The people behind the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis—the claim that a comet struck the Earth during the last Ice Age, often alleged to have destroyed an Atlantis-like civilization—are at it again with a new claim alleging that another comet hit Ohio in the early centuries CE and destroyed Ohio’s Hopewell civilization, who conveniently commemorated their own incineration with a comet-shaped earthwork.
A team of scientists led by Kenneth Tankersly, a member of the Comet Research Group, the team investigating the alleged Younger Dryas impact, published their Hopewell research in Scientific Reports this week. The research surrounds an unusual collection of meteoric material found in Hopewell sites. Archaeologists have long concluded that the Hopewell acquired iron and stone meteorites as part of a long-distance trade network; however, Tankersly and his team attempted to argue that all of the meteors were in fact part of a cosmic airburst in the style of the 1908 Tunguska Event in which a chunk of a comet broke off an exploded over the Hopewell territory.
According to their hypothesis, the Hopewell witnessed a catastrophic airburst and then collected chunks of the comet to inter with their dead, memorializing the event with a comet-shaped earthwork at Milford. Their culture, they allege, went into terminal decline because of the impact: “The airburst event may have created mass confusion resulting in an upheaval of the social interaction sphere.”
Astonishing, I suppose, that archaeologists who have worked on Hopewell sites for the past century have completely missed the impact of a huge chunk of a comet, but no archaeologists who have published on the Hopewell have found any supporting evidence for Tankersly et al.’s claims. Indeed, many of the Hopewell’s meteor fragments are not related to a comet that hit Ohio but were traced by chemical analysis to the Brenham Meteorite, which hit what is now Kansas 20,000 years ago, as the American Museum of Natural History explained. Tankersly et al. allege that this analysis is flawed and that the meteor fragments contain too little platinum, germanium, and gallium to be part of the Brenham Meteorite.
Regardless of the authors’ correctness on the source of the meteoric fragments, their conclusion cannot be correct because the Hopewell did not enter a terminal decline after their proposed impact date of c. 255-300 CE but flourished for another 200 years.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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