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Mammoth shrapnel
December 16, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

New evidence (Nature) has been discovered in support (BBC) of the North American Comet Catastrophe of 10,900 BC (previously). "We think that there was probably an impact which exploded in the air that sent [meteorite] particles flying into the animals.. the fragments unlikely originated on Earth." The discovery was made by Allen West using a magnet at an Arizona motel during a sale of Mammoth tusks. "It was just a tiny magnet on a string, but very strong. It would swing over [mammoth tusks] and stick firmly to these little dots."
posted by stbalbach (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool news! I love wacky discoveries like that. Magnets, fossil tusks, and comets...
Nature link requires a paid subscription to read more than the first paragraph, apparently.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2007


Seems highly unlikely.

Actually, that's incorrect. Seems preposterous.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2007


Giant Frag Grenade from Space?
posted by parallax7d at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2007


Just another reason why it sucked to be Mammoth.
posted by SassHat at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2007


I think the timeline's off stbalbach. From the end of the nature article:

Past blast

The geochemical analysis confirmed that the pieces had a high iron and nickel content, and were low in titanium, making them more likely to be from meteorites than from Earth-bound rocks.

The dating showed that most of the tusks were 30,000 to 34,000 years old, and so not relevant to their theory about the end of the Clovis people (for more on that theory, see Blast in the past?). One tusk dated to 21,000 years ago, and the bison skull to 26,000 years old, but Firestone thinks that the dating of these specimens might have been affected by contamination of the samples. Future work, he thinks, will probably show them to be from the same meteorite shower as the other samples. They plan to refine the dates on all specimens as they move towards publication.

Firestone and his colleagues note that other scientists have found evidence that the populations of some large mammals — such as bison, horses and mammoths — declined about 34,000 years ago. That could go well with a theory of a meteor impact at that time.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2007


Occam's Razor suggests the deposits were made via ingestion, laid down in the tusks in a similar way isotope ratios in teeth can identify the area where the owner originated.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:52 AM on December 16, 2007


Crap, I could have just read the first line of the BBC article.

Not so Henry, these aren't iron rich tusks, they're tusks with pit marks filled with iron.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2007


This was discussed on Cryptomundo a few days ago. Coleman suggests this new finding vindicates Ivan Sanderson, but as one astute blog commenter pointed out, Sanderson was not even talking about meteorites...
posted by Tube at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2007


I didn't see it mentioned in a quick scan of the links here (but I may have missed it). When I saw this posted somewhere like a week ago: Another key factor was that the 'meteor deposits' were only on one side of the tusks... so something went boom and hit them on that side... so it's not some sort of natural depositing.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:23 PM on December 16, 2007


Please. Any idiot knows that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2007


Sorry about the Nature link, when I posted it the full article was in view. The BBC article covers it, but the Nature article is of course much better.

Re: the ~20k years discrepancy, they think it could be because the tusks were laying out in the open, just as many tusks appear in the tundra today. Kinda makes sense, in fact one would suppose there would be more skeleton tusks laying around then on live animals.
posted by stbalbach at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2007


Clearly this is a sign of repaired tooth decay and advanced mammoth dentistry.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If there was a cataclysmic event 12,000 years ago, it almost certainly has been codified into the palimpsest of the human psyche and human culture.
posted by mert at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2007


The chronology may line up pretty well with the Ice-age flood where a glacial lake that covered most on Montana burst forth and scoured eastern Washington state about 12-15,000 years ago. The flood left what has been called "an ancient bathtub ring of mammoth fossils" in the Inland Northwest.
posted by LarryC at 2:27 PM on December 16, 2007


Occam's Razor suggests the deposits were made via ingestion, laid down in the tusks in a similar way isotope ratios in teeth can identify the area where the owner originated.

I wish Occam's Razor would just fuck off. Seriously. Occam's razor cannot exclude data. It's not a safety razor. Play with it and you might just cut off your common sense.
posted by srboisvert at 2:38 PM on December 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Like cats scratching posts, elephants like to rub their tusks on things.
posted by tgyg at 3:03 PM on December 16, 2007


"In the case of the bison, we know that it survived the impact because there's new bone growth around these marks."
(BBC)

That would be pretty hard for tusks from 20k year old animals to do.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 3:43 PM on December 16, 2007


Yeah well obviously those bones would not be the older bones.
posted by stbalbach at 3:47 PM on December 16, 2007


I'm leaning towards time-travelling pranksters, myself.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:26 PM on December 16, 2007


with shotguns.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:26 PM on December 16, 2007


Clearly this is a sign of repaired tooth decay and advanced mammoth dentistry.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:38 PM on December 16 [1 favorite +] [!]


I, for one, welcome our coming Mammoth Dentist Overlords...

with the proviso that we can kill them with a giant space shotgun.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:05 PM on December 16, 2007


Dang! Mikey-San beat me to it.
posted by cdmwebs at 9:55 PM on December 17, 2007


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