Humans played major role in demise of ancient mammals
Radiocarbon analysis of the decline and extinction of large mammals in the Americas lends support to the idea that hunting by humans led to the animals’ demise – and backs the generally accepted understanding of when humans arrived in, and how they colonised, the Western Hemisphere.
These findings by University of Wyoming researchers support a hypothesis forwarded in 1973 by geoscientist Paul Martin that the chronology of the extinction of animals such as mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses and ground sloths in the Americas could be used to map the spread of humans through the New World.
The study involved compiling radiocarbon dates from fossils of now- extinct animals from North and South America and looking at how those dates correspond with initial evidence of human colonisation. The researchers found that, as Martin predicted, decline and extinction of the large mammals began between 13,300-15,000 years ago in Alaska and areas near the Bering Strait; between 12,900-13,200 years ago in the contiguous United States; and between 12,600-13,900 years ago in South America.
That supports the generally accepted understanding of how humans colonised the Americas: first, that they crossed from Siberia to Alaska across a Bering Strait land bridge; and then that they moved southward across North America and into South America.
Participants in the niversity of Wyoming’s Archaeological ield chool work at the site of a mammoth kill near aPrele Creek in Converse County.