alluvium.
    More Geology vs. Mythology
    There are lots of volcanic and igneous outcrops in the area… All of them of Tertiary age and most rhyolitic… None of them are even remotely associated with impact-related geology.

  8. BioBob Says:

    “The megafauna of Africa and human ancestors had co-existed for at least several hundred thousand years. As humans spread out through Africa and South Asia, the megafauna had time and space to adjust to human predation. The megafauna of North America, Europe and North Asia had far less time and space (suitable habitat) to adapt to human predation.”

    That is the story line at any rate. Human ancestors were unlikely to be very effective predators nor likely abundant enough to have significant impact on prey species. One only need to examine the diets and abundance of all related extant primate species.

    There is no confirming evidence that humans evolved in Africa and since H. erectus and related precursor types were well distributed over most of Africa and Eurasia prior to the advent of H sapiens, there are a number of possibilities. The genetic evidence is crap atm but it’s getting better. .

    Behavioral adaptation is actually quite rapid, virtually instantly in geologic terms but anyone who has hunted or fished knows that animals respond immediately to predation. .Species can respond genetically to predation pressure in as little as 25 generations. This is not a convincing argument at all.

    There is no concrete evidence that ranges of North American megafauna was any less constrained than that of any other continent that I have seen.

    Fossil formation is a poor mechanism for drawing any quantitative or qualitative conclusions about populations just as many other proxies have issues in translation.

    There is nothing to be gained in all this froth. We simply do not know and that is all we know. All the rest is just speculation and story-telling.

  9. David Middleton Says:

    Examination of the distribution of the four founding lineage haplotypes (A, B, C, and D) in American Indian populations (both contemporary and ancient) shows that all four lineages were present in the New World prior to European contact (Wallace 1995; Lalueza et al. 1997; Stone and Stoneking 1998), thus indicating that all American Indian mtDNAs are apparently descended from these four founding lineages.


    A striking example of the presence in American Indians of genotypes not from haplogroups A–D is haplogroup X. This haplogroup represents a minor founding lineage that is restricted in distribution to northern Amerindian groups, including the Ojibwa, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, the Sioux, and the Yakima, as well as the Na Dene–speaking Navajo (Brown et al. 1998). Unlike haplogroups A–D, haplogroup X is also found at low frequencies of ~4% in western Eurasian populations. Despite a shared consensus RFLP haplotype, substantial genetic differences exist between the American Indian and European haplogroup X mtDNAs. Phylogenetic analysis and coalescence estimates for American Indian and European haplogroup X mtDNAs exclude the possibility that the occurrence of haplogroup X in American Indians is due to recent European admixture. They also clearly indicate that the two branches/subgroups are distantly related to each other and that considerable genetic substructure exists within both groups (Brown et al. 1998).

    Haplogroup X is remarkable in that it has not been found in Asians, including Siberians, suggesting that it may have come to the Americas via a Eurasian migration. The virtual absence of haplogroup X in eastern and northern Asia raises the possibility that some American Indian founders were of European ancestry. In that case, as it has been proposed, haplogroup X was brought to America by the eastward migration of an ancestral white population, of which no trace has so far been found in the mtDNA gene pool of modern Siberian/eastern Asian populations (Brown et al. 1998).


    To extend the survey of Asian mtDNAs for the presence of haplogroup X, we screened the mtDNAs of a total of 790 individuals for the RFLP markers (−1715 DdeI, −10394 DdeI, +14465 AccI, and +16517 HaeIII) that define this lineage. These individuals comprised 10 aboriginal Siberian populations: Buryats (n=105), Tuvinians (n=111), Koryaks (n=35), Evens (n=65), Yakuts (n=62), Khakassians (n=54), Shors (n=42), Sojots (n=34), Altaians (n=202), and Evenks (n=80). All individuals belonged to the indigenous population of the regions studied, were unrelated, and stated that their maternal grandmother had been born in the area considered for this study.

    Haplogroup X mtDNAs were detected only in Altaians, at a frequency of 3.5%. The haplogroup X status of these haplotypes was confirmed through HVSI and HVSII mtDNA sequencing (). All Altaian X mtDNAs harbored the consensus haplogroup X motif…


    The network suggests that European and American Indian haplogroup X mtDNAs are separated into two major branches, whereas the majority of Altaian X mtDNAs appear to be very similar to the root of haplogroup X phylogeny, differing from it by one step (loss of 225A). The network further suggests that the Altaian X haplotypes occupy the intermediate position between European and American Indian haplogroup X mtDNA lineages (Fig. 1).


