1.1 >> The Paradise Syndrome and the Clovis Catastrophe

In March of 2001, Mammoth Trumpet, the official publication of the Center for the Study of the First Americans (CSFA), published a paper co-authored by Dr. Richard Firestone, a nuclear analytical chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

mammoth trumpet 2

The paper was earth-shattering in that its authors – two seasoned and well respected scientists – soberly asserted a cosmic catastrophe occurred 12,900 years ago, overtaking the preeminent Paleo-Indian tribe of North America – known to archaeologists as Clovis.

As Dr. Firestone would go on to claim, the cataclysm likely involved an impacting comet approximately 4 kilometers wide, smashing into the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered a widespread area of North America at the time.  In addition to obliterating the Clovis Paleo-Indians of ancient North America, Firestone and a team of 26 scientists from varied scientific disciplines now believe the event initiated a pervasive 1000-year cooling period known as the Younger Dryas and played a significant role in the end-Pleistocene mass extinctions, including the demise of the awe-inspiring ice age giant known as the woolly mammoth.


The crowning achievement of Dr. Firestone’s efforts, which began back in the early 1990s, was publication of his theory and supporting data in the 9 October 2007 issue of the world’s most-cited, multidisciplinary scientific journal – The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Without the impressive array of forensic evidence gathered together and brought to bear by Firestone and his colleagues, one might think the idea of a massive asteroid or comet strike, leading to the annihilation of an entire indigenous American Indian culture, the fanciful musings of a brainstorming science fiction writer.  What if it was?

With this thought-provoking question firmly in mind, let us now take a brief journey back in time to survey the situation 33 years earlier, refocusing our attention on the popular culture of the period…

star trek

Following two lackluster seasons of the 1960s sci-fi serial Star Trek, NBC was on the verge of pulling the plug and foregoing further episodes when, for the first time in the history of television, a massive letter-writing campaign, secretly started by series creator Gene Roddenberry, succeeded in saving the show.

In the wake of Roddenberry’s triumph the new season progressed and on 4 October 1968, some 33 years before the publication of Dr. Firestone’s groundbreaking paper, NBC aired the third episode of the third and final season of Star Trek.  Of particular interest is the theme of the episode.

Starting from a sketchy story outline in March of 1968 - the selfsame month Firestone’s paper saw the light of day in 2001 - screenwriter Margaret Armen proceeded to shape and revise the episode’s draft under the working title The PalefaceThree months later, the final draft was turned in and filming started by mid-June under the revised title The Paradise Syndrome - Production Code:  60043-058.

In the opening sequence of the episode, the molecules of Captain Kirk, science officer Spock and the ship’s physician, Dr. McCoy, are systematically disassembled by the teleporters onboard the orbiting Starship Enterprise only to be reassembled on the surface of an Earth-like planet named Amerind.

The environment the reconstituted colleagues find themselves in is eerily reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest United States.  Upon a preliminary probe, they discover a mysterious metallic obelisk mounted atop a truncated stone pyramid in a forest clearing.  Unable to determine the composition, origin or purpose of the massive construction, the three crew members turn their attention to the inhabitants of the planet and the mission on which they’ve been sent.

The purpose of the mission is revealed in a few brief interchanges between the three shipmates at the outset of the episode as they survey the scenery and surreptitiously spy on the citizens of a small community on the far side of a picturesque lake:

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Kirk:  (standing alongside the mysterious obelisk) “What’s the nearest concentration of life forms Mr. Spock?”

 Spock: (hoisting tricorder) “Bearing 1-1-7 mark 4.”

 Kirk:  “And how much time did you say we have to investigate?”

 Spock:  “If we are to divert the asteroid, which is on a collision course with this planet, we must warp out of orbit within 30 minutes.  Every second we delay arriving at the deflection point compounds the problem perhaps passed solution.”


McCoy:  (looking across the lake) “Why they look like…I’d swear they’re American Indians.”

Spock:  “They are doctor:  A mixture of Navajo, Mohican and Delaware I believe.  All among the more advanced and peaceful tribes.”


McCoy:  (referring to the Indians) “Shouldn’t we contact them Jim?  Tell them?”

 Kirk:  “Tell them what?  That an asteroid is coming to smash their world into atoms?”

And so we leave the three comrades by the lake, coming away with what some might consider a curious coincidence – a science fiction story, written and aired in 1968, precisely paralleling the history of North America as reconstructed by 21st century scientists in 2001:  the real life tale of how an ancient impact smashed the world of the North American Clovis Indians to atoms.

How was it possible for a screenwriter in 1968 to manufacture a science fiction scenario that would turn out to be an accurate reflection of America’s distant past, as demonstrated some 33 years later on the basis of forensic evidence that was completely unknown and unavailable to her at the time?  Certainly one should entertain the possibility the alignment of Armen’s story with the later forensic reconstruction was coincidental, however unlikely, but what if it was something else?

Rather than leave a fuzzy, out-of-focus, rhetorical question mark hovering above the exceedingly unlikely convergence of these two temporally distinct yet synchronous events, in the days ahead additional examples, underscoring the alleged 1968/2001 temporal nexus will be explored before speculating as to possible explanations.

Stay tuned…

4 thoughts on “1.1 >> The Paradise Syndrome and the Clovis Catastrophe”

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