ANOMALOUS HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS
On December 7, 1899, Volk returned to the railway cut. About 24 feet west of the spot where he found the fossilized femur, and in the same layer, Volk recovered two fragments of a human skull. The strata immediately overhead and for some distance on either side were said to be undisturbed.
Could the human bones have worked their way down from the upper layers? Volk pointed out that the upper layers were red and yellow. But the human bones were "white and chalky," consistent with the white sand layer in which they were found.
the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, several discoveries of
human skeletal remains were made in Middle Pleistocene formations in
GALLEY HILL SKELETON
workmen removing deposits at Galley Hill, near
Allsop had removed the skull but left the rest of the skeleton in place. Elliott stated that he saw the skeleton firmly embedded in the stratum: "We carefully looked for any signs of the section being disturbed, but failed: the stratification being unbroken." Elliott then removed the skeleton and later gave it to E. T. Newton, who published a report granting it great age.
A schoolmaster named M. H. Heys observed the bones in the apparently undisturbed deposits before Elliott removed the skeleton. Heys also saw the skull just after it was exposed by a workman excavating the deposits. Heys said
about the bones: "No doubt could possibly arise to the observation of an ordinary intelligent person of their deposition contemporaneously with that of the gravel.. .. This undisturbed state of the stratum was so palpable to the workman that he said, 'The man or animal was not buried by anybody.'" Numerous stone tools were also recovered from the Galley Hill site.
to modern opinion, the Galley Hill site would date to the
Just what do modern paleoanthropologists say about the Galley Hill skeleton? Despite the stratigraphic evidence reported by Heys and Elliott, K. P. Oakley and M. F. A. Montagu concluded in 1949 that the skeleton must have been recently buried in the Middle Pleistocene deposits. They considered the bones, which were not fossilized, to be only a few thousand years old. This is also the opinion of almost all anthropologists today.
Galley Hill bones had a nitrogen content similar to that of fairly recent bones
from other sites in
Oakley and Montagu found the Galley Hill human bones had a fluorine content similar to that of Late Pleistocene and Holocene (recent) bones from other sites. It is known that bones absorb fluorine from groundwater. But the fluorine content of groundwater may vary widely from place to place and this makes comparison of fluorine contents of bones from different sites an unreliable indicator of their relative ages.
Later, the British Museum Research Laboratory obtained a carbon 14 date of 3,310 years for the Galley Hill skeleton. But this test was performed using methods now considered unreliable. Also, it is highly probable that the Galley Hill bones, kept in a museum for 80 years, were contaminated with recent carbon, causing the test to give a falsely young date.
In attempting to discredit the testimony of Elliott and Heys, who said no signs of burial were evident at Galley Hill, Oakley and Montagu offered several arguments in addition to their chemical and radiometric tests.
For example, Oakley and Montagu argued that the relatively complete nature of the Galley Hill skeleton was a sure sign that it was deliberately buried. In fact, almost all of the ribs, the backbone, the forearms, hands, and feet were missing. In the case of Lucy, the most famous specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, more of the skeleton was preserved. And no one has yet suggested that australopithecines buried their dead. Scientists have also discovered fairly complete skeletal remains of Homo erectus and Homo habilis individuals. These cases, as all paleoanthropologists would agree, definitely do not involve deliberate burial. It is thus possible for relatively complete hominid skeletons to be preserved apart from burial.
But even if the Galley Hill skeleton was a burial, the burial may not have been recent. Sir Arthur Keith suggested in 1928: "Weighing all the evidence, we are forced to the conclusion that the Galley Hill skeleton represents a man.... buried when the lower gravel formed a land surface."
As can be seen, old bones point beyond themselves, quite obliquely, to events in the remote and inaccessible past. Controversy about their age is almost certain to arise, and in many cases the available evidence is insufficient to allow disputes to be definitely settled. This would appear to be true of Galley Hill. The report of Oakley and Montagu casts doubt on the testimony of Elliott and Heys. At the same time, the testimony of Elliott and Heys casts doubt on the report of Oakley and Montagu.
MOULIN QUIGNON JAW
J. Boucher de Perthes discovered an anatomically modern human jaw in the Moulin
Quignon pit at
hearing of the discovery of the Abbeville jaw and tools, a group of
distinguished British geologists visited Abbeville and were at first favorably
impressed. Later, however, it was alleged that some of the stone implements in
Boucher de Perthes's collection were forgeries foisted on him by workmen. The
British scientists then began to doubt the authenticity of the jaw. Taking a
tooth found with the jaw back to
Also, the Moulin Quignon jaw had a coloring "which was found to be superficial" and "was easily scrubbed from one of the portions of bone." Some took this to be an indication of forgery. But British anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith later said this feature of the jaw "does not invalidate its authenticity."