    The Altai region was populated during the Lower Paleolithic, and there is ample evidence of settlement during the Middle Paleolithic. It was proposed by anthropologists that, at least from the Neolithic, the territories of Altai and Sayan region were populated by mixed tribes with Caucasoid and Mongoloid anthropological features, but later they were replaced by Mongoloid populations of central Asian origin (Alexeev and Gohman 1984). The analysis of the tribal structure of Southern Altaians has shown that the present-day Altaians have retained their native language and ethnic identity. They have begun to mix with other ethnic groups (mostly Russians and Kazakhs) only recently, so the interethnic admixture is estimated to be <5% (Luzina 1987; Osipova et al. 1997). The haplogroup X mtDNAs have not been found in populations of central Asia, including Kazakhs, Uighurs, and Kirghizs (Comas et al. 1998). Since the frequency of haplogroup X in Russians is extremely low (3 of 336; Orekhov et al. 1999; Malyarchuk and Derenko 2000; authors’ unpublished data), the recent European admixture cannot explain the presence of haplogroup X in the Altaians. Hence, the results of the present study allow us to suggest that haplogroup X was the part of the ancestral gene pool for Altaian populations, being found both in northern and southern Altaians.

    Recently, the mtDNA studies have shown that both northern and southern Altaians exhibit all four Asian and American Indian–specific haplogroups (A–D) with frequencies of 57.2% (Sukernik et al. 1996) and 46.8% (Derenko et al. 2000a), respectively, exceeding those reported previously for Mongolians, Chinese, and Tibetans. Therefore, they may represent the populations which are most closely related to New World indigenous groups.


    Derenko et al., 2001

    While this doesn’t eliminate the possibility that Altaian X could have arrived in Siberia later than in North America, it is far more likely that Altaian X was the source of Amerindian X.

  10. David Middleton Says:

    Grey lensman says:
    November 4, 2011 at 4:46 am
    This gets better and more interesting. To Say That Altai X came with Asians via the Bering straight tunnel is a bit like Trenberths missing heat. Not a trace in Siberia, Alaska or western states and then reappears like magic on the East and central USA No trail.

    The Altaians are in Siberia. Their X haplotype is closer to the Amerindian than the European haplotype is. The Altaians have the same five haplotypes “the Ojibwa, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, the Sioux, and the Yakima, as well as the Na Dene–speaking Navajo” – No other group is such a close match. The Atlaian haplotype plots in an intermediate position between Amerindians and Europeans.

    The only pre-Clovis human DNA identified in North America was found in Oregon and contains the A-D haplotypes; but lacks the X.

    But the owners of Haplogroup X in the Eastern USA use the same technology as the French Halogroup X owners i would suggest that is not co-incidence.

    Haplotype X is restricted to northern Amerindian groups; not eastern. I was mistaken earlier when I said it was concentrated in the southwest… I forgot that the Navajo didn’t start out in Arizona & New Mexico. The highest Amerindian X concentration is in the Ojibwa (the Chippewa) who were first encountered by Europeans (French missionaries) near Lake Superior ca. 1640.

    The Clovis and Solutrean blades share a lot of similarities; but they are not identical.

    The Solutrean culture (including their blades, spear points, sewing kits & tools) pretty well vanished from the European fossil record ~15 kya. The Clovis blade is not present in the North American fossil record prior to ~13.5 kya. The pre-Clovis blade that killed the mastodon, thus spearing the Clovis first theory, was neither Clovis nor Solutrean.

    I would suggest that this is the oldest, it migrated west, occupied Southern France and Then used Ice to get to USA. Those that remained mutated to more European style X. I cannot prove that but it does make more sense to me. Dont forget that both Asian And European have the same roots.

    Ultimately we all have the same roots.

