The Associational Critique and the Late Pleistocene Extinction of North American Megafauna
Todd A. Surovell
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wyoming
Humans first arrived in North America approximately 14,000 years ago. Over the next two millennia, some 35 genera of Pleistocene megafauna suffered extinction. While it is tempting to see causality in this chronological correlation, after more than 80 years of fieldwork concerning the Pleistocene human occupation of the Americas, we can only demonstrate with confidence that humans hunted at most five species of extinct fauna. Fundamentally then, we must ask if it is possible that humans caused the extinction of some 35 genera of large mammals but left behind very little evidence of that act? This question is at the heart of what I call the "Associational Critique" of the overkill hypothesis. Critics of overkill argue that anthropogenic extinction will remain highly controversial until unambiguous material evidence of human hunting of a large number of taxa is discovered. In contrast, I will argue that a huge amount of circumstantial evidence points to humans as the primary causal agents of extinction, and that the associational critique puts forth unrealistic if not impossible requirements for the overkill hypothesis to fulfill.
Friday, September 24, 2010 – 4:00PM
Room AD 200 (Administration Bldg., 1201 5th St.)
Hosted by the
UC Denver Department of Anthropology