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When first excavated in 1932, the exquisitely crafted, bi-facially fluted hunting implements of the Clovis people were thought to have been made by the first humans to populate North America.
But, there was still much ice covering most of present-day Canada and dipping into the northern U.S.
Voyager I, launched in 1977, is now the furthest man-made object from Earth, currently about 10 billion miles away in the far reaches of the outer solar system beyond Pluto.
This time of climate change and extinction is now known as the boundary between the 2.6 million years of the Pleistocene and the current, interglacial Holocene epochs.
After a few thousand years, agriculture and animal domestication slowly replaced the hunter-gatherer lifestyle for much of humanity. Barely a moment later, mankind discovered the awesome power of the atom, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, Carl Sagan launched humanitya€™s greetings toward the stars, and our challenges became ever more complex.
Diamonds are formed when carbon is subjected to intense heat and pressure, usually over very long periods of time. Critics of the Clovis-impact hypothesis cite a shortage of independently replicated and verified results, the lack of a definitive impact crater matching such a huge event, insufficient charcoal in lake sediments, and the possibility that evidence might have been overly concentrated by water seepage. One particularly interesting Clovis site is Murray Springs in the southern Arizona town of Sierra Vista.
Other possibly supporting evidence includes strange geologic structures called Carolina Bays that are found along the eastern U.S. While a high altitude airburst of a comet would have thrown extra-terrestrial material across the continent, these structures may represent a splatter pattern of material ejected from an actual collision.
What caused the sudden reversal from 3,000 years of fairly steady warming to a return of ice age temperatures? The sudden cooling would then have reinforced itself by causing more sea ice to form, further blocking the flow of warm water to the north. Another recent hypothesis may actually tie together the extinctions, loss of human populations, and the sudden climate change all in one concise, but controversial package. The black mat itself is a thin, carbon-rich layer composed of organic matter, especially dried algae strands, essentially pond scum that was left by stagnant water. In a geologic flash a€” and perhaps literally in a flash a€” some 35 species of large mammals, including American camels and horses, mastodons, woolly mammoths, rhinos, giant ground sloths, tapirs, dire wolves, short-faced bears and saber-toothed cats all went extinct across North America.The only large survivor was the bison.
These ancient people were believed to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge fri??om Asia about 13,500 years ago.
Older, pre-Clovis human sites have since been found across the continent dating back nearly 50,000 years. By whatever means the special tools came to be in North America, they served those we now call the Clovis well for over 350 years near the end of the ice age, which was at least the fifth in repeating cycles of warming and cooling of the Earth. At the height of the ice age, Chicagoa€™s skyscrapers (had they existed) would have been buried under at least a mile of ice.
These ancient people were believed to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia about 13,500 years ago.
The very dark layer is the precise dividing boundary between the Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs. The glassy, top surface of this specimen, found in one of the Carolina Bays, is thought to have formed when cellulose was heated at 3200A? C. This Arizona landmark was formed when a school-bus sized iron meteorite crashed into the Earth.
Trees were scorched and flattened in a a€?butterfly patterna€? by the shockwave caused as an extraterrestrial object exploded high in the atmosphere above a remote area in Siberia.
The cover of Voyager spacecraft compartment containing recorded sounds, pictures and greetings from the people of Earth.
Even with new discoveries and exploratory techniques a€” such as tracing the spread of ancestral RNA a€” the human journey through antiquity will always include both science and mythology. Stone tools gave way to metal a€” initially copper and iron a€” and then bronze, the first of many more man-made materials to come.
However, nanodiamonds have a different molecular structure (hexagonal) and are formed quickly under extreme conditions such as that caused by an extraterrestrial collision with the Earth or the atmosphere.
Indeed, over 80 tons of extra-terrestrial materials fall on our planet every day, primarily as fine dust. Some also question Firestone and West for previously speculating about solar flares, galactic waves and algal nerve toxins as extinction causes.