    I can’t disprove a Solutrean migration along sea ice from France to the Grand Banks and then into Nova Scotia. The DNA patterns don’t exclude that possibility. Of course I can’t disprove a migration via Egyptian parasails or Atlantean motor yachts either… /sarc 😉

    Although, I can disprove Crater Hunter’s “Mexican Impact Zone” and “radial curtain of pristine pyroclastic materials.”

    Ainu is Caucasoid and reflects an eastern migration of developing caucasian genes.

    I don’t think so…

    Genetic origins of the Ainu inferred from combined DNA analyses of maternal and paternal lineages.
    Tajima A, Hayami M, Tokunaga K, Juji T, Matsuo M, Marzuki S, Omoto K, Horai S.
    SourceDepartment of Biosystems Science, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai), Hayama, Kanagawa 240-0193, Japan.

    The Ainu, a minority ethnic group from the northernmost island of Japan, was investigated for DNA polymorphisms both from maternal (mitochondrial DNA) and paternal (Y chromosome) lineages extensively. Other Asian populations inhabiting North, East, and Southeast Asia were also examined for detailed phylogeographic analyses at the mtDNA sequence type as well as Y-haplogroup levels. The maternal and paternal gene pools of the Ainu contained 25 mtDNA sequence types and three Y-haplogroups, respectively. Eleven of the 25 mtDNA sequence types were unique to the Ainu and accounted for over 50% of the population, whereas 14 were widely distributed among other Asian populations. Of the 14 shared types, the most frequently shared type was found in common among the Ainu, Nivkhi in northern Sakhalin, and Koryaks in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Moreover, analysis of genetic distances calculated from the mtDNA data revealed that the Ainu seemed to be related to both the Nivkhi and other Japanese populations (such as mainland Japanese and Okinawans) at the population level. On the paternal side, the vast majority (87.5%) of the Ainu exhibited the Asian-specific YAP+ lineages (Y-haplogroups D-M55* and D-M125), which were distributed only in the Japanese Archipelago in this analysis. On the other hand, the Ainu exhibited no other Y-haplogroups (C-M8, O-M175*, and O-M122*) common in mainland Japanese and Okinawans. It is noteworthy that the rest of the Ainu gene pool was occupied by the paternal lineage (Y-haplogroup C-M217*) from North Asia including Sakhalin. Thus, the present findings suggest that the Ainu retain a certain degree of their own genetic uniqueness, while having higher genetic affinities with other regional populations in Japan and the Nivkhi among Asian populations.

  11. Bill Illis Says:

    I was watching a documentary about the Missoula mega-floods and thought about how many Megafauna, in fact, drowned during the last ice age retreat.

    Not in the rare mega-flood events, but in the fact that there so many new large rivers and lakes around as the ice was melting back.

    If Mammoth herds were accustomed to fording the Mississippi River, for example to get to new grassland sources, starting about 16,000 years ago, they no longer would have made it across. Maybe it was only every 4 or 5 years that the river was too wide and the current too strong.

    This river effectively split the US into two in the period from 16,000 to 9,000 years ago, running from Manitoba to the Gulf of Mexico.

    The large rivers and new lakes covering all of the northern US and southern Canada, would have effectively isolated populations into small regions. Any Megafauna herds trying to ford rivers would have been wiped out every 4 or 5 years. Populations living around Lake Agassiz or Lake Ontario (which was once twice as big) might have got stuck on a large island only to find themselves innundated later.

    Just another part of the picture.

    Nice clickable shaded relief map which shows where all the rivers used to flow and how large the Great Lakes got to etc.

    • David Middleton Says:


      Very good point. I think the glacial outwash was probably a big factor. There’s ~30,000 feet of Pleistocene sediment in some parts of the Gulf of Mexico deepwater. That sediment largely got there as a result of glacial outwash.

      While the catastrophic events, like the Missoula mega-flood, were rare… Each and every deglaciation would have been massively disruptive to megafauna habitats. Throw in the arrival of skilled human hunters and their hunting dogs during the Oldest Dryas and that habitat disruption became terminal for most of the megafauna.

  12. David Middleton Says:

    What Bill Illis and Don Easterbrook said, plus…

    According to the serially flawed Firestone et al., 2007, the Carolina Bays were formed by a massive bolide (air bursting chondrite meteor/asteroid), which also triggered the onset of the Younger Dryas stadial (cold period), caused the extinction of the North American megafauna and destroyed the Clovis culture.

