The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis: A cosmic catastrophe

Vance T. Holliday, Todd Surovell, David J. Meltzer, Donald K. Grayson, Mark Boslough

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23 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this paper we review the evidence for the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis (YDIH), which proposes that at ∼12.9k cal a BP North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East were subjected to some sort of extraterrestrial event. This purported event is proposed as a catastrophic process responsible for: terminal Pleistocene environmental changes (onset of YD cooling, continent-scale wildfires); extinction of late Pleistocene mammals; and demise of the Clovis 'culture' in North America, the earliest well-documented, continent-scale settlement of the region. The basic physics in the YDIH is not in accord with the physics of impacts nor the basic laws of physics. No YD boundary (YDB) crater, craters or other direct indicators of an impact are known. Age control is weak to non-existent at 26 of the 29 localities claimed to have evidence for the YDIH. Attempts to reproduce the results of physical and geochemical analyses used to support the YDIH have failed or show that many indicators are not unique to an impact nor to ∼12.9k cal a BP. The depositional environments of purported indicators at most sites tend to concentrate particulate matter and probably created many 'YDB zones'. Geomorphic, stratigraphic and fire records show no evidence of any sort of catastrophic changes in the environment at or immediately following the YDB. Late Pleistocene extinctions varied in time and across space. Archeological data provide no indication of population decline, demographic collapse or major adaptive shifts at or just after ∼12.9 ka. The data and the hypotheses generated by YDIH proponents are contradictory, inconsistent and incoherent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-530
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Volume29
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Keywords

  • Clovis
  • Extinction
  • Extraterrestrial impact
  • Younger Dryas
  • Younger Dryas impact hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology

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