Ever since the publication of the groundbreaking book the Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes in 2006, a controversy has raged about whether or not the explosion of a comet over southern Canada almost 13,000 years ago might have led to the catastrophic collapse of the great ice sheets and the floods that followed, that are memorialized in myths and legends around the world.
Now a new study offers further evidence that this is exactly what happened. Could it happen again?
In a 2007 study, Richard Firestone found concentrations of spherules (micro-sized balls) of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites that his team examined. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in Earth’s atmosphere. Among the sites examined was "Topper," one of the most pristine US sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.
The micro-particles, which are composed of iron, silica, iridium and nano-diamonds (the iridium and diamonds indicate the rocks came from space) are believed to be consistent with a massive impact that could have killed off the Clovis people and the large North American animals of the day. Thirty-six species, including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, went extinct.
Science Daily quotes researcher Malcolm LeCompte as saying, "What we had at Topper and nowhere else were pieces of manufacturing debris from stone tool making by the Clovis people. Topper was an active and ancient quarry at the time."
Scientists call the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years "the Younger-Dryas." While that brief ice age has been well-documented, the reasons it happened remained unclear–until now.