The lack of a a€?smoking guna€? crater argues against a large, solid asteroid, but not necessarily against a comet a€” which is composed of ice and frozen gases as well as rocks a€” or even a loosely formed asteroid which would also break up high above the surface.
It was here that Clovis artifacts, mammoth tracks and fossilized remains of large mammals were discovered in direct contact with the black mat.
The alignment of the Bays points toward the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay indicating a possible collision with the Laurentide ice-sheet. Greenland ice core evidence shows that the 3000-year warming trend at the close of the ice age came to an abrupt end with average temperatures suddenly dropping 10A? to 20A? F. Even if humans had managed to hunt all of the large mammals to extinction a€” all at once across the entire continent a€” they could not possibly have caused the new deep freeze. The steady melting of ice sheets had formed a giant lake a€” Lake Agassiz a€” that was some 700 miles wide. Although the disruption of the Atlantic Conveyor is now widely accepted as the cause of the Younger Dryas cooling, questions remain about the exact source of the fresh water. In May, 2007, Arizona geophysicist Allen West, James Kennett of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Richard Firestone of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, presented evidence to the American Geophysical Union that a comet had broken up in the atmosphere with the force of multiple nuclear detonations, instantly igniting anything that could burn as a superheated shockwave rushed across North America. At the very base of this layer is a narrow band coinciding with the beginning of the Younger Dryas.
In 1967, Archeologist Paul Martin proposed his a€?overkilla€? hypothesis that the Clovis hunters were responsible for the extinctions through their hunting. Mammoths, mastodons and other large mammals roamed the continent we have since named North America. Human populations across the continent all but disappeared as well, at a time that should have been ideal for continued growth and expansion. Perhaps we can draw parallels between the explosive climate and environmental changes so long ago and the changes we face today: challenges we now interpret with a mixture of science, supposition, belief, hope, fear, denial and always through the personal filters of our own biases. Their unique hunting points have since been found at over 50 sites across all of North America. Among the Clovis sites, some of those in what is now the southeast United States are older than those in the west, and the very oldest of the distinctive artifacts come from a site in southern Chile, throwing into question an orderly migration from Asia to Alaska and then across America. The climate prior to the extinctions seems to have been cooler and wetter than today a€” but with at least two periods of extended drought. Clovis tools and the bones of mammoths are found in the lower sediments but not within the black boundary or above.
The starburst pattern at the lower left shows relative distances from our sun to easily identifiable quasars.
Indeed, the controversial Firestone and West also speculate that the collective memory of such momentous events as atmospheric explosions may survive in human mythology, perhaps as the Thunderbird of Native American culture.
The Clovis culture was gone but was then replaced by the Folsom culture, people who hunted bison instead of mammoths and left behind their own distinctive artifacts. Nanodiamonds are typically found inside meteorites and at impact craters, but have not been associated with volcanic eruptions. After years of controversy, science has now pretty conclusively established that dinosaurs and about half of all animal species of the time were destroyed 65 million years ago by the impact of an asteroid that was over seven miles in diameter leaving a crater 120 miles wide and 1.5-mile-deep in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The upper surface of a mammoth fossil in that excavation was found to be highly magnetic and radioactive but the lower surfaces of the same fossil were not, leading to speculation that the mammoth was suddenly buried while actually in the process of being butchered. Fifteen of these structures were investigated by Richard Firestone and found to contain markers similar to Clovis sites, including nanodiamonds. Broecker proposes that geologic structures holding that water may have broken loose sending a huge pulse of fresh water through what is now the St. Also, evidence of a sufficient flood channel has not been identified, although more recent channels are clearly visible across eastern Canada. Their evidence is found within the very base of that mysterious black mat that is often just above Clovis artifacts.
That band contains charcoal, soot, carbon spherules, and glass-like carbon, all materials associated with intense wild fires. Another researcher, Ross MacPhee, countered that the extinctions could have been caused by a new a€?hyper-diseasea€? spread through contact with colonizing humans. The climate had been warming for about 3,000 years and an advanced prehistoric human culture a€” the Clovis a€” had been thriving for 350 to 500 of those years.
