Catastrophic Scenarios (real or imagined)

4 Feb 2010

Science Daily January 27th ... the Neanderthals are now said to have died out in Iberia 37,000 years ago, coinciding with dramatic changes in climate and environment. Accurate C14 dating was achieved via the Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator from a sample of cave sediment. This date is 5000 years younger than the demise of Neanderthals north of the Pyrenees but C14 techniques are notoriously difficult around the upper limits at 40,000 years ago. The new C14 methods developed in laboratories such as Vienna are thought to be much more reliable. However, as yet, archaeologists are suggesting Neanderthals survived in Iberia longer than elsewhere, unwilling I suppose to upset the conventional wisdom. One aspect notably absent from research into the disappearance of the Neanderthals is the idea of catastrophe - an extinction that might be associated with environmental changes that took place between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago (but see Firestone et al, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes Bear and Company, Rochester, Vermont: 2006). Firestone et al atribute this particular disaster to cosmic radiation from a supernova but of course other causes are equally tenable - or none at all.

Science Daily, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2009 ... an article that claims that during the Late Pleistocene period, between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, North America lost over 50 per cent of its large mammal species. New research suggests this happened extremely quickly - more precisely somewhere between 13.8 and 11.4 thousand years ago (basically, in the period leading up to the Younger Dryas event). Hence, in geological terms the extinctions were sudden - even more sudden if Firestone et al are correct, or Allen and Delair. They suggest human overkill may have been the cause, or a comet (picking up on Firestone et al) or another unknown rapid event mechanism. It was not a slow attrition, according to the authors of the paper and this is presented in all innocence as a completely new finding. However, we should perhaps take comfort from the fact it is now gradually being accepted that evidence exists of unequivocal sudden death which means of course rapid deposition at the same time - but yet to be admitted.