1863, British geologists met with their French counterparts in
"French anthropologists," said Keith, "continued to believe in the authenticity of the jaw until between 1880 and 1890, when they ceased to include it in the list of discoveries of ancient man. At the present time opinion is almost unanimous in regarding the Moulin Quignon jaw as a worthless relic. We see that its relegation to oblivion begins when the belief became fixed that Neanderthal man represented a Pleistocene phase in the evolution of modern races. That opinion, we have seen, is no longer tenable."
In other words, scientists who believed the Neanderthals were the immediate ancestors of Homo sapiens could not accommodate the Moulin Quignon jaw because it would have meant that anatomically modern human beings were in existence before the Neanderthals. Today, the idea that the Neanderthals were the direct ancestors of the modern human type is out of vogue, but this in itself does not clear the way for acceptance of the Abbeville jaw, which if genuine, would be over 300,000 years old.
From the information we now have at our disposal, it is difficult to form a definite opinion about the authenticity of the Moulin Quignon jaw. Even if we accept that the jaw and the many flint implements found along with it were fakes, what does this tell us about the nature of paleoanthropological evidence? As we shall see, the Moulin Quignon jaw and tools, if they were forgeries, are not alone. Piltdown man (Chapter 9) was accepted for 40 years before being dismissed as an elaborate hoax.
MOULIN QUIGNON UPDATE
We have recently uncovered new information that gives us a better impression of the Moulin Quignon jaw. In the aftermath of the Moulin Quignon debate, Boucher des Perthes continued to maintain that his discoveries were genuine. To help prove this, he conducted several more excavations at Moulin Quignon, under very strict controls and in the presence of trained scientific observers. These excavations yielded many more anatomically modern human bones, bone fragments, and teeth. These discoveries, which received almost no attention in the English-speaking world, are significant demonstrations of a human presence in the Middle Pleistocene of Europe, over 300,000 years ago.
They also tend to strengthen the case for the authenticity of the original Moulin Quignon jaw. These important discoveries, here mentioned only briefly, are the subject of a future book by Michael A. Cremo.
Eugene Bertrand reported to the Anthropological Society of Paris that he found
parts of a human skull, along with a femur, tibia, and some foot bones, in a
quarry on the Avenue de Clichy. The bones were found 5.25 meters (17.3 feet) beneath
the surface. Sir Arthur Keith believed the layer in which
But Gabriel de Mortillet said that a workman at the quarry on the Avenue de Clichy told him that he had stashed a skeleton in the pit.
after hearing de Mortillet relate the workman's story about stashing the bones
reported that initially almost all authorities in
remarks to the Anthropological Society, Bertrand provided additional evidence
for the great antiquity of the
LA DENISE SKULL FRAGMENTS
In the 1840s, pieces of human bone were discovered in the midst of volcanic strata at La Denise, France. Of particular interest was the frontal bone of a human skull. Sir Arthur Keith stated that the frontal "differs in no essential particular from the frontal bone of a modern skull."
frontal was taken from sediments deposited between two layers of lava. The
first lava layer was from the Pliocene and the last from the Late Pleistocene.
The skull bone thus could be either a few thousand years or as many as 2
million years old. The bone was found to have about the same nitrogen and
fluorine content as bones from Late Pleistocene sites elsewhere in
The true age of the La Denise frontal remains unknown, but because there is reason to believe it could be as old as 2 million years, we have included it here.
J. Reid Moir discovered an anatomically modern human skeleton beneath a layer
of glacial boulder clay near the town of
The skeleton was found at a depth of 1.38 meters (about 4.5 feet), between a layer of boulder clay and some underlying glacial sands. These deposits could be as much as 400,000 years old. Moir was aware of the possibility that the skeleton might represent a recent burial. Therefore, he carefully verified the unbroken and undisturbed nature of the strata in and under which the skeleton lay. As for the condition of the bones, Sir Arthur Keith said it was similar to that °f Pleistocene animal fossils found elsewhere in the glacial sands.
