Would North American Paleoindians have noticed Younger Dryas age climate changes?

David J. Meltzer, Vance T. Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Paleoindian groups occupied North America throughout the Younger Dryas Chronozone. It is often assumed that cooling temperatures during this interval, and the impact these would have had on biotic communities, posed significant adaptive challenges to those groups. That assessment of the nature, severity and abruptness of Younger Dryas changes is largely based on ice core records from the Greenland ice sheet where changes were indeed dramatic. This paper reviews climatic and environmental records from this time period in continental North America. We conclude that, on the Great Plains and in the Rocky Mountains, conditions were in reality less extreme. It therefore follows that conditions during the Younger Dryas interval may not have measurably added to the challenge routinely faced by Paleoindian groups who, during this interval, successfully (and perhaps rapidly) dispersed across the diverse habitats of Late Glacial North America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Hunter-gatherer adaptations
  • North America
  • Paleoindian
  • Younger Dryas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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