The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (YDIH) is based on the claim that around 12,800 years ago the Earth had an encounter with a very large asteroid or comet that broke up in an airburst over North America and of which some fragments possibly hit the ground directly(a).
Many effects have been linked with this event with varying levels of enthusiasm including a suggested association with the demise of Atlantis. Elsewhere, megafaunal extinctions, cataclysmic floods, the disappearance of the Clovis people and the creation of the Carolina Bays(g), have all been proposed as consequences of this episode.
In 2006, Richard Firestone, Allen West & Simon Warwick-Smith published the foundations of the YDIH in The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes . A year later the hypothesis had a more public airing at the American Geophysical Union Press Conference, Acapulco, Mexico, May 23(d). This was followed the same year by the publication of a formal paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America(f).
Since then volumes have been written on the subject, both pro and con(c).
A 2014 paper(h) entitled Nanodiamond-Rich Layer Across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact at 12,800 Cal BP by Charles R. Kinzie et al., has developed further the idea of this event being associated with the Younger Dryas. In a similar vein is an article(f) from Megan Gannon.
December 2014 saw Graham Hancock raising the issue of a cometary cause for the Younger Dryas and its possible association with ancient Egypt(e).
Martin Sweatman brought further evidence to bear on this debate in an article(i) on the Graham Hancock website. This focuses on the investigations at Hall’s Cave in Texas described in a paper by Sun et al, where the team concluded that the trace elements found there could indicate a volcanic rather than an impact as the cause of the Younger Dryas cooling! Sweatman disagrees with their conclusions claiming that there seems to be an element of selectivity in choosing data, leading to a wrong conclusion.
>2019 also gave us a paper that included an extensive bibliography and overview of the YDIH debate(k).<
In 2020, the eminent geologist James Lawrence Powell published Deadly Voyager , which offered further support to the YDIH. This book was instrumental in changing the negative stance of a number of ardent sceptics including Michael Shermer(j).
Younger Dryas is also known as Dryas III was a mini Ice Age that lasted from around 10,700 BC until around 9600 BC. It is named after a wildflower called Dryas octopetala that flourished during this relatively short period. In Ireland, the period is known as the Nahanagan Stadial and in Britain as the Loch Lomond Stadial. For about thirteen hundred years the glaciers had been slowly retreating until within a short timespan temperature dropped and they began to advance again. The cause of this cooling is not entirely clear. One view is that a sudden release into the North Atlantic of vast quantities of freshwater that had been contained by huge ice dams is assumed to have closed down the Gulf Stream, resulting in a twelve hundred year lowering of global temperatures. There is evidence that the change only took one or two decades. The same threat is said to exist today with the possibility of the melting of the Greenland ice cap. It also seems that this YD cooling ended with the same rapidity.
A recent application of archaeoastronomy by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis led them to conclude that the carved symbols at Göbekli Tepe recorded an encounter involving the explosion or impact of part of Encke’s Comet around 13,000 years ago, which triggered the Younger Dryas Event that provided the impetus for the Neolithic Revolution. Sweatman later expanded their work in his book Prehistory Decoded  and an article on the Ancient Origins website(k). In June 2021, Sweatman had a paper entitled ‘The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis: review of the impact evidence’ published in the journal ‘Earth Science Review’ of the University of Edinburgh(u).
Kevin A. & Patrick J. Casey maintain that a globally catastrophic event occurred 13,000 years ago(j). The kernel of their theory is that originally the Earth had two moons that at some later point collided, producing our current Moon, while the remnant of the second one eventually exploded over North America kick-starting what we refer to as the cooler Younger Dryas period. They are adamant that it was not a comet or asteroid that caused the devastation, and so clash with the conclusions of Richard Firestone and his colleagues.
A completely different view is expressed in Rod (Carl) Martin’s latest book , where he proposes that the Younger Dryas ended as a result of a catastrophic event. Is it possible that there were two cataclysmic episodes? John Ackerman, a keen follower of Immanuel Velikovsky claims that there were two such events related to “the capture of the Moon into its current orbit,” marking the beginning and the end of the Younger Dryas period(q).
A somewhat technical paper, published in July 2020, challenges the comet impact theory because of geochemical anomalies, Instead, they argue that the YD event was a consequence of volcanic activity(s), rather than an impact! Martin Sweatman refutes this in a paper on Graham Hancock’s website(i).
In 2015, a paper constraining the impact date to within 100 years using Bayesian statistical analyses, now proposed as 12,835 -12,735 years ago(h).
Coincidentally, Emilio Spedicato independently concluded that it was a cometary impact in the North Atlantic that was responsible for the Younger Dryas. Subsequently, when temperatures rose again it resulted in the flooding of vast areas of low-lying landmasses that in Spedicato’s opinion included Atlantis, which he locates in Hispaniola.
Conflicting evidence regarding the possibility of the Younger Dryas being caused by such an impact is impartially outlined on the internet(a).
The November 2013 issue of the BBC Focus magazine (p.30) had a brief article on the impact theory, noting that the northern hemisphere saw a drop of as much as 15°C around 11,000BC. In the absence of a suitable impact crater of the right age, there is still much scientific scepticism(b).
