A blind test of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis

Vance Holliday, Todd Surovell, Eileen Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (YDIH) states that North America was devastated by some sort of extraterrestrial event ~12,800 calendar years before present. Two fundamental questions persist in the debate over the YDIH: Can the results of analyses for purported impact indicators be reproduced? And are the indicators unique to the lower YD boundary (YDB), i.e., ~12.8k cal yrs BP? A test reported here presents the results of analyses that address these questions. Two different labs analyzed identical splits of samples collected at, above, and below the ~12.8ka zone at the Lubbock Lake archaeological site (LL) in northwest Texas. Both labs reported similar variation in levels of magnetic micro-grains (>300 mg/kg >12.8ka and <11.5ka, but <150 mg/kg 12.8ka to 11.5ka). Analysis for magnetic microspheres in one split, reported elsewhere, produced very low to nonexistent levels throughout the section. In the other split, reported here, the levels of magnetic microspherules and nanodiamonds are low or nonexistent at, below, and above the YDB with the notable exception of a sample <11,500 cal years old. In that sample the claimed impact proxies were recovered at abundances two to four orders of magnitude above that from the other samples. Reproducibility of at least some analyses are problematic. In particular, no standard criteria exist for identification of magnetic spheres. Moreover, the purported impact proxies are not unique to the YDB.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0155470
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'A blind test of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this