Monday, December 30, 2013

Extinct Pleistocene Mammals in Ghosts of the Heart!!!

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The hunters stopped to rest, gazing at the beautiful sight of the meadow. Several hunters started pointing across the meadow at what appeared to be a large brown rock. It was an unusual rock since it appeared to be moving. The hunters jabbered amongst themselves, watching and pointing at this strange sight. Chayton wanted a closer look and found a place where the hunters could jump from boulder to boulder across the roaring river. The other hunters followed Chayton, sneaking across the soggy meadow and hiding behind trees and willow bushes where they could find them. Chayton quietly stalked this odd-looking rock, keeping the wind in his face and moving in harmony with the blowing tree limbs and bushes.

Chayton hoped that this rock-like thing did not hear the sound of his moccasins sinking in the muddy soil. The other hunters mimicked Chayton’s movements, only taking a step when he did. When the hunters reached this strange rock, they stared in amazement. They had heard the stories around the
campfire about such an animal. None of the hunters had ever seen anything that compared to the size of this animal. The magnificence of the animal stunned Chayton. He took a step forward and his moccasin disappeared into the smelly mire of the boggy meadow. The other hunters crouched down
behind anything they could find while gazing up at the humongous animal in front of them.

“This is the animal Tarca Sapa spoke about,” Keya whispered to Chayton.

Ai, – Yes,” Chayton murmured, never taking his eyes off the beast.

Crouching low to the ground, Chayton waited for another wind gust and synchronizing his movement with it, he took a step forward. The other hunters moved when he moved, their moccasins sinking in the organic rich mud. Behind a stand of willow bushes, Chayton craned his neck upward...

Above is a short outtake from my new prehistoric thriller Ghosts of the Heart. In this particular scene, a prehistoric hunting party discovered a large animal that none of the hunters had ever seen before. The hunters had all heard the campfire stories and legends about this animal, but meeting one face-to-face was a lot more intimidating than any of the hunters had expected.   

When I wrote Ghosts of the Heart, I took some liberty with what we currently know about the prehistory of North America. My only defense to this liberty is in the name of fiction. I am sure that some readers may criticize me for doing this, but here is what I did and a tiny bit of justification. In Ghosts of the Heart, I added an extinct Pleistocene animal that may not have still existed at the time this adventure took place. The remains of this extinct animal have not yet been found with associated artifacts from the time of the Folsom People. That is not to say that this evidence won't turn up sometime in the future, but as of right now, the evidence is not there. Let's look at this closer in the next few paragraphs.   

At archaeological sites, investigators do everything possible to determine the dates of the site occupation  and for any human or animals that they may have found. How likely is it that any given investigator finds the last member of an extinct animal species in their archaeological site? For that matter, how likely is it that they have found one of the last ten or twenty members of an extinct animal species? Not likely and here is why.

First of all, the conditions have to be just right for any animal to be preserved in the fossil record. Most prehistoric human or animal remains have simply decayed away, not leaving any evidence of their existence in the fossil record. Now, let's say, the animal actually becomes fossilized. How likely is it that someone actual discovers the fossil remains where it has been buried? Not very likely is my answer. Finding the remains of an extinct animal is about as random as throwing darts at a map of North America and hoping that your dart hits a possible location for a fossilized extinct animal. 

Now, let's assume that extinct animal remains somehow became fossilized and then by chance, were found by archaeological investigators. How likely is it that this particular fossilized animal is the last member of its extinct species?  My answer is not likely at all and secondly, how would the investigator ever know if it was one of the last members of that species?        

There is a very low probability of finding the fossilized remains for an extinct animal species and an even lower probability that the fossilized animal remains represent the last member of an extinct animal species. Now, we add another low probability that we find the fossilized animal remains associated with human artifacts. Even if we do,, how do we know if these fossilized animal remains were the last member of an extinct species? Perhaps, the species went on to live another thousands years, who knows? The archaeologist won't know if those fossilized animal remains were the last member of that extinct animal species. So, as far as using an extinct species in Ghosts of the Heart, who knows, maybe someday the archaeological evidence will back up the story.         

 You might be asking what extinct Pleistocene species did I use in Ghosts of the Heart? Well, for that answer, you are going to have to read Ghosts of the Heart.

Shadows on the Trail and Ghosts of the Heart by John Bradford Branney are available at,, and better booksellers around the globe. 


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