Skip to comments.The Pleistocene Extinction
Posted on 07/25/2003 7:32:42 PM PDT by ckilmer
The Pleistocene Extinction
Paleontologists the world over know that something catastrophic happened to the large mammals roaming the world during the Pleistocene Epoch. Woolly mammoths, mastodons, toxodons, sabre-toothed tigers, woolly rhinos, giant ground sloths, and many other large Pleistocene animals are simply no longer with us. In fact, well over 200 species of animals (involving millions of individuals) totally disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene some 10,000-12,000 years ago in what is known to Paleontologists as the Pleistocene Extinction (Click for table).
Moreover, there is evidence of large geological changes which took place, such as massive volcanism, numerous earthquakes, tidal waves, to say nothing of the glacial melting which raised sea-levels several hundred feet worldwide. It's beginning to look like the Pleistocene Epoch didn't tippy-toe out silently, but rather ended with a large roar. Geologists and Paleontologists have an innate distaste for catastrophism, and that's understandable. Catastrophists, who in the beginning were identifying every strata of sediment with a worldwide flood, layer upon layer, almost totally discredited the field of geology--and uniformitarianism pulled the science out of the fire. But now, scientists in both fields are gradually realizing that both catastrophism and uniformitarianism (or gradualism) are at work in nature, and that everything can't be explained using one or the other alone (Gould, 1975). One of the indicators of the end of the Pleistocene 12,000 years ago is the huge numbers of frozen carcasses in both hemispheres: Canada and Alaska in the western, and Northern Russian and Siberia in the eastern.
THE AMERICAN REMAINS
Back in middle 1940s Dr. Frank C. Hibben, Prof. of Archeology at the University of New Mexico mounted an expedition to Alaska to look for human remains. The remains he found were not human, but what he found was anything but evidence of gradualism or uniformitarianism. Instead he found miles of muck filled with the remains of mammoth, mastodon, several kinds of bison, horses, wolves, bears and lions. Just north of Fairbanks, Hibbens and his associates watched as bulldozers pushed the half-melted muck into sluice boxes for the extraction of gold. Animal tusks and bones rolled up in front of the blades "like shavings before a giant plane". The carcasses were found in all attitudes of death, most of them "pulled apart by some unexplainable prehistoric catastrophic disturbance" (Hibben, 1946).
The evidence of the violence of nature combined with the stench of rotting carcasses was staggering. The ice fields containing these remains stretched for hundred of miles in every direction (Hibben, 1946). Trees and animals, layers of peat and mosses, twisted and mangled together like some giant mixer had jumbled them some 10,000 years ago, and then froze them into a solid mass (Sanderson, 1960). The evidence immediately suggests an enormous tidal wave which raged over the land, tumbling animals and vegetation within its mass, which was then quick-frozen. But the extinction is not limited to the Arctic.
Paleontologist George G. Simpson considers the extinction of the Pleistocene horse in north America to be one of the most mysterious episodes in zoological history, admitting that in all honesty no one knows the answer. He also admits that this is only a part of the larger problem of the extinction of many other species in America at the same time (Simpson, 1961). The horse is merely the tip of the iceberg: giant tortoises living in the Caribbean Sea, the giant sloth, the sabre-toothed tiger, the glyptodont and toxodon. These were all tropical animals. They weren't wiped out because Alaska and Siberia were experiencing an Ice Age. "Unless one is willing to postulate freezing temperatures across the equator, such an explanation clearly begs the question," say leading Paleontologists (Martin & Guilday, 1967).
Woolly rhinoceros, giant armadillos, giant beavers, giant jaguars, ground sloths, antelopes and scores of other entire species were all totally wiped out at the end of the Pleistocene. Massive piles of mastodon and sabre-toothed tiger bones were discovered in Florida (Valentine, 1969), while mastodons, toxodons, giant sloths and other animals were found in Venesuala quick-frozen among the mountain glaciers (Berlitz, 1969). All died at about the same time, roughly 12,000 years ago.
FROZEN ANIMALS IN SIBERIA
The picture in Siberia and northern Europe is no different. Just north of Siberia whole islands are formed of the bones of Pleistocene animals swept northward from the continent into the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean. It has been estimated that some ten million animals lay buried along the rivers of northern Siberia. Thousands of tusks formed a massive ivory trade for the master carvers of China, all from the remains of the frozen mammoths and mastodons of Siberia. The famous Beresovka mammoth first drew attention to the preserving properties of being quick-frozen when buttercups were found in its mouth. This was no gradual event--it had to be sudden!
