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Approximately 11,000 years ago a variety of animals went extinct across North America. These were mostly mammals larger than approximately 44 kg (about 100 pounds). Some of the animals that went extinct are well known (like saber-toothed cats, mammoths, and mastodons). Others were less well known animals (like the short-faced skunk and the giant beaver). Some animals went extinct in North America but survived elsewhere, for example, horses and tapirs.
Many scientists think that these people caused the extinction in North America at the end of the Pleistocene. Researchers who support this view generally favor one of two explanations. The first is that human over-hunting directly caused the extinction. The second is that over-hunting eliminated a "keystone species" (usually the mammoths or mastodon) and this led to environmental collapse and a more general extinction.
Radiocarbon tests of carbonized plant remains where artifacts were unearthed last May along the Savannah River in Allendale County by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old, meaning that humans inhabited North American long before the last ice age.
The findings are significant because they suggest that humans inhabited North America well before the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago, a potentially explosive revelation in American archaeology.