The discovery, however, inspired intense opposition. Keith wrote that if the skeleton had been as primitive as Neanderthal man, no one would have doubted it was as old as the boulder clay. "Under the presumption that the modern type of man is also modern in origin," he stated, "a degree of high antiquity is denied to such specimens."
opposition, Moir initially stuck to his guns, holding that the
statements we find nothing that compels us to accept a recent age of 30,000
years for the skeleton. Sophisticated stone tools, comparable to those of
Aurignacian Europe, turn up all over the world, in very distant times. In the
1960s, such implements were discovered at
Also, Moir gave no geological reasons whatsoever in support of his conclusion that the boulder clay was a recently deposited sludge. Therefore, the simplest hypothesis is that it really was a layer of intact glacial boulder clay, as originally reported by Moir and recorded by the British Geological Survey on its detailed map of the region.
glacial sands in which the
Amata site is located on the Mediterranean coast of southern
Significantly, no hominid fossils were found at Terra Amata. In his 1969 article about the Terra Amata discoveries published in Scientific American, de Lumley did, however, report the imprint of a right foot, 9.5 inches long, preserved in the sand of a dune. De Lumley did not identify the type of hominid that made the print. But judged from the available reports, the footprint is not different from that of an anatomically modern human being. This print tends to strengthen the skeletal evidence from the Middle Pleistocene sites we have just discussed.
strong case for anatomically modern humans existing in very early times comes
workers who found the skull gave it to Mr. Junor, their supervisor, a senior
member of the public works division of the
The skull was found in what
Hrdlicka called "the upper-most portion of the Pre-Ensenadean
stratum." According to modern geological opinion, the Pre-Ensenadan
stratum should be at least 1.0-1.5 million years old. Even at 1 million years,
the presence of a fully modern human skull anywhere in the world-what to speak
Willis, the geologist who accompanied Hrdlicka on his expedition to
For his part, Hrdlicka thought the fact the skull was modern in shape was enough to rule out any great age for it. Hrdlicka's prejudice is evident in the following statement from his 1912 book: "The antiquity, therefore, of any human skeletal remains which do not present marked differences from those of modern man may be regarded, on morphologic grounds, as only insignificant geologically, not reaching in time, in all probability, beyond the modern, still unfinished, geologic formations." Here we have a very clear formulation of the dubious principle of dating by morphology.
SOUTH AMERICAN HOMO ERECTUS?
moving on, let us consider another South American find with unsettling
implications for current thinking about human evolution in general and the
populating of the
Canadian archeologist Alan Lyle Bryan found in a Brazilian museum a fossil
skullcap with very thick walls and exceptionally heavy brow ridges, reminiscent
of Homo erectus. This skullcap came from a cave in the Lagoa Santa region of
the significance of the Lagoa Santa calotte? The presence of hominids with Homo
erectus features in
Santa skullcap mysteriously disappeared from the Brazilian museum after it was
a human jaw was discovered at
Aware that he was in the possession of a fossil of great significance, Collyer showed it to various English scientists, including Charles Lyell, George Busk, Richard Owen, Sir John Prestwich, and Thomas Huxley. All of them were skeptical of its antiquity. Huxley, for example, objected that the shape of the bone "did not indicate it belonged to an extinct or aberrant race of mankind." Here again we encounter the mistaken belief that a modern-looking bone cannot be genuinely old.
American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn, writing in the 1920s about Moir's finds of flint tools in the same area where the Foxhall jaw was uncovered, wondered why the above-mentioned scientists did not take the trouble to visit the site. They disbelieved, said Osborn, "probably because the shape of the jaw was not primitive." Also, the bone was not completely fossilized, but this is true of many other bones of similar age.
After some time, the jaw mysteriously disappeared. It is almost never mentioned by modern authorities, and those who do mention it are invariably scornful. For example, we find in Fossil Men, by Marcellin Boule, this statement: "It requires a total lack of critical sense to pay any heed to such a piece of evidence as this."
conventionally accepted bones and artifacts have also been found by uneducated
workers. For example, most of the Homo erectus finds from Java were made by
unsupervised, paid native collectors. And the
of years ago, during the Pliocene period, a warm sea washed the southern slopes
Ragazzoni reported: "Searching along a bank of coral for shells, there came into my hand the top portion of a cranium, completely filled with pieces of coral cemented with the blue-green clay characteristic of that formation. Astonished, I continued the search, and in addition to the top portion of the cranium I found other bones of the thorax and limbs, which quite apparently belonged to an individual of the human species."
Ragazzoni took the bones to the geologists A. Stoppani and G. Curioni. According to Ragazzoni, their reaction was negative: "Not giving much credence to the circumstances of discovery, they expressed the opinion that the bones, instead of being those of a very ancient individual, were from a very recent burial in that terrain."
