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The Clovis Mystery : What Happened To Clovis Man
A Day In The Life Of A Clovis Hunter
It was approaching daybreak when the small group of men reached the proper waiting place. At the edge of a slope surrounding a flat area of forest roughly twenty acres or so, they stopped and scattered out along the decline. The forested area was bordered by the slope on three sides, with the fourth side being shallow water filled swamps. This same wooded plot had been used for hunting for thousands of years before this day and would be used for thousands more. With plenty of water and grazing, it was an ideal spot for the animals now feeding close by.
When the signal was given, a shout or whistle, the hunters converged on the herd and launched their spears into the bodies of several of the huge elephantine creatures. If they were lucky, they would get at least one of the animals which would feed the hunter’s families for a week or more. Many of the herd would escape into the swamps, but they had to come out again sometime. That is, unless the huge alligators smelled the blood of those wounded by the hunters spears and finished them off in the shallow water of the cypress swamps.
Deadly Works Of Art
The hunters were seldom disappointed as the veterans would point out a particular animal to concentrate their efforts upon. The points of the hunter’s spears were as sharp as razors, the atlatls used to propel the projectiles were cutting edge technology for this time in early man’s history.
We know these mysterious people today as Clovis Man. They were the first immigrants to explore the Americas, eventually spreading from Alaska to parts of South America.
For several thousand years they lived and throve on both continents enjoying the abundance of game and other food sources there for the taking.
But about 13,000 years ago they suddenly disappeared, along with several species of the animals they hunted. Some of the predators, which also fed upon the teeming herds of giant bisonand mammoths, disappeared also.
What happened to them is still a mystery today. Their whole existence is shrouded in controversy with many possible answers to the ongoing mystery.
It is surmised that native American tribes encountered by early explorers are descendents of these mysterious people, but for now we do not know. Perhaps scientific research will eventually solve this part of the mystery and the missing mega fauna also.
Bad News For Large Grazing Beasts
Did Clovis Man Cause The Extinctions?
The Overkill Theory
Since the disappearance of the mega fauna coincided somewhat with the immigration of Clovis Man, many scientists believe the giant animals were hunted into extinction by these efficient hunters.
Mammoths and mastodons are believed to have had a gestation period similar to their modern ancestors, the Indian and African elephant.
With a 22 month gestation period, this would make it harder for the mammoths or mastodons to reproduce fast enough to keep pace with the hunter’s needs.
Or so the supporters of this theory claim. But would they devastate the entire herds of giant bison too? Their gestation periods were not as long as the mammoths or mastodons adding even more suspicion to the overkill theory.
The giant ground sloth, along with several other species of large creatures vanished at the same time. So what gives?
Many of the giant creatures were herd animals. Giant bison, camels, mammoths, mastodons, and the American horse, all disappeared from both North and South America. So why didn’t the smaller bison vanish also?
When the first Europeans explored North America the bison herds were enormous, taking days to pass by the explorer’s camps. If the hunter’s killed the other species why not the smaller bison also? Some parts of this theory just do not add up.
A Change In Weather
From Cold To Warm
An abrupt climate change at the end of the late Pleistocene era is another reason stated for the mass extinctions . Colder weather affected the huge mega fauna of the Pleistocene, some scientists believe, with food being more difficult to find. This event is called the Youger Dryas period. The cooler climate is thought to have affected not only the herd animals, but those creatures feeding on them. Thus the saber tooth cat and giant wolves, along with the American lion and others, would suffer and die because they depended on these large animals for a normal source of food.
The vegetation would also change with some animals unable to adapt quickly enough to survive the transition. It is possible the plants themselves went through periods of adaptation which prevented some of the creatures from using them as a food source as they had in the past. But then why did Clovis Man suddenly seem to vanish along with the giant creatures. Again, this theory doesn’t fully explain why some species disappeared while others went on seemingly unaffected. Perhaps time will tell us more about this climate change and its victims.
Disease Wrecks Havoc On Herds
A Virus Could Have Been The Culprit
There is also the old faithful exterminator of living things, disease. Although no identifiable strain of virus or other contagious diseases have been found thus far, this theory could explain the sudden end of the mega fauna and Clovis Man. The herd animals would be especially vulnerable to this type of disease as they congregate in large groups and come in contact with other herding species.
The predators, including Dire wolves, short faced bears, saber tooth cats, and Clovis Man, would feed upon the infected animals, ingest the meat containing the infectious disease, and the cycle was complete. In a short time the entire food chain would be affected and extinctions would be a matter of course.
But once again, why did the smaller bison and other grazing animals survive? Antelope, deer, moose, caribou, bear and the list goes on and on. Were these creatures immune to the killing disease? Even if the large animals vanished, Clovis Man still had other food sources to choose from. Did he quit using the large projectile points he was named for because the animals were smaller than the megafauna, or did he almost disappear like the huge animals he formerly hunted?
It is true he may have adapted his hunting techniques for the smaller game still around after the Pleistocene, but it is doubtful this would have happened all at once. There should be a period of transition between the two different distinct flint knapping styles instead of a complete change. This theory, like the first two, leaves too many questions unanswered at this point in time. But it could have been a contributing factor of both megafauna and Clovis Man disappearances.
The Outer Space Connection
The latest and most intriguing theory involves a meteor or asteroid explosion over North America spawning forest fires and burning plains from coast to coast. This would have especially impacted the grazing animal species and the predators that fed upon them. Perhaps the smaller bison and other grazers could find enough food for a few of their number to survive long enough for the trees and grasses to rebound.
Without the large predators to thin their numbers they managed to regain and perhaps eclipse their former populations. A small group of the Clovis hunters may have eked out a scant living long enough to adapt to the new environment. Never again would they hunt the mammoth or mastodon. The Clovis points would never be used again. There is some evidence of this vast conflagration, according to some scientists.
This group of theorists include archaeologists who claim a very thin layer of ash separates the last Clovis/mega fauna layer from a layer in which no trace of these creatures can be found. Recently, six Clovis sites have yielded microscopic diamond dust, known as nanodiamonds, only caused by extreme pressure normally associated with comet or asteroid impacts or explosions.
This gives support to the theory of a string of exploding comets causing the Younger Dryas period which lasted approximately 1,300 years. This cold spell is thought to have affected both the giant animals and Clovis Man’s means of survival. This event corresponds, almost exactly, with the extinctions indicated by the Younger Dryas Boundary layer contents. This theory just gets better as we learn more from the excavations of the Clovis sites.
We Just Keep Digging
The Answer Is?
Conclusion - Actually, there isn't one yet! The answer may be a combination of any or all of these theories or, something entirely unexpected. Science has a way of uncovering odd and wonderful things if given enough time.
So it is only a matter of time before we finally know the answer to the mystery of the late Pleistocene extinctions. Our technology will finally allow us to understand more about the past thousands of years of our existence and survival. It is one story of the ancient people who inhabited our fascinating world, a tale both wonderful and tragic in the telling. But it will be a story well worth waiting for, I am sure.