Clovis Mammoth Hunters: Out With a Whimper or a Bang?

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A team of researchers from the University of Arizona has revisited evidence pointing to a cataclysmic event thought by many scientists to have wiped out the North American megafauna -- such as mammoths, saber tooth cats, giant ground sloths and Dire wolves -- along with the Clovis hunter-gatherer culture some 13,000 years ago.

The team obtained their findings following an unusual, multidisciplinary approach and published them in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Haynes has dedicated his scientific career to the study of the Clovis people -- the first well-defined culture in the New World -- and discovered many sites with evidence of their presence in Arizona. One of the most prominent and most studied of those sites is the Murray Springs Clovis site in southeastern Arizona, where archaeologists and anthropologists have unearthed hundreds of artifacts such as arrowheads, spear points and stone tools. The site includes the remains of a Clovis hunters' camp close to a mammoth and a bison kill site, allowing the researchers to reconstruct the daily life of the Clovis culture to a certain extent.

When the last ice age came to an end approximately 13,000 years ago and the glaciers covering a large portion of the North American continent began melting and retreating toward the north, a sudden cooling period known as the "Big Freeze" or, more scientifically, the Younger Dryas, reversed the warming process and caused glaciers to expand again. Even though this cooling period lasted only for 1,300 years, a blink of an eye in geologic timeframes, it witnessed the disappearance of an entire fauna of large mammals.

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