"I then threw the bones away," stated Ragazzoni, "not without regret, because I found them lying among the coral and marine shells, appearing, despite the views of the two able scientists, as if transported by the ocean waves and covered with coral, shells, and clay."
But that was not the end of the story. Ragazzoni could not get out of his mind the idea that the bones he had found belonged to a human being who lived during the Pliocene. "Therefore," he wrote, "I returned a little later to the same site, and was able to find some more fragments of bone in the same condition as those first discovered."
In 1875, Carlo German!, on the advice of Ragazzoni, purchased land at Castenedolo for the purpose of selling the phosphate-rich shelly clay to local farmers for use as fertilizer. Ragazzoni stated: "I explained to Germani about the bones I had found, and strongly advised him to be vigilant while making his excavations and to show me any new human remains."
In December of 1879, Germani noticed some bones in his excavations, about 15 meters (49 feet) from the place where the first human bones were found. On January 2, 1880, Germani sent a message to Ragazzoni about the discoveries. Ragazzoni recalled: "The next day, I went there with my assistant Vincenzo Fracassi, in order to remove the bones with my own hands." The bones included pieces of the skull, some teeth, and parts of the backbone, ribs, arms, legs, and feet.
More discoveries were to follow. On January 25, Germani brought Ragazzoni some jaw fragments and teeth. These were found about 2 meters (7 feet) from the bones uncovered earlier in January. Ragazzoni returned to Castenedolo and found more fragments of skull, jaw, backbone, and ribs, as well as some loose teeth. "All of them," said Ragazzoni, "were completely covered with and penetrated by the clay and small fragments of coral and shells, which removed any suspicion that the bones were those of persons buried in graves, and on the contrary confirmed the fact of their transport by the waves of the sea."
On February 16, Germani advised Ragazzoni that a complete skeleton was discovered. Ragazzoni journeyed to the site and supervised the excavation. The skeleton, enveloped in a mass of blue green clay, turned out to be that of an anatomically modern human female.
"The complete skeleton, " said Ragazzoni, "was found in the middle of the layer of blue clay. .. . The stratum of blue clay, which is over 1 meter [3 feet] thick, has preserved its uniform stratification, and does not show any sign of disturbance." He added, "The skeleton was very likely deposited in a kind of marine mud and not buried at a later time, for in this case one would have been able to detect traces of the overlying yellow sand and the iron-red clay called ferretto."
In short, any burial would have certainly produced a noticeable mixing of different colored materials in the otherwise undisturbed blue clay layer, and Ragazzoni, a geologist, testified that there was no sign of such mixing. Also, the blue clay had its own stratification, which was intact.
Ragazzoni considered another possible objection to his conclusion that the human bones from Castenedolo were as old as the Pliocene layer in which they were found. Perhaps streams had stripped away the layers covering the blue clay and penetrated part way into the blue clay itself. The human bones could then have been washed into hollows, and new material could have been deposited over them. This could explain why there were no signs of burial. But Ragazzoni said that it was unlikely that the human fossils had been washed recently into the positions in which they were found: "The fossil remains discovered on January 2 and January 25 lay at a depth of approximately 2 meters. The bones were situated at the boundary between the bank of shells and coral and the overlying blue clay. They were dispersed, as if scattered by the waves of the sea among the shells. The way they were situated allows one to entirely exclude any later mixing or disturbance of the strata."
Ragazzoni further stated: "The skeleton found on the 16th of February occurred at a depth of over 1 meter in the blue clay, which appeared to have covered it in a state of slow deposition." Slow deposition of the clay, which Ragazzoni said was stratified, ruled out the hypothesis that the skeleton had recently been washed into the blue clay by a torrential stream.
Modern geologists place the blue clays at Castenedolo in the Astian stage of the Middle Pliocene, which would give the discoveries from Castenedolo an age of about 3-4 million years.
Professor Giuseppe Sergi, an anatomist from the
Sergi also visited the site at Castenedolo. He wrote: "I went there accompanied by Ragazzoni, on the 14th of April. The trench that had been excavated in 1880 was still there, and the strata were clearly visible in their geological succession."
Sergi added: "If a hole had been excavated for a burial, then it would not have been refilled exactly as before. The clay from the upper surface layers, recognizable by its intense red color, would have been mixed in. Such discoloration and disturbance of the strata would not have escaped the notice of even an ordinary person what to speak of a trained geologist." Sergi also noted that, except for the almost complete female skeleton, most of the bones were dispersed among the shells and coral below the blue clay, as if across a single flat surface. This supported the view that these bodies had come to rest on the shallow sea bottom. When they decayed, their bones were scattered by the action of the water. "The almost entirely preserved female skeleton," said Sergi, was not found in a posture indicating ordinary burial, but overturned."
