That Clovis Overkill Hypothesis? How much evidence is there for it, really?

I am amazed that this Clovis as mammoth murderer to extinction idea still has traction.

I am presenting this here not to convince the reader, but to show that the popular idea of humans as mammoth “extinction machines” has another, valid, side to it.  I was not looking for this article or anything along these lines at the time I found it (a couple of months ago) – but it blew me away, that two BIG names in this area of research (Grayson and Meltzer) had such a paper out there.  In my opinion, this paper eviscerates the Overkill hypothesis.  See what you think:

See “A requiem for North American overkill” Grayson and Meltzer 2003. (Yes, the very same Meltzer who is a co-author on some of the YDB skeptical papers.) All the quotes are from that paper.

The argument that human hunters were responsible for the extinction of a wide variety of large Pleistocene mammals emerged in western Europe during the 1860s, alongside the recognition that people had coexisted with those mammals. Today, the overkill position is rejected for western Europe but lives on in Australia and North America. The survival of this hypothesis is due almost entirely to Paul Martin, the architect of the first detailed version of it. In North America, archaeologists and paleontologists whose work focuses on the late Pleistocene routinely reject Martin’s position for two prime reasons: there is virtually no evidence that supports it, and there is a remarkably broad set of evidence that strongly suggests that it is wrong. In response, Martin asserts that the overkill model predicts a lack of supporting evidence, thus turning the absence of empirical support into support for his beliefs. We suggest that this feature of the overkill position removes the hypothesis from the realm of science and places it squarely in the realm of faith. One may or may not believe in the overkill position, but one should not confuse it with a scientific hypothesis about the nature of the North American past.

They discuss island versus continental extinctions and causes.  And they argue efficiently that projecting island extinctions onto continents – which is VERY commonly done – is a completely wrong extrapolation:

The initial human colonization of island after island was followed by vertebrate extinction. That this premise is true, however, does not mean that it is relevant to continental extinctions. After all, the factors that make islands prone to vertebrate extinction — small population sizes of resident vertebrates, the lack of a ready source of conspecific colonizers, and so on — do not apply to the continental setting.

It is not enough to blame humans for mammoth and mastodon extinctions. Over 30 other species went extinct at virtually the same time – with the lack of evidence of Clovis killing them being non-existent:

How many of those genera can be shown to have been human prey during Clovis times?  The answer is two – mammoth and mastodon—(Table 2) and there are only 14 sites that securely document this relationship [39].  As has long been known [42], this is not a sampling fluke (see Fig. 1). There are more late Pleistocene occurrences of horse than there are of mammoth or mastodon, and nearly as many for camel as for mastodon, yet there are no demonstrable kill sites for horse or camel or for any of the remaining genera [30,31,34,36,37,39]. This is not for want of looking.  Given the high archaeological visibility of the remains of extinct Pleistocene mammals, and their great interest to archaeologists and Quaternary paleontologists alike, if such sites were out there, they would surely be found. Indeed, there is a strong bias in the Clovis archaeological record toward just such sites…

So, the next time you see an “artist’s rendition” like this, think about what you are reading today:

The Extinct Late Pleistocene Mammals of North America

Genus / Common name
Pampatheriuma / Southern Pampathere
Holmesina / Northern Pampathere
Glyptotherium / Simpson’s / Glyptodont
Megalonyx / Jefferson’s Ground Sloth
Eremotherium / Rusconi’s Ground Sloth
Nothrotheriops / Shasta Ground Sloth
Glossotheriumc / Harlan’s Ground Sloth
Brachyprotoma / Short-faced Skunk
Cuonb / Dhole
Tremarctos / Florida Cave Bear
Arctodus / Giant Short-faced Bear
Smilodon / Sabertooth Cat
Homotherium / Scimitar Cat
Miracinonyx / American Cheetah
Castoroides / Giant Beaver
Hydrochoerus / Holmes’s Capybara
Neochoerus / Pinckney’s Capybara
Aztlanolagus / Aztlan Rabbit
Equus / Horse
Tapirus / Tapirs
Mylohyus / Long-nosed Peccary
Platygonus / Flat-headed Peccary
Camelops / Yesterday’s Camel
Hemiauchenia / Large-headed Llama
Palaeolama / Stout-legged Llama
Navahoceros / Mountain Deer
Cervalces / Stag-Moose
Capromeryx / Diminutive Pronghorn
Tetrameryx / Shuler’s Pronghorn
Stockoceros / Stock’s Pronghorn
Saigab / Saiga
Euceratherium / Shrub Ox
Bootherium / Harlan’s Musk Ox
Mammut / American Mastodon (2)
Mammuthus / Mammoth (12)


Only the ones in red have confirmed kill sites (number of sites).  See Clovis hunting and large mammal extinction: a critical review of the evidence (Grayson and Meltzer 2002) .  Also see How Many Elephant Kills are 14? Clovis and Mastodon Kills in Context (Surovell and Waguespack 2008).