However, in early 2017, further possible evidence of an impact at the start of the Younger Dryas was offered by a team led by Christopher Moore of the University of South Carolina, when they identified a distinct layer of platinum in the soil that coincided with the start of YD. Commenting on this anomaly Moore noted that “Platinum is very rare in the Earth’s crust, but it is common in asteroids and comets.”(e) In 2019, Moore published further data(m) supporting the extraterrestrial impact theory, based on studies carried out on sediments, which date back 20,000 years, from White Pond Lake, situated in southern Kershaw County, South Carolina. “Other examples of excessive platinum grains have been found across Europe, western Asia, Chile, South Africa(r) and North America.” (n)
In early 2018, two papers were published online(i), reinforcing the YD impact theory and adding evidence that the event resulted in a conflagration that “may have consumed ~10 million km2, or ~9% of Earth’s terrestrial biomass.” Related to this is a paper by Andrew Collins that draws attention to the ‘Usselo horizon’, a charcoal-rich layer of between 1 and 8 inches, found on all continents, indicating widespread fires, now dated to 12,900 years ago(l).
Ice cores from Greenland indicate a further cooling period circa 6200 BC that may be related to the abandonment of many Neolithic settlements during this period. Other periods of abrupt climate change have been identified from 3800 BC to 3500 BC and 2800 BC to 2000 BC.
The fact that Plato’s apparent date for the demise of Atlantis, circa 9600 BC, roughly corresponds with the current, best estimate for the date of the Younger Dryas is interesting but unfortunately not conclusive proof of any direct connection. In the absence of any supportive archaeological evidence, a linkage between Atlantis and the Younger Dryas will have to remain a matter of faith rather than fact. Interesting but inconclusive.
In 2017, Graham Hancock reviewed the Younger Dryas debate over the previous decade in a lengthy essay(v). This was prior to the publication of America Before. He finished with the following comment. “Perhaps the lost civilization that I have spent the last quarter of a century trying to track down had its most significant outpost, possibly even its heartland, in North America in the period BEFORE the Younger Dryas cataclysms of 12,800 to 11,600 years ago?” Hancock is inferring here that there was a single global civilisation, a hyperdiffusionist stance that I consider indefensible.
A short paper by John Patrick Hill offers a theory that requires more than faith to accept it; he wrote “Just over 12 thousand years ago, the world was struck by an immense meteor group. It destroyed all of North America and much of Europe and went weIl beyond……… I found proof to support that the creators of the Giza Three and Stonehenge used the Barringer Crater in Arizona as part of the geometry for their massive structures.” Later he reveals that at “Giza, when one takes the distance between the outside corners of the three large pyramids there, that distance is equal to 0.72 miles, the exact distance (diameter) at Barringer.” An expanded version of his paper is available online.(t)
Recent discoveries in northern Sudan of dozens of skeletons, the majority of whom were killed by flint-tipped arrows, have led to the suggestion(c) they were the result of food shortages resulting from the Younger Dryas that in turn led to warfare over diminished food availability.
I note that Robert Schoch claims that there is no evidence to support the Younger Dryas impact theory, instead, he believes that “it was most likely due to reduced solar activity at that time, a solar shut-down.”(o) Schoch’s wide-ranging critique has been refuted by the Comet Research Group.(p)
In 2020, James Lawrence Powell (1936- ), a noted geologist, author, former college president and museum director entered the Younger Dryas debate with the publication of Deadly Voyager . In it, Powell offers wholehearted support to the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (YDIH), understandably generating a favourable review from Graham Hancock(w).
>Even more important, is that Powell’s book induced a number of heavy-duty critics of YDIH, including Michael Shermer to change their opinion(x).<
Michael Shermer (1954- ) is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and Skeptic.com. Suffering as he does from terminal scepticism, Shermer could not resist offering his views on Atlantis(a), which basically assume that Plato created the myth of Atlantis to support his political philosophy.>I should note here the comment of Martin Ebon that “the narrative, unlike the Republic, espouses no particular theory and reads more like historical fact, however confusing, than a myth.”[286.16]<
Shermer does accept that Plato mixed history with myth but does not suggest how we might separate the two, instead, he is content to dispose of both baby and bath-water. I consider fatuous, his comment that “Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of Star Wars.” This silly comparison was recently (2018) echoed on an Australian website(d).
Georgeos Diaz-Montexano responded to Shermer’s views with a 2005 article, contentiously entitled Errors, Fallacies and Lies.
Shermer wrote an article(b) for Scientific American (Jan.1.2016) on the subject of ‘Homo Naledi, which generated a highly critical response, noting that “Shermer preferred to speculate without evidence and publish an essay without fact-checking.” Even Shermer nods!
However, to give credit where credit is due I must acknowledge that recently (2020) Shermer, among others, has back-pedalled on their previous sustained opposition to the idea of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis(e). The impetus for this volte-face seems to have been provided by James Lawrence Powell, also a former sceptic, and his book, Deadly Voyager .