Sergi was convinced that the Castenedolo skeletons were the remains of humans who lived during the Pliocene period of the Tertiary. About the negative opinions of others, he said: "The tendency to reject, by reason of theoretical preconceptions, any discoveries that can demonstrate a human presence in the Tertiary is, I believe, a kind of scientific prejudice. Natural science should be stripped of this prejudice." This prejudice was, however, not overcome, and it persists today. Sergi wrote: "By means of a despotic scientific prejudice, call it what you will, every discovery of human remains in the Pliocene has been discredited."
But Sergi was not alone in his acceptance of Ragazzoni's discoveries at Castenedolo. Armand de Quatrefages, familiar to us from our review of stone implements, also accepted them. Concerning the female skeleton uncovered at Castenedolo, he said in his book Races Humaines: "There exists no serious reason for doubting the discovery of M. Ragazzoni, and ... if made in a Quaternary deposit no one would have thought of contesting its accuracy. Nothing, therefore, can be opposed to it but theoretical a priori objections."
In 1889, an additional human skeleton was discovered at Castenedolo. This find introduced an element of confusion about the discoveries of 1880.
Ragazzoni invited G. Sergi and A. Issel to examine the new skeleton, which had been found in an ancient oyster bed. Sergi reported that both he and Issel believed this new 1889 skeleton to be a recent intrusion into the Pliocene layers because the almost intact skeleton lay on its back in a fissure of the oyster bed and showed signs of having been buried.
But in his own paper, Issel went on to conclude that the 1880 discoveries were also recent burials. In a footnote, Issel claimed that Sergi agreed with him that none of the skeletons found at Castenedolo were of Pliocene age. For the scientific community, this apparently resolved the ongoing controversy.
But Sergi later wrote that Issel was mistaken. Despite his view that the 1889 skeleton was recent, Sergi said he had never given up his conviction that the 1880 bones were Pliocene. But the damage had been done, and Sergi was not up to fighting a new battle to rehabilitate the 1880 discoveries. Thereafter, silence or ridicule became the standard responses toward Castenedolo.
A good example of the unfair treatment given to the Castenedolo finds may be found in Professor R. A. S. Macalister's Textbook of European Archaeology, written in 1921. Macalister admitted that the Castenedolo finds "whatever we may think of them, have to be treated seriously." He noted that they were "unearthed by a competent geologist, Ragazzoni . . . and examined by a competent anatomist, Sergi." Still he could not accept their Pliocene age. Faced with the uncomfortable facts, Macalister claimed "there must be something wrong somewhere." First of all the bones were anatomically modern. "Now, if they really belonged to the stratum in which they were found," wrote Macalister, "this would imply an extraordinarily long standstill for evolution. It is much more likely that there is something amiss with the observations." Macalister also said: "The acceptance of a Pliocene date for the Castenedolo skeletons would create so many insoluble problems that we can hardly hesitate in choosing between the alternatives of adopting or rejecting their authenticity."
Here once more we find a scientist's preconceived ideas about evolution influencing him to reject skeletal evidence that would otherwise be considered of good quality.
Macalister cited Issel in support of his attempt to discredit all the Castenedolo finds, even though Issel's 1889 report really discredited only the 1889 skeleton. For example, Macalister, referring to all of the Castenedolo finds, wrote: "Examination of the bones and their setting, by Issel of Geneva, revealed the fact that the strata were full of marine deposits, and that every thing solid within them, except the human bones, shewed marine incrustations." While it is true that Issel reported that the bones of the skeleton uncovered in 1889 were smooth and free of incrustations, the same cannot be said of the earlier discoveries, which both Ragazzoni and Sergi said were incrusted with blue Pliocene clay and pieces of shells and coral.
Another example of the unfair treatment given the Castenedolo discoveries is found in Fossil Men. In this book, Boule and Vallois stated that "it seems certain that at Castenedolo .. . we are dealing with more or less recent burials." But in Fossil Men, Boule and Vallois devoted only one paragraph to Castenedolo, and did not mention the undisturbed layers lying over the skeletons or the scattered and incomplete state of some of the skeletons-information that tends to rule out intrusive burial.