The experts in the field don’t sign on to the idea, to their credit (but how about the rest of us and the rest of scientists?) : Continue reading

A Look at Fracking-Earthquake Claims

As I am wont to do, I thought I’d look at one of the claims about fracking in wells in Oklahoma.  Why Oklahoma?  I’ve heard quite a few people who are alarmed about all the quakes in Oklahoma since fracking came on line.  So, why not take a look at some basic information?

Here is a map of Oklahoma (without the Panhandle, which has had no quakes):

Map of Oklahoma Quakes 1980-2015

Oklahoma quakes from 1980 to 2015. The yellow circles are quakes in the last week. (Source: USGS)

That looks pretty, bad, I have to admit.  Especially when we all think of Oklahoma as a place that doesn’t HAVE quakes!

And this map makes it even look worse, doesn’t it?  At least on first glance (also not showing the Panhandle).

Fracked Wells in Oklahoma (most of)

Map of Fracked wells in Oklahoma. (Source:


Look at all those fracked wells!  All of that LOOKS like an indictment of fracking. But let’s at least go through the motions and see how bad it is…  Let’s gather some information and do some comparing, okay?  We need to identify the basic information first, and see what happens.

I guessed that the 10 basic pieces of information should be the follwing.  I hope that the list looks pretty sound to you.  If the fracking is causing quakes, we should get a good sense of that – not by looking at general impressions, but by going into a little detail.  The questions:

  1. When did fracking in Oklahama begin?
  2. Has fracking increased in recent years?
  3. Where are the fracking wells?
  4. Is there a pattern to the fracking well locations?
  5. Where are the quakes in Oklahoma in recent years?
  6. How many quakes have there been?
  7. How strong are the earthquakes?
  8. Is there a pattern to the quake locations?
  9. Is there a tie-in between the fracking well areas and the quake areas?
  10. For comparison, do neighboring regions show any fracking-quake patterns?

Continue reading

Terra Preta – The Miracle Soil of the Amazon

For a short time, I’ve been invloved in a discussion about something that most of us have never heard of – TERRA PRETA.

A brief background: In 2006 Charles Mann wrote a book 1491: Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  I read it back in early 2007, and some of the things in it have stuck with me ever since.  It is a TERRIFIC book.

One of the amazing things I learned was about terra preta – a dark soil in the Amazon that Mann said was a miracle soil.  We all are told over and over again that Amazonian soil is TERRIBLE.  Well, all of it isn’t.  Some of it may be the best soil ever.  Used in agriculture, terra preta lasts indefinitely WITHOUT FERTILIZERS.

Terra preta is a mix of soil, charcoal, and ceramic shards put there by people. It also includes fish bones.  Terra preta averages 40-50 cms deep but in some places it is up to 2 meters deep.  Why, no one knows, because you don’t need half a meter or two meters to grow food.  You normally  only need about 25 cms or less usually.  That is about 10″ of topsoil.

Terra preta was first recognized about 100 years ago, but only in the last 20 years or so has anyone studied it.  And what they have found is amazing.

Terra Preta

Terra preta, with its ceramic shards. [Source: NatGeo’s video “Superdirt Made Amazon Cities Possible?”]

First of all, terra preta IS NOT NATURAL.  It is clearly and obviously man-made.  This is known because the ceramic shards are present everywhere terra preta exist – a total area along rivers a little larger than the size of the state of Illinois – but in narrow areas near rivers.

Map of the Amazon's Terra Preta Areas

Map Showing Where Terra Preta is Currently known to be Found [Source: Clement et al 2015 “The domestication of Amazonia before European conquest”]

Even when the very dark terra preta soil is 2 meters deep, the ceramic is in it down to the bottom.  The soil is so dark and numus rich that scientists have given it the artificial name of “Amazonian dark earth”, or ADE.  The name ADE is bullshit, because it is terra preta, and has had that name for a very long time. Continue reading



Alternative Researchers

The term is one commonly used by serious non-credentialed inquirers to distinguish themselves from academic historians and academic scientists, all of whom have achieved their status by way of acquiring a diploma from some institute of higher learning.  The term “alternative research,” does not indicate much to the average person on the street, but there is an increasing number of people who can distinguish that it means quite a lot.

To this audience the term indicates that the inquirer whose work they’re going to read or listen to at a conference is someone who is not bashful about stepping on toes, who calls a spade a spade, whose career does not depend on toeing some line and playing it safe.

To the “credentialed inquirer” (an academic) the term “aternative researcher” means someone who has few if any standards, has not accrued any standing, who has not learned how to think critically, and who is close to being a snake oil salesman.  OUCH!

One has only to look at the history of science to see that it is replete with many early researchers who would today be considered dabblers – mere “researchers”.  Some point to Einstein himself as a dabbler, since he was working in the Swiss Patent Office at the time he developed his Theory of Relativity.  But Einstein is not an appropriate example of a non-credentialed inquirer, because he had only taken the job as a stop-gap measure.  He had attended university and was already known a little bit in the academic world.

