USC officials say an archeological site in South Carolina is part of a story that may answer an age-old mystery of why the earth went back into an ice age and what killed off man and large mammals in North America.
A dig in Allendale County known as the Topper Site found tools along the Savannah River of an ice age culture dating back 16,000 years and other signs that humans were there more than 30,000 years before that.
Lead University of South Carolina archaeologist Al Goodyear is part of a new major study that speculates a comet may have been the catalyst for a new ice age almost 13,000 years ago. The theory is that the comet’s impact wiped out 36 species including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger. All lived in South Carolina at the time.
Goodyear is the co-author of a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The question is, ‘why was it so sudden?’ It’s sort of a freakish climatic event when you look at the last million years. There have been 4 major ice ages, but none of them came on like this. So it almost had a catastrophic… kind of character to it. It didn’t make sense in a way because the earth was getting warmer,” Goodyear told South Carolina Radio Network.
So scientists are using something at the Allendale site to help prove that:
“Micro spherules, little tiny balls perhaps no bigger than the width of a human hair, very very tiny,” says Goodyear. “What we have are these high concentrations of micro spherules that seem to accompany impacts.”
These tiny black ball bearings with a marred surface pattern are believed to have resulted from being crystalized in a molten state and then rapidly cooled.
Dr. Goodyear has been studying the Topper site since 1998 and he says the possible impact was a sizable one as scientists believe the comet hit far north of Allendale, South Carolina.