Boule and Vallois noted: "In 1889, the discovery of a new skeleton was the subject of an official report by Professor Issel, who then observed that the various fossils from this deposit were all impregnated with salt, with the sole exception of the human bones." Here Boule and Vallois implied that what was true of the bones found in 1889 was also true of the bones found previously. But in his 1889 report, Issel described only the bones found in 1889. In fact, Issel did not even mention the word salt, referring instead to "marine incrustations"-which were, as above mentioned, present on the bones found in 1860 and 1880.
Scientists have employed chemical and radiometric tests to deny a Pliocene age to the Castenedolo bones. Fresh bones contain a certain amount of nitrogen in their protein, and this tends to decrease with time. Ii» a 1980 report, K. P. Oakley found the Castenedolo bones had a nitrogen content similar to that of bones from Late Pleistocene and Holocene Italian sites and thus concluded the Castenedolo bones were recent. But the degree of nitrogen preservation in bone can vary widely from site to site, making such comparisons unreliable as age indicators. The Castenedolo bones were found in clay, a» substance known to preserve nitrogen-containing bone proteins.
Bones tend to accumulate fluorine from ground waiter. The Castenedolo bones had a fluorine content that Oakley considered relatively high for bones he thought were recent. Oakley explained this discrepancy by positing higher past levels of fluorine in the Castenedolo groundwater. But this was simply guesswork. The Castenedolo bones also had an unexpected high concentration of uranium, consistent with great age.
A carbon 14 test yielded an age of 958 years for some of the Castenedolo bones. But, as in the case of Galley Hill, the methods employed are now considered unreliable. And the bones themselves, which had been mouldering in a museum for almost 90 years, were very likely contaminated with recent carbon, causing the test to yield a falsely young age.
The case of Castenedolo demonstrates the shortcomings of the methodology employed by paleoanthropologists. The initial attribution of a Pliocene age to the discoveries of 1860 and 1880 appears justified. The finds were made by a trained geologist, G. Ragazzoni, who carefully observed the stratigraphy at the site. He especially searched for signs of intrusive burial, and observed none. Ragazzoni duly reported his findings to his fellow scientists in scientific journals. But because the remains were modern in morphology they came under intense negative scrutiny. As Macalister put it, there had to be something wrong.
The account of human origins now dominant in the scientific community is the product of attitudes such as Macalister's. For the last century, the idea of progressive evolution of the human type from more apelike ancestors has guided the acceptance and rejection of evidence. Evidence that contradicts the idea of human evolution is carefully screened out. Therefore, when one reads textbooks about human evolution, one may think, "Well, the idea of human evolution must be true because all the evidence supports it." But such textbook presentations are misleading, for it is the unquestioned belief that humans did in fact evolve from apelike ancestors that has determined what evidence should be included and how it should be interpreted.
turn our attention to another Pliocene find, made at
Issel communicated details of the
Mortillet, however, wrote in 1883 that the Pliocene layers at
International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology at
Deo Gratias further stated: "Had it been a burial we would expect to find the upper layers mixed with the lower. The upper layers contain white quartzite sands. The result of mixing would have been the definite lightening of a closely circumscribed region of the Pliocene clay sufficient to cause some doubts in the spectators that it was genuinely ancient, as they affirmed. The biggest and smallest cavities of the human bones are filled with compacted Pliocene clay. This could only have happened when the clay was in a muddy consistency, during Pliocene times." Deo Gratias pointed out that the clay was now hard and dry. Also, the skeleton as found at a depth of 3 meters (10 feet), rather deep for a burial.
combination of fossils found at
MONTE HERMOSO VERTEBRA
Chapter 5, we discussed the discovery of flint tools and signs of intentional
use of fire at Monte Hermoso in
bone lay for years in a museum before it was recognized should not disqualify
After the Pliocene loess was removed, scientists carefully studied the bone. Florentine Ameghino, accepting that it was truly Pliocene, assigned the atlas to an apelike human ancestor. In his description of the bone, he identified features he thought were primitive.
But Ales Hrdlicka convincingly demonstrated that the bone was actually modern in form. Like Ameghino, Hrdlicka believed the human form should, as we proceed back in time, become more and more primitive. According to Hrdlicka, if a bone was of the fully modern human type, then no matter what layer it was found in, it had to be of recent origin. Such a bone's presence in an ancient stratum always could be, indeed had to be, explained as some kind of intrusion.
