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Geoarchaeological and Paleohydrological Evidence for a Clovis-Age Drought in North America and Its Bearing on Extinction

  • C. Vance Haynes (a1)

At the Murray Springs Clovis site in southeastern Arizona, stratigraphic and geomorphic evidence indicates that an abnormally low water table 10,900 yr B.P. was followed soon thereafter by a water-table rise accompanied by the deposition of an algal mat (the “black mat”) that buried mammoth tracks, Clovis artifacts, and a well. This water-table fluctuation correlates with pluvial lake fluctuations in the Great Basin during and immediately following Clovis occupation of that region. Many elements of Pleistocene megafauna in North America became extinct during the dry period. Oxygen isotope records show a marked decrease in δ18O correlated with the Younger Dryas cold-dry event of northern Europe which ended 10,750 yr B.P., essentially the same time as the water table began to rise in southeastern Arizona. Clovis hunters may have found large game animals easier prey when concentrated at water holes and under stress. If so, both climate and human predation contributed to Pleistocene extinction in America.

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Quaternary Research
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