Scientists think that a cluster of comet shards may have smashed into Earth’s surface 13,000 years ago, in the most catastrophic impact since the Chicxulub event killed off Earth’s large dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. In a new study, a team led by Martin Sweatman, a scientist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, investigated the impact and how it could have shaped the origins of human societies on Earth.
While the first Homo sapiens emerged between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, much farther in the past than this impact, the researchers found that this comet crash actually coincided with significant changes in how human societies self-organized.
I have sometimes wondered about this: For hundreds of thousands of years, humanity was a species of nomadic hunter-gatherers and small villages, groups no larger than a few dozen people. Changes were small, and happened excruciatingly slowly.
Then, 10 thousand+ years ago or so, things start changing fast — rapid changes that continue to this day. We get the emergence of agriculture, the first cities, and a few thousand years later, written language.
So why the sudden change? Maybe a cometary catastrophe?