The warming trend came to an abrupt end over a very few years as the climate chilled rapidly.

We humans, along with all of our living neighbors, exist in a fragile, ever changing environment that is occasionally buffeted by sudden, catastrophic shifts followed by yet another new equilibrium.
Another curiosity is that identical flaking and grinding techniques were used thousands of years earlier in southern France, Spain and Portugal, but not in Asia.
As the glaciers retreated, sea levels rose and the a€?land bridgea€? between Asia and North America disappeared under water. The sample is consistent with material that would be left if a tree were impacted by a fast-moving, high-temperature shockwave. The remaining ice sheets retreated as the Earth continued to warm, a trend which has extended to the present with only minor fluctuations.
Earlier extinctions have also been linked to possible collisions, and there is believed to have been an atmospheric explosion of a comet over Asia 750,000 years ago. Perhaps even more telling: the much larger Shoemaker-Levi comet impacting Jupiter in 1994 broke into over 20 pieces as it approached that planet. This extreme cooling ushered in a 1,400-year return to near ice age temperatures known as the Younger Dryas period. According to Broecker, the newer channels may have obliterated earlier evidence, or the a€?big flusha€? might have flowed under the remaining ice sheets.
They initially investigated sediments at Clovis and other sites across North America and in Europe, and have since analyzed more.
The same layer also contains nanodiamonds, magnetic grains, and higher-than-normal levels of iridium, uranium, and thorium as well as a unique isotope of extra-terrestrial helium that is trapped within carbon fullerenes.
Both theories point toward the Clovis hunters as being responsible for the extinctions and the destruction of their own environment. Could the Clovis people have somehow migrated across the Atlantic from what is now Europe, perhaps along a northern route following the edge of the much denser ice packs of the time? Had the collision been with Earth, it is possible that none of those fragments would have actually produced a crater, although the atmospheric explosions would have spread fiery destruction over vast areas, just as the proponents of the Clovis-impact hypothesis assert. The less dense fresh water then disrupted deep-water circulation and cut off the northward flow of warm salt water. Very recently, Mark Bateman of the University of Sheffield, UK, identified the Mackenzie River as the likely path flood waters followed into the Arctic Ocean. The highest concentrations of these materials are found at the northern sites, and the same band has been identified in Greenland ice. Surviving humans reverted to the earlier, more sustainable hunter-gatherer lifestyles until agriculture finally came along at least a thousand years later. No Clovis artifacts or skeletal remains of the large mammals have ever been found within that black-mat layer or above it. Very recently, on June 30, 1908, a presumed comet or low-density asteroid exploded over the remote region of Tunguska in Siberia leveling tens of thousands of trees, scorching the land, sending out a shockwave that circled the Earth twice, and putting so much dust into the atmosphere that people 6,000 miles away in London could read newspapers at night from the diffused light. This climate change affected most of the planet including Europe and Asia, with evidence of the shift found as far away as New Zealand. Broecker, an earth scientist at Columbia University, supports a now widely accepted theory: rapid climate change was caused by the disruption of the Great Atlantic Thermohaline Conveyor.
Another possibility is that the unique tools may represent a technology that was widely traded among Paleolithic cultures, or that individuals independently discovered the same special techniques in isolated locations over the span of many thousands of years. Others again came to the a€?New World,a€? perhaps first in Viking longboats, then with Columbus, followed by Pizarro and Cortez seeking their mythological streets of gold. Some researchers even estimate that this climate disruption may have delayed human development by well over a millennium. This is the ocean current that cycles warm gulf-stream water from the tropics up to the northern latitudes. As so often happens, the newcomers killed and mated with the original inhabitants, overpowering the existing cultures through military strength and foreign beliefs.
Such a disruption could have occurred had there been a sudden, large influx of fresh water into the Atlantic.
The transformation was not just one way, however, as even the conquerors wereA  changed into something new.

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