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Study: Massive comet impact did not wipe out prehistoric humans

It turns out a massive comet impact may not have destroyed the prehistoric Clovis culture.

According to a newly released study, a massive comet impact did not lead to the end the prehistoric human culture, known as Clovis, in North America 13,000 years ago.

Researchers, led by Professor Andrew Scott of the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, say they have gathered evidence that shows a massive comet never impacted near the site of the Clovis society, which was located in present day New Mexico.

“The theory has reached zombie status,” said Scott. “Whenever we are able to show flaws and think it is dead, it reappears with new, equally unsatisfactory, arguments. Hopefully new versions of the theory will be more carefully examined before they are published.”

The Clovis culture, widely seen as one of the oldest cultures in North America, were once thought to be the ancestors of all the indigenous cultures of North and South America, although current researchers suggests otherwise. The society disappeared fairly soon after forming (less than 600 years), leading to speculation that a major event must have quickly killed off large portions of the society.

Scott, working alongside with European and U.S. colleagues, say the study failed to find evidence of an appropriately sized impact crater from that time period. They also noted that there is no evidence of an unambiguously “shocked” materials — a sign that often accompanies asteroid or comet impacts. In addition, proposed fragmentation and explosion mechanisms “do not conserve energy or momentum,” a basic law of physics that must be satisfied for impact-caused climate change to have validity, according to the authors.

Writing in the journal Geophysical Monograph Series, the researchers argue other explanations must be found for the apparent disappearance of the Clovis people. No explanation regarding the disappearance of the Clovis society was provided by researchers, although a number of explanations have previously been put forth.

It remains unclear whether researchers will launch a study aimed at following up on additional evidence presented in support of the comet theory.