    About half-a-dozen papers over the last four years have shot down every single point of Firestone et al., 2007.  The most effective was Paquay et al., 2009.  Paquay could not reproduce the iridium anomalies that Firestone claimed to be associated with the onset of the Younger Dryas.  Paquay also looked at the entire platinum group…

    Paquay PGE Plot

    Paquay noted that the presence of nanodiamonds without “a defined geochemical anomaly” is not a “robust diagnostic of an airburst event.”

    Melott et al., 2010 did find a nitrate spike associated with the onset of the Younger Dryas, comparable to the one associated with the Tunguska bolide.  But a bolide powerful enough to trigger the Younger Dryas would have been ~6 orders of magnitude larger than Tunguska…

    Melott Nitrate Plot

    Carlson, 2010 noted that the Younger Dryas nitrate increase was not unique.  The previous stadial was also associated with a nitrate increase…

    Carlson Nitrate Plot

    So… There is no clear geochemical signature of a bolide at the Younger Dryas.  While Tunguska exhibits a clear platinum group anomaly…

    Tunguska PGE Plot

    The Younger Dryas exhibits no evidence of a major bolide.  Furthermore, Scott et al., 2010 found the carbonaceous spherules to “have morphologies and internal structures identical to fungal sclerotia (such as Sclerotium and Cenococcum).”

    Tunguska was thought to have been a 50-80 m carbonaceous chondrite that exploded at an altitude of 5-10 km.

    The Carolina Bays are assumed by some to be crater-like in appearance and consistent with a Tunguska-style bolide.  Despite the fact that the Tunguska bolide did not cause a distinctly clear crater (although a fragment of it might have caused one).

    The Barringer Crater was caused by an impacting 10-50 m nickel-iron meteor 40-50 thousand years ago.  Its explosive intensity was similar to Tunguska; but it impacted the ground rather than exploding in the atmosphere.  It left a big hole in the ground, filled with lechaterlierite (fused silica glass) and meteoric material…

    Barringer Crater Geologic Map

    Barringer Crater Cross Section

    The Carolina Bays are semi circular depressions in sandy alluvial and eolian Pleistocene-aged sediments, filled with Holocene-aged mud, muck & peat.  They are ubiquitous on flat, low-lying Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal plains.  They are not craters nor are they even remotely analogous to Tunguska.  The Elizabethtown NC quadrangle is loaded with Carolina Bay features…

    Elizabethtown Surficial Geology Map

    The Carolina Bays are generally NW-SE trending semicircular swampy areas occupying shallow depressions in older sandy deposits…

    Elizabethtown Surficial Geology Map Zoom

    In cross section, they don’t look anything like craters…

    Elizabethtown Cross Section

    And they really don’t look anything at all like Barringer Crater when plotted at the same scale…

    Barringer – Carolina Bay Comparison

    The Carolina Bays were supposedly craters caused by a larger bolide than Tunguska… Yet they don’t have any geochemical signature, no impact mineralogy and their “craters” are smaller than the pile of dirt at the bottom of Barringer Crater.

    The Carolina Bays meteor/asteroid/comet would have had to have been powerful enough to leave 100’s of thousands of small craters without leaving as much geochemical evidence as a much smaller bolide 12,000 years later… And those craters would have had to have been much more subdued  than the one left by a single impacting nickel-iron meteor 40,000 years earlier.  One of Paquay’s sites was Howard Bay NC (a Carolina Bay feature).  It exhibited no PGE anomaly.

    The robot from Lost in Space would say, “That does not compute.” 

  13. David Middleton Says:

    Caleb says:
    March 13, 2012 at 6:17 am
    I’ve only worked halfway through the comments, but most comments fail to discuss the idea the idea that mammoths needed to be flash frozen at 150 below to avoid having the stuff in their guts rot.


    There is absolutely no evidence of “flash frozen” mammoths anywhere on Earth.

    “Baby Lyuba” was even better preserved than the famous “Baby Dima” and she was not “perfectly preserved”…

    The animal’s trunk and eyes are still intact and some of its fur remains on the body.


    “The mammoth has no defects except that its tail was bit off,” said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the delegation.

    “In terms of its state of preservation, this is the world’s most valuable discovery,” he said.



