On this week’s Dreamland, Andrew Collins talks about an ancient catastrophe that wiped out most of the life in North America 13,000 years ago. It could be the reason that why the Indians were so completely decimated by the Europeans when they arrived?because the continent, although lush, was relatively empty.

Two researchers have a startling new theory: that an extraterrestrial impact, possibly a comet, set off a 1,000-year-long cold spell and wiped out the prehistoric Clovis culture and a variety of animal genera across North America almost 13,000 years ago. One indicator is a carbon-rich layer of soil that has been found, but not definitively explained, at some 50 Clovis-age sites in North America that date to the onset of a long cooling period.

Archaeologists Douglas J. Kennett and Jon M. Erlandson think that a known reversal in the world?s ocean currents and the rapid global cooling that came with it, which some scientists blame for the extinction of multiple species of animals and the end of the Clovis Period, was the result of a bigger event: a large extraterrestrial object exploding above or even into the ice sheet north of the Great Lakes.

Kennett says, “It would have had major effects on humans. Immediate effects would have been in the North and East, producing shockwaves, heat, flooding, wildfires, and a reduction and fragmentation of the human population.” The missing link in their theory is an impact crater, but it may be discovered later, just as the crater from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was.

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