And the event was worldwide. The mammoths of Siberia became extinct about the same time as the giant rhinoceros of Europe; the mastodons of Alaska and the bison of Siberia ended simultaneously. The same is true of the Asian elephants and the American camels. The cause of these extinctions must be common to both hemispheres. If the coming of glacial conditions was gradual, it would not have cause the extinctions, because the various animals could have simply migrated to where conditions were better. What is seen here is total surprise, and uncontrolled violence (Leonard, 1979).
Geologists are once more becoming divided on the issue of catastrophism. A few are breaking away from their hard stand of the past, and are at looking at the problem with more of an open mind. Mr. Harold P. Lippman seems to be objective when he admits that the magnitude of fossils and tusks encased in the Siberian permafrost present an "insuperable difficulty" to the theory of uniformitarianism, since no gradual process can result in the preservation of tens of thousands of tusks and whole individuals, "even if they died in winter" (Lippman, 1962). Especially when many of these individuals have undigested grasses and leaves in their belly.
Certain misguided workers have vainly suggested that man was the cause of all this death and destruction. In the first place, the remains of the animals out number the remains of man a million to one. There is no way the populations of man could have killed this many animals. Some Pleistocene bone sites obviously represent the efforts of Big Game Hunters: fire was sometimes used to drive a herd of animals over a cliff or into a bog to be slaughtered for food. In these instances, the hand of man is rather obvious. Prof. N. K. Vereschagin of the then Soviet Union states bluntly: "The accumulation of mammoth bones and carcasses of mammoth, rhinoceros, and bison found in frozen ground in Indigirka, Lolyma, and Novosibirsk bear no traces of hunting of primitive man" (Vereschagin, 1967).
UNIVERSAL DEATH IN 10,000 B.C.
Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist, was shocked by the extinction of species at the close of the Pleistocene. He writes: "The extinction of species has been involved in the most gratuitous mystery . . . no one can have marvelled more than I have at the extinction of species" (Darwin, 1859). He declared that for whole species to be destroyed in Southern Patagonia, in Brazil, in the mountain ranges of Peru, and in North America up to the Bering Straits, one must "shake the entire framework of the globe".
Watching them cut the huge block of muck filled ice containing the mammoth remains on the recent "Discovery" TV special helped me realize: if a woolly mammoth standing out in the grasslands of central Asia were to suddenly die, for whatever reason, his body would simply rot and the scavangers would pick the bones clean. The only way for this to have happened would be for the mammoth to either fall in a lake or pond and drown or be swept into this mass of vegetation, insects and mud by a massive wave of water. Under which of these two scenarios would such an animal be quick-frozen? His hair and skin were still intact--even the food in his stomach!
Even the Pleistocene geologist William R. Farrand of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, who is opposed to catastrophism in any form, states: "Sudden death is indicated by the robust condition of the animals and their full stomachs . . . the animals were robust and healthy when they died" (Farrand, 1961). Neither in his article nor in his letters of rebuttal does Farrand ever face the reality of worldwide catastrophe represented by the millions of bones deposited all over this planet right at the end of the Pleistocene.
Some geologists may be softening their traditional stand against axial tilts and other rotational variations which could be the cause of world catastrophies. Dr. J. R. Heirtzler of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory observed that there has been "a revival of a 30-year-old theory that the glacial ages were caused by changes in the tilt of the earth's axis . . . there is clear evidence that large earthquakes occur at about the same time as certain changes in the earth's rotational motion." He goes on to say: "Whatever the mechanism of these changes, it is not hard to believe that similar changes in the earth's axial motion in times past could have caused major earthquake and mountain-building activity (see my Archeology page: Tiahuanacu) and could even have caused the magnetic field to flip" (Heirtzler, 1968). It has also been found that the end of the Pleistocene was attended by rampant volcanic activity (Hibben, 1946).
More recently Prof. Stephen Jay Gould, professor of geology at Harvard University, after studying the geological and paleontological record intensively, has championed the cause for open-minded consideration of catastrophism and uniformitarianism. He concludes that both concepts are represented equally in the geological record (Gould, 1977). Prof. Hibben appears to sum up the situation in a single statement: "The Pleistocene period ended in death. This was no ordinary extinction of a vague geological period which fizzled to an uncertain end. This death was catastrophic and all inclusive" (Hibben, 1946).
So it seems we have the end of the Ice Age, the Pleistocene extinction, the end of the Upper Paleolithic (Magdalenian, Perigordian and all others), and the close of the "reign of the gods" in Manetho, all on roughly the same date - 10,000 B.C. It appears to me that the evidence, when all of it is taken into full consideration, points to a worldwide catastrophe, from whatever cause, which occurred at the close of the Pleistocene Epoch (roughly 10,000 B.C.) And this is about the date Plato gives for the sinking of Atlantis.
