More on archaeology and the younger Dryas boundary event

3 Oct 2010

The University of Arizona at has issued a news report on the 'cold water on the comet hypothesis' paper. They begin by saying the notion of a comet or asteroid striking the earth and wiping out entire species is compelling, but .... they don't think the evidence is there.

Vance Holliday, one of the co-authors, is a professor of Geo-archaeology at Arizona University, and a man with an enviable knowledge of his subject, the archaeology of North America. His views are important. His colleague, DJ Meltzer is an archaeologist and in the press release points out they used C14 dates from 40 plus sites and added most Clovis archaeology comes from kill sites - not settlements (transient or otherwise). Gaps across time and the disappearance of Clovis points, they said, were more likely the result of shifting settlement patterns as a result of a nomadic lifestyle (following the herds). George Howard at has brought both sides together . In a scoop, George Howard has manoevred an exchange between Vance Holliday and Rick Firestone for the benefit of Cosmic Tusk readers. EP Grondine opened the exchange by saying Clovis elements had been found in Venezeula, Gulf Coast Florida, and extensively in Georgia - but not in the far north of the continent. They could have come from South America, he suggested, by boat - or Clovis hunters could have explored the Caribbean coastal bowl. They could have spread inland along animal migration routes. He goes on to say Holliday has been unable to identify cultural complexes of people descended from Clovis, in a direct cultural manner.

However, the real exchange was between Firestone and Holliday and makes interesting reading as Firestone obviously feels under seige to a certain extent as the YD boundary event theory is rocking the consensus view - and people are ready to defend what they see as an assault on what they believe rather than on examining the facts. The problem is that several studies have not found the nano-diamonds and Firestone is forced to suggest they were either looking in the wrong place or had not done their chemical analysis of soil samples in the same way as the YD impact team. Hence, Holliday is able to counter by criticising Firestone for blaming everyone but himself for the negative papers that have followed the publication of the hypothesis in 2008. In addition, Holliday was extremely critical of some the arguments made in the Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith book, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes. In effect, the authors had made certain assertions regarding the archaeology of Clovis - which Holliday, with 40 years experience in that field, took an agrieved stance at the errors he said were made, a result of non-archaeologists meddling in archaeology. Firestone, in defence, clearly did not feel archaeologists and geologists were robust in their methodology, and his views had not adequately been disproved. He seems to have been annoyed by the fact that geologists and archaeologists are exploring the past but only take notice of certain things - and ignore the kind of evidence of impact in which he is primarily interested in. Their excavations, in his eyes, were wasting time by concentrating on artefacts and the analysis of skeletal material whereas Holliday responded in  like manner. 

Altogether an extremely useful exchange in order to understand both sides of the argument - on the archaeology