however, another possible explanation: human beings of the modern physiological
type were living over 3 million years ago in
all, Hrdlicka felt that the Monte Hermoso atlas was worthy of being "dropped
of necessity into obscurity." That is exactly what happened. Otherwise,
Hrdlicka's claim that humans only recently entered the
M. A. Vignati reported that a human lower jaw, with two molars, was discovered
in the Late Pliocene Chapadmalalan formation at
Boman, however, was skeptical. He stated: "The newspapers published bombastic articles about 'the most ancient human remains in the world.' But all who examined the molars found them to be identical to the corresponding molars of modern human beings."
took it for granted that the fully human nature of the
Chapter 5, we discussed the numerous stone implements discovered in the
auriferous gravels of the
February 1866, Mr. Mattison, the principal owner of the mine on Bald Hill, near
finding the skull, Mattison later carried it to Mr. Scribner, an agent of
Wells, Fargo and Co.'s Express at Angels. Mr. Scribner's clerk, Mr. Matthews,
cleaned off part of the incrustations covering most of the fossil. Upon
recognizing that it was part of a human skull, he sent it to Dr. Jones, who
lived in the nearby
16,1866, Whitney presented to the California Academy of Sciences a report on
the Calaveras skull, affirming that it was found in Pliocene strata. The skull
caused a great sensation in
According to Whitney, "The religious press in this country took the matter up ... and were quite unanimous in declaring the Calaveras skull to be a 'hoax.'" Whitney noted that the hoax stories did not arise until after his discovery was publicized widely in newspapers.
the hoax stories were propagated not by newspaper writers but by scientists
such as William H. Holmes of the Smithsonian Institution. During a visit to
visiting Calaveras county, Holmes examined the actual Calaveras skull at the
other hand, Holmes reported: "Dr. D. H. Dall states that while in
Regarding the skull, Ayres noted: "It has been said that it is a modern skull which has been incrusted after a few years of interment. This assertion,
however, is never made by anyone knowing the region. The gravel has not the slightest tendency toward an action of that sort ... the hollows of the skull were crowded with the solidified and cemented sand, in such a way as they could have been only by its being driven into them in a semi-fluid mass, a condition the gravels have never had since they were first laid down."
in his original description of the fossil, observed that the Calaveras skull
was highly fossilized. This is certainly consistent with great age; however, as
Holmes pointed out, it is also true that bones can become fossilized over the
course of a few hundred or thousand years. Yet geologist George Becker reported
in 1891: "I find that many good judges are fully persuaded of the
authenticity of the Calaveras skull, and Messrs. Clarence King, O. C. Marsh, F.
W. Putnam, and W. H. Dall have each assured me that this bone was found in
place in the gravel beneath the lava." Becker added that this statement
was made with the permission of the authorities named. Clarence King, as
mentioned previously, was a famous geologist attached to the U.S. Geological
Survey. 0. C. Marsh, a paleontologist, was a pioneer dinosaur fossil hunter and
served as president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1883 to 1895. But
F. W. Putnam of Harvard's
Can it really be said with certainty that the Calaveras skull was either genuine or a hoax? The evidence is so contradictory and confusing that although the skull could have come from an Indian burial cave we might regard with suspicion anyone who comes forward with any kind of definite conclusion. The reader may pause to contemplate what steps one would take to make one's own determination of the true age of the Calaveras skull.
It should, however, be kept in mind that the Calaveras skull was not an isolated discovery. Great numbers of stone implements were found in nearby deposits of similar age. And, as we shall see, additional human skeletal remains were also uncovered in the same region.
In light of this, the Calaveras skull cannot be dismissed without the most careful consideration. As Sir Arthur Keith put it in 1928: "The story of the Calaveras skull... cannot be passed over. It is the 'bogey' which haunts the student of early man .. . taxing the powers of belief of every expert almost to the breaking point."
HUMAN FOSSILS FROM THE
January 1, 1873, the president of the Boston Society of Natural History read
extracts from a letter by Dr. C. F. Winslow about a discovery of human bones at
1856, and the details were communicated to Winslow by Capt. David B. Akey, who had witnessed it. The discovery took place about 10 years before J. D. Whitney first reported on the famous Calaveras skull.
