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Social Sciences - Anthropology & Archaeology | Journal of World Prehistory - incl. option to publish open access (Press)

Journal of World Prehistory

Journal of World Prehistory

Editor-in-Chief: Timothy Taylor

ISSN: 0892-7537 (print version)
ISSN: 1573-7802 (electronic version)

Journal no. 10963

New York / Heidelberg, 12 April 2010

Ancient Americans took cold snap in their stride

Study suggests that Ice Age climate change did not pose significant challenges to first Americans

Paleoindian groups* occupied North America throughout the Younger Dryas interval, which saw a rapid return to glacial conditions approximately 11,000 years ago. Until now, it has been assumed that cooling temperatures and their impact on communities posed significant adaptive challenges to those groups. David Meltzer from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, USA, and Vance Holliday from the University of Arizona in Tucson, USA, suggest otherwise in their review of climatic and environmental records from this time period in continental North America, published in Springer’s Journal of World Prehistory.
From their analysis, they conclude that on the Great Plains and in the Rocky Mountains, conditions were in reality less extreme and therefore may not have measurably added to the challenge routinely faced by Paleoindian groups, who during this interval, successfully dispersed across the diverse habitats of Late Glacial North America.
Meltzer and Holliday question whether the impact of cooling on Pleistocene North Americans was actually that pronounced or widespread and, if it was, whether it was similarly abrupt and severe, and in the same direction, across North America. Their comprehensive review of the climate and environment of North America during that time and its possible impact suggests that the Young Dryas age cooling was not as sudden, extensive, or severe as has previously been suggested and the notion that these conditions may have taken the Paleoindians by surprise is questionable.
The authors conclude: “All things considered, it is likely that across most of North America, south of the retreating ice sheets, Paleoindians were not constantly scrambling to keep up with Younger Dryas age climate changes. After all, adapting to changing climatic and environmental conditions was nothing new to them – it was what they did.”
* the first people to enter and subsequently inhabit the American continent during the final glacial episodes of the Pleistocene period
1. Meltzer DJ & Holliday VT (2010). Would North American Paleoindians Have Noticed Younger Dryas Age Climate Changes? Journal of World Prehistory; DOI 10.1007/s10963-009-9032-4

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    Aims and scope

    Journal of World Prehistory is an international forum for the publication of peer-reviewed, original treatments of the prehistory of an area or larger region. It was founded nearly thirty years ago with the remit of providing researchers, instructors and students with timely and authoritative research syntheses from all fields of archaeology. Journal of World Prehistory continues to lead in this field.


    Our classic articles may be 20,000 or 25,000 words long, as appropriate (excluding their extensive bibliographies). Since 2008 they have been joined by shorter (around 10,000 words), position pieces, which provide in-depth, thoughtful development of data and concepts, including interventions in controversies that unfold in our pages. These, written in a fashion interesting and accessible to all archaeologists, are often paired with a longer treatment in a single volume. In addition, readers now benefit from thematic special issues and double issues, in which a number of leading authors deal with a key theme in world prehistory, such as the origins of metallurgy (2009, volumes 22: 3 and 4), or the East Asian Neolithic (2013, in preparation). All papers are available first online, followed by the print edition.


    We aim to be truly global in coverage, with recent articles dealing, inter alia, with Amazonian lithics, the late Jomon of Hokkaido, the Bronze Age in Southeast Asia, the Neanderthal settlement of Doggerland, Neolithic networks in Western Asia, younger Dryas Paleo-Indian adaptations, and state formation in the Horn of Africa. Articles benefit from multi-language abstracts where appropriate, and we work closely with authors who do not have English as a first language to present major syntheses in a clear and concise way to an international audience.


    Traditionally, JWP focuses on earlier periods, but it includes the beginnings and early development of complex societies, and our understanding of ‘prehistory’ is broad and inclusive: for guidance on chronological scope, as well as our calendrical conventions, see the editorial article ‘Prehistory vs. Archaeology: terms of Engagement’ http://www.springerlink.com/content/346142p032604447/


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