    Lyuba is the first and only mammoth carcass to have “well preserved” internal organs…

    “We could see for the first time how internal organs are located inside a mammoth. It is pretty important from a scientific point of view,” said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Zoological Institute, who has been leading the project.

    “Her internal organs were well preserved — the heart was seen distinctly with all its ventricles and atria, as well as the liver and its veins,” Tikhonov told Reuters.

    “This is the best preserved specimen not only of the mammoth but of any prehistoric animal.”

    The mammoth species has been extinct since the Ice Age. Tests on Lyuba showed she was fed on milk and was three to four months old when she died 37,000 years ago in what is now the Yamalo-Nenetsk region in Russia’s Arctic.

    Scientists were excited by the find because, although her shaggy coat was gone, her skin was intact, protecting her internal organs from contamination by modern-day microbes.

    Tikhonov said the computer tomography, which provided a sharp three-dimensional image of Lyuba’s insides, revealed no injuries or fractures.

    The scans showed her airways and digestive system were clogged with what scientists believe was silt, leading them to conclude that she must have drowned.


    The fact that “airways and digestive system were clogged with” silt is a pretty clear indication that she drowned in a flash flood, sank in a bog or was killed by a mudslide. Parts of mammoths, including a few nearly intact mummified carcasses, with some well-preserved soft tissue and fur, have been found frozen in permafrost (not in ice). These carcasses have been found primarily deposits of silt & mud. All of the other mammoth carcasses show some signs of slow decay with poor preservation of internal organs. Even the previously best-preserved specimen (baby “Dima”) showed some signs of decay. Carcasses buried in mud in near-freezing conditions tend to be preserved fairly well.

    Most animals die with food in their digestive systems and many die with food in their mouths. Most of the mammoths were found in the sort of alluvial deposits associated with flash floods, mudslides and bogs. Now, flash floods are catastrophic – But they are localized phenomena. They happen all the time. Animals don’t often finnish chewing their food, much less digesting it, before being entombed in mud downstream.

    Animals tend to congregate near sources of water – Like rivers & streams. During the Pleistocene glacial stages, Siberia and much of the non-glaciated northern latitudes had an arid, steppe/savannah climate. Roughly every 1500 years, the climate would warm significantly (glacial interstadials, Dansgaard-Oeschger Events) and there was extensive melting of the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. This led to lots of flash floods. Occasionally, massive lakes formed (Missoula, Agassiz, etc.). These lakes were impounded by giant dams of rock, sediment and ice. When these dams failed, floods of biblical proportion occurred; creating landforms like the Channeled Scablands. But these events occurred episodically on a regional scale, not synchronously on a global scale.

    Baby Lyuba probably died toward the end of the the 38.5-36 KYA interstadial.

  14. David Middleton Says:

    Greylensman says:
    March 13, 2012 at 3:57 am
    David Middleton, nice post but a rather lengthy “Strawman” argument. The theory does not solely rest upon the Carolina Bays being an impact site. As far as I am aware, the layers of sediments in that area have been analyzed and a layer found that is contemporary with the Younger Dryas event. A very different observation.

    As far as I can determine, there was no major single impact site unless one takes the site to be in an area that was covered with deep ice at the time.

    The fact that the event occurred and that a very large body of evidence exists, well distributed geographically, that indicates that it was a physical catastrophic event, really calls for much better investigation.

    Fair point… I did harp on about the Carolina Bays a bit too much. There’s something about “scientific” assertions that ignore obvious geology that get me going.

    The fact remains; there is no geochemical evidence of a major bolide at the onset of the Younger Dryas or any other Pleistocene glacial stadials.

    Nanodiamonds and carbonaceous spherules in absence of elevated PGE and other geochemical signatures are not diagnostic of impact events… Particularly when the carbonaceous spherules are identical to fungal spores.

    Climatologically, the Younger Dryas is non-unique. It is the last Pleistocene glacial stadial in a sequence of glacial stadials that occurred with almost clockwork regularity in the Pleistocene. If there’s an “anomaly,” it’s the Bølling-Allerød interstadial. Temperatures in Central Greenland during the Bølling-Allerød interstadial may have been nearly as warm as the Little Ice Age.

