According to a theory advanced by researcher Paul Martin, the wave of species extinctions that occurred in North America about 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene era, can be directly attributed to the arrival of humans, i.e., the Paleoindians, who were ancestors of modern Native Americans. However, anthropologist Shepard Krech points out that large animal species vanished even in areas where there is no evidence to demonstrate that Paleoindians hunted them. Nor were extinctions confined to large animals: small animals, plants, and insects disappeared, presumably not all through human consumption. Krech also contradicts Martin’s exclusion of climatic change as an explanation by asserting that widespread climatic change did indeed occur at the end of the Pleistocene. Still, Krech attributes secondary if not primary responsibility for the extinctions to the Paleoindians, arguing that humans have produced local extinctions elsewhere. But, according to historian Richard White, even the attribution of secondary responsibility may not be supported by the evidence. White observes that Martin’s thesis depends on coinciding dates for the arrival of humans and the decline of large animal species, and Krech, though aware that the dates are controversial, does not challenge them; yet recent archaeological discoveries are providing evidence that the date of human arrival was much earlier than 11,000 years ago.
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