Benjamin Franklin would be a more appropriate example of a non-credentialed inquirer. He had little formal education and but had a fervent interest in multiple areas of inquiry and – eventually – a wide circle of influential people in science as an audience.  At that time, evidently, the wall between the two types of researchers had not yet formed.

“Alternative” implies “pseudo” to credentialed scientists, it seems, and certainly suggests outside of science.  It is difficult to address history or archaeology in this present essay, since both of them use so much interpretation that is not quantified, leading to two fields that are so rife with personal prejudice, subjectivity and belief system as to render them both little more than compendia of opinions.  A close friend who is degreed in history amazed me with assertions that everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and that no opinion is considered true above any others.  As an engineer, to hear that even FACTS are debatable and only opinion – well you can imagine my reaction…  I DO ask that friend if 2+2=4 is just an opinion.  So far no answer… Continue reading

Another look at the Carolina bays

I did something interesting and would like to share it…

About a year ago Michael Davias shared with me his Excel spreadsheet pertaining to the Carolina bays.  And what a spreadsheet it is.  The amount of work Michael put into locating and quantifying their locations and sizes and alignments boggles my mind.  It was, as I understand it, tied in with his LIDAR work on the bays.  And without LIDAR, probably the majority of the bays simply are not find-able.  The two – LIDAR and the data – go hand in hand, but the numbers of bays is really up there, and to think that he was able to extract so much precise data about the bays is just mind-numbing.  My hat goes off to Michael for doing so much foundational work.


A few of the more than 43,900 Carolina bays.  [Click to enlarge.]

Maybe the first question that comes to your mind is how many of them Davias was able to find.  The answer to that is 43,900 bays. [Author’s note: I have since been apprised that the number is pushing 45,000 now; the work goes on… I will continue to use the 43,900 number in this post, however… Laziness…LOL]

So the world now has a fairly precise count of the Carolina bays.  It is not half a million, as some have speculated.  It is 43,900.  But 43,900 is still a LOT of bays.  It is also a very large database from which to derive statistical meaning.

How many types of bay planforms are there?  Five types exist in the eastern USA.  Michael gave the three types the names BayCarolina, BayBell, and BaySouth, bayShore, and bayOval.  A sixth type regardless of shape is called BayWest, strictly on location – out in the Great Plains.

What is the size range?  The largest one is 7.95 km x 6.19 km.  The smallest is 0.03 km x 0.03 km.

The farthest north bay is at latitude 41.76°N; the farthest south is at 30.79°N. The farthest east is at 72.80°W; the farthest west is at 100.80°W (in the Bay West group.  Of those in the eastern USA, the farthest west is at 87.62°W. Continue reading

Who Says Kids Are Out of Touch Because of their Techie Toys?

I, for one, don’t.

I am getting the feeling that my optimism about the future is actually growing.

First there is Hans Rosling and his new effort to get people to unlearn what they think is true but isn’t.  And kudos to him, and good luck!

Then there is Matt Ridley, who calmly and realistically points out how WELL we are doing in the world right now, contravening every “Common Wisdom” that the modern-world-haters spew out day after day.

Then, the other day my girlfriend was bemoaning the fact that kids walk down the street with earplugs or several sit in a coffeehouse at the same table focused on their smart phone apps, with the world around their physical bodies focused completely out.  As is typical with most people over 50, she said, “That is terrible! There are all their friends right there! And what are they doing? Tapping away on their cell phones! They don’t even talk to each other anymore!”

Me? I get the exact opposite impression.  These are people doing exactly what they want to do, which in my mind is the absolute best way to learn anything.

Long ago, I looked round me and saw kids – damned near all of them – playing and playing and playing, and smiling all the while, while adults – damned near all of them – were droning through their days with frowns and looks of quiet desperation.   Continue reading

Looking Into Resveretrol a Bit

Let’s see if I can present this in an intelligible way…

The pertinent research papers and passages are linked of presented at the end of this post.


About 2 years ago someone in a nearby town asked me to pick up some resveretrol while in the US and bring it back for her.  At the time I looked it up and it looked like she wanted it for its skin benefits.  No problem.  I picked it up, but then she never came and got it, so it sat on my bathroom shelf for almost 2 years.

Getting a little on with age and having fairly good skin tone myself, one day I thought it might be good to look into the info on resveretrol again.  Why not use something if it might help?   I’d spent the money, after all.  So, online I went.

I found assertions that resveretrol was tested in mice and helped them avoid diabetes and helped them live longer.  Okay, that isn’t too bad.  It also said that some research and found out more of interest to males of my age. Some of the actual scientific research clearly found benefits to male erectile function and sperm counts.  This was just about the very first thing I found out about resveretrol, so along with the purported longevity claims, it raised an eyebrow or two.

Now I assure you that guys my age do not necessarily want high sperm counts. We certainly don’t go around perusing scientific journals to find out what the latest sperm booster is….LOL


I am NOT an exhibitionist.  Nor do I want to blab my sex life to everyone on Earth.  So it takes a bit of guts for me to talk about this stuff. Continue reading