MAI hosts presentation on extinction of Ice Age mammals

Donald Grayson

Armadillo-like animals the size of cars and beavers the size of bears – oh my! These creatures were among an astonishing group of mammals that once inhabited North America and whose histories will come alive when noted anthropologist Donald K. Grayson, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, speaks at Mercyhurst University on Tuesday, March 19.

Grayson’s talk, which will focus on the extinction of Ice Age mammals, takes place in Mercy Heritage Room of Sullivan Hall at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public, an offering of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI).

Toward the end of the Ice Age, North America witnessed the extinction of a variety of often-huge mammals, some of which are well known to all: mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed tigers. In all, 36 genera of mammals and 20 genera of birds were lost.

Using The Great Basin as a case study, Grayson will review the mammals that disappeared and address key questions, like: How abundant were these mammals? Is there evidence that early civilizations hunted them? When did the extinctions occur? He will also address the human role in the extinction of these creatures, which has been a subject of scholarly debate for more than 50 years.

Grayson’s archaeological and biological research has focused on The Great Basin and southwestern France. He has written on topics ranging from the diet of Neanderthals in France to the history of pikas in arid western North America. He is the author of several books, the most recent being The Great Basin: A Natural Prehistory. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Nevada Medal in 2005 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Great Basin Anthropological Conference.

“Many scholars have had productive careers as these are measured in terms of publications, grants or number of graduate students mentored. Fare fewer, indeed only a handful, have managed to substantially alter the trajectory of their respective fields quite like Donald Grayson,” noted MAI Director James Adovasio, Ph.D. “We are indeed honored to welcome him to Mercyhurst.”   

For more information on Grayson’s visit, please contact Lori Hamblin at 814-824-2545.

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