TOP of Page Bibliography
Berlitz, Charles, "The Mystery of Atlantis," New York, 1969. Farrand, William R., "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology," Science, Vol.133, No. 3455, March 17, 1961. Heirtzler, J. R., "Sea-floor spreading," Scientific American, Vol. 219, No. 6, December 1968. Gould, Stephen Jay, "Catastrophies and Steady State Earth," Natural History, Vol. LXXXIV, No. 2, February 1975. Gould, Stephen Jay, "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, Vol. LXXXVII, No. 5, May 1977. Hibben, Frank, "The Lost Americans," Thomas & Crowell Co., New York, 1946. Leonard, R. Cedric, Appendix A in "A Geological Study of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," Special Paper No. 1, Cowen Publ., Bethany, 1979. Lippman, Harold E., "Frozen Mammoths," Physical Geology, New York, 1969. Martin, P. S. & Guilday, J. E., "Bestiary for Pleistocene Biologists," Pleistocene Extinction, Yale University, 1967. Sanderson, Ivan T., "Riddle of the Frozen Giants," Saturday Evening Post, No. 39, January 16, 1960. Simpson, George G., "Horses," New York, 1961. Vereshchagin, N. K., "Primitive Hunters and Pleistocene Extinction in the Soviet Union," Pleistocene Extinction (P. S. Martin & H. E. Wright, J., editors), New Haven, 1967.
Then, about 1950, they started mapping the ocean floor and discovered the mid-atlantic ridge. They finally had to accept his theory, but instead of calling it "Continental Drift", they called it "Plate Tectonics"
This did get my attention. I have had, and still do, a keen interest in geology - started when I moved into an area that was "hot" - Nevada - 20 some years ago.
I make no claims to expert knowledge, but I know enough that the Feds intent to carry on with Yucca Mountain is truly stupid. Several "go arounds" on this forum with other folks - all well east of here, curiously enough :) - that think all their nuclear waste should go to Nevada.
The ignorant are, sometimes, blinded by their stupidity.
As for your link, I thank you. Book marked and will be reading about soon.
When the idea that the current continental configuration was indeed "fluid" was first published - it was shunned.
Then it was proved. Pangea (sp ?) to what we have now - ever changing, etc.
Again, I am fortunate to live out west - where it's happening - seismically speaking.
I think there are about 20 people in this town that know there is an "extinct" volcano in the mountain range that borders the east side of this valley. Or know about the "Long Valley Caldera" on the California / Nevada border. The last time it blew it covered this area in 6" of ash - and that event was not all that long ago, in geologic terms.
I poked fun with my first post. No offense intended. I do apprecitate the link you sent.
Well thank you for the invite - but I have to decline - for health reasons.
Seems that awhile back they found evidence (trees buried under several feet of sand) of some rather sizeable tsunamis in your locale.
Tsunamis are a given fact if you live close to the ocean. The problem with your area was that they found this evidence about 100 miles inland from the coast.
I may not be the brightest bulb in the "illumination" scheme but that tells me there was one hell of shake immediately off your coast.
Indeed, evidence points to repeated occurances of these events. Tick..tick..tick.
Your player is the Juan De Fuca plate. As - literally - opposed to the North Amercian and Pacific plates.
As a matter of fact, there is a new and growing volcano not too far off shore from you folks - forget the name they gave it - but of very high interest.
Of course we can't ignore the stuff to your west - Mt Hood, Mt Baker, Mt St Helens, etc.
The Rim of Fire.
What does not get enough publicity is the fact that the more these volcano's age, the less stable they become. Acidity from the volcanic gasses literally turn stone into clay.
Nevada ranks second in the "thin-ness" of the outer crust - what my house sits on. This state is literally being pulled apart - like you pull a pizza dough to spread it thin.
Again, thank you for the invite but I think I'll be staying here.
Landers - stero speakers suspended from ceiling swaying, water in my pool - side to side waves - spilling out. I have a water bed. I was ready to bitch at the wife, "what the heck you doing over there?", when I noticed she was still asleep.
Won't be long before San Fran is in Alaska!!! Ha.
I was in the North Ridge earthquake back in '94. We had numerous small earthquakes in the 2 range off the coast of Santa Monica for a couple of weeks before it hit. Not to get you worried or anything...8-)
Are you from / in the north west? Not that that is important. Just curious.
People freaked about Mt St Helens when it blew. That was nothing but a sparkler show in a serious fireworks demonstration.
Mt Mazama. That was big. Memory - probably wrong - tells me that event was about 11,000 years ago. Yellowstone National Park. That was big - several times. A caldera of huge proportions - and now growing - again. Reload.
I have not heard of Steen Mountain - it has actually been several (5 -6) years since I've been actively looking / reading. etc.
Have you been to Idaho - Craters of the Moon, etc? Snake River Plateau, etc?
Several documented cases of the the magnetic fields completely flip-flopping. All from looking at lava. Amazing stuff.