  15. David Middleton Says:

    feet2thefire says:
    March 13, 2012 at 9:27 am
    @David Middleton 2:50 am:

    Re Firestone, one by one…

    Not defending Firestone 2007, because Firestone 2007 isn’t the last word.


    Actually most of what Melott finds supports there being a Tunguska-type air burst – even if he says it is so big he can’t fathom it. But isn’t that the point? Tunguska’s forest fire had effects (ammonia and N2 products) was like the YD only about a million times smaller than the YD ammonia and N2 spikes. Thank you for this info. Mellot is behind a paywall, so I can’t go into it like I would like to.


    Melott – Full text

    In modeling Tunguska and YD, Melott et al, assumed “half cometary ice and half rock for both events, but this matters little for atmospheric ionization.”

    If a major bolide impact is involved, existing ice cores should show a large nitrate signal at the onset of the YD. Such an impact could not take place without the production of large amounts of nitrate. The GRIP and GISP2 data show only a modest enhancement.


    Our estimates suggest that there should be greater deposition of nitrate than so far observed from an atmospheric ionization process if the YD event were a cometary airburst of the requisite size.


    As Carlson wrote in the same issue of Geology,

    The Melott et al. study thus lays out a test for the occurrence of a Younger Dryas bolide impact, constrained by observations of the recent Tunguska impact. Their estimates, however, for the increases in nitrate and ammonium associated with a Younger Dryas–size comet are orders of magnitude larger than observed in the Summit Greenland ice core records; the Younger Dryas nitrate and ammonium increases are at most just half of the Tunguska increase. Likewise, the anomalies noted at the start of the Younger Dryas appear to be non-unique in the highest-resolution records (Figs. 1A and 1B). This may be due to the ice core sample resolution. The GISP2 ~3.5 yr sample resolution could potentially under-sample a nitrate or ammonium increase (Mayewski et al., 1997) because both compounds have atmospheric residence times of a few years. As Melott et al. note, higher-resolution sampling from the Greenland ice cores could determine if large (i.e., orders of magnitude larger than the Tunguska event) increases in nitrate and ammonium occurred at the start of the Younger Dryas.

    The nitrate and ammonium anomalies in the GISP2 ice core at the onset of the YD do not support an impact event any larger than Tunguska.

  16. David Middleton Says:

    E.P. Grondine says:
    March 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm
    Hi David –

    What we’re talking about here is a large cometary impact, not an asteroid impact nor a carbonaceous asteroid impact, nor a simple bollide.

    If it was an impact, cometary or otherwise, it would have left a big crater and an obvious and global PGE anomaly.

    A bolide might not have left a crater; but it would have produced a much larger nitrate anomaly than indicated in the GISP2 ice cores and it should also have left behind an obvious and global PGE anomaly.

    E.P. Grondine says>The global impactite layer is proven, a global dust layer large enough to cause a climate collapse for several years, which explains the megafauana extinction and the culture changes (by the survivors)..

    There is no “global impactite layer.” And there’s no evidence of a climatic collapse in the Younger Dryas glacial stadial. It was climatologically indistinct from numerous previous glacial stadials.

    E.P. Grondine saysImpact also neatly explains the peak in mammoth deaths ca. 10,900 BCE (op.cit.)

    What “peak in mammoth deaths”? Well-preserved mammoth carcasses fall into two groups. The largest group dates between 45 to 30 kya and a smaller group dates from 14-11 kya. 10,900 and the Younger Dryas fall into the second, smaller, grouping.

  17. David Middleton Says:

    John from CA on March 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm said:
    feet2thefire says:
    March 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm
    You’re making a good case but this just occurred to me.

    Do the black mat studies include adjusted carbon dating? Are you certain they are in and around exactly the same time frame?

    The Younger Dyras black mat facies span the entire interstadial.  This facies is exhibited in about 2/3 of YD sequences.  Black mat formation began before the YD onset and continued beyond the end of the YD.  It’s a paleosol indicative of cool-wet conditions and/or elevated water tables (Haynes, 2008).  It’s simply bizare that the impact fanatics seem to be calling this an impactite.

    Surovell et al., 2009 tested 7 black mat sites, 2 of which were the same sites in Firestone et al., 2007, and found “no distinct peak in magnetic grains or microspherules uniquely associated with the YD.”

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