Evidence for Younger Dryas global climate oscillation and human response in the American Southwest

Jesse A.M. Ballenger, Vance T. Holliday, Andrew L. Kowler, William T. Reitze, Mary M. Prasciunas, D. Shane Miller, Jason D. Windingstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Whether or not abrupt Younger Dryas climate change affected regional paleoenvironments and late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer populations is an important topic in the archaeology of the American Southwest. This paper reviews multiple, age-resolved proxy evidence to gauge the magnitude and direction of Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC) environmental changes in different settings and systems. There is no record of YDC pluvial lake highstands in Arizona or New Mexico, but there are impressive records of vegetation, faunal, stable isotope, and geomorphological change coincident with the YDC. These correlate with important adaptive changes in human hunting and land use, as revealed in the analysis of the spatiotemporal distribution of late Pleistocene hunting technologies. Clovis and Folsom projectile point distributions do not support extant models of paleoenvironmental conditions in these interpretations. Significant cultural changes that coincide with the YDC include the Clovis-to-Folsom transition, the demise of mammoth hunting and the development of a highly successful emphasis on bison, increased regionalization, and the abandonment of the northwestern Chihuahuan and the Sonoran deserts by mobile, big-game hunters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-519
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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