Winslow stated: "During my visit to this mining camp I have become acquainted with Capt. David B. Akey, formerly commanding officer of a California volunteer company, and well known to many persons of note in that State, and in the course of my conversation with him I learned that in 1855 and 1856 he was engaged with other miners in running drifts into Table Mountain in Tuolumne County at the depth of about two hundred feet from its brow, in search of placer gold. He states that in a tunnel run into the mountain at the distance of about fifty feet from that upon which he was employed, and at the same level, a complete human skeleton was found and taken out by miners personally known to him, but whose names he does not now recollect. He did not see the bones in place, but he saw them after they were brought down from the tunnel to a neighboring cabin. All the bones of the skeleton apparently were brought down in the arms of miners and placed in a box, and it was the opinion of those present that the skeleton must have been perfect as it laid in the drift. He does not know what became of the bones, but can affirm to the truth of this discovery, and that the bones were those of a human skeleton, in an excellent state of preservation. The skull was broken in on the right temple, where there was a small hole, as if a part of the skull was gone, but he cannot tell whether this fracture occurred before the excavation or was made by the miners. ... He thinks that the depth from the surface at which this skeleton was found was two hundred feet, and from one hundred and eighty to two hundred feet from the opening cut or face of the tunnel. The bones were in a moist condition, found among the gravel and very near the bed rock, and water was running out of the tunnel. There was a petrified pine tree, from sixty to eighty feet in length and between two and three feet in diameter at the butt, lying near this skeleton. Mr. Akey went into the tunnel with the miners, and they pointed out to him the place where the skeleton was found. He saw the tree in place and broke specimens from it. He cannot remember the name of this tunnel, but it was about a quarter of a mile east of the Rough and Ready tunnel and opposite Turner's Flat, another well known point. He cannot tell the sex of the skeleton, but it was of medium size. The bones were altogether, and not separated, when found."
gravel just above the bedrock at
Winslow did not find any of the bones of the skeleton seen by Akey. But in
another case, Winslow did collect some fossils, which he sent to museums in the
learning of this discovery, J. D. Whitney began his own investigation. He
learned that Hubbs was a well-known citizen of
feet from the surface. Hubbs stated that he "saw the portion of skull
immediately after its being taken out of the sluice into which it had been
shoveled." Adhering to the bone was the characteristic gold-bearing
gravel. A stone mortar was found in the same mine. William J. Sinclair
suggested tunnels from other mines had possibly intersected those of the
Valentine mine. This might explain how the skull fragment got deep below the
surface. But Sinclair admitted that during his 1902 visit he was not even able
to find the old Valentine shaft. This means he had no direct evidence that the
Valentine mine shafts were connected to any others. His objection was simply a
weak and highly speculative attempt to discredit a discovery he opposed on
theoretical grounds. The gravels containing the skull fragment lay 180 feet
below the surface and beneath the lava cap of
9 million to 55 million years old.
examining a collection of stone artifacts belonging to Dr. Perez Snell, J. D.
Whitney noted the presence of a human jaw. The jaw and artifacts all came from
gold-bearing gravels beneath the lava cap of
also reported several discoveries from
a physician named Dr. H. H. Boyce discovered human bones at Clay Hill in
William J. Sinclair persistently attempted to cast whatever doubt he could on the discovery. He said he could not locate the clay stratum because the slope was covered with rocky debris. He further stated: "The impression conveyed.... is that the skeleton found by Dr. Boyce was at a depth of thirty-eight feet, in undisturbed strata under eight feet of so-called basalt. There is nothing, however, in the letter to show that this was the section passed through in sinking the Boyce shaft." Because of the ambiguity about the exact location of the shaft, Sinclair thus concluded: "The skeleton may have been found in such a place and at such a depth in the clay that the possibility of recent interment would have to be considered."
The points raised by Sinclair are valid, and we agree that there are reasons to doubt the antiquity of the skeletal remains found at Clay Hill. Yet the presence of so much rocky debris that Sinclair was not able to gain access to the stratum of clay, at the base of the hill, argues against, rather than for, the possibility of a recent burial into the clay from the slope of the hill. Also, if there were a recent burial, it is peculiar that so few bones were recovered.
brings us to the end of our review of fossil human skeletal remains from the
gold-bearing gravels of
address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered
in August, 1879,0. C. Marsh, president of the Association and one of
OLD FINDS IN
evidence for human beings in the early and middle Tertiary comes from
It is possible, however, that these skeletons were from individuals buried during the Eocene or Miocene periods. A burial does not necessarily have to be recent. The truly frustrating thing about finds such as these is that we are not able to get more information about them. We find only a brief mention by an author bent on discrediting them. Because such finds seemed doubtful to scientists like de Mortillet, they went undocumented and uninvestigated, and were quickly forgotten. How many such finds have been made? We may never know. In contrast, finds which conform to accepted theories are thoroughly investigated, extensively reported, and safely enshrined in museums.
As we have seen, some scientists believed ape-men existed as far back as the Miocene and Eocene. A few bold thinkers even proposed that fully human beings were alive during those periods. But now we are going to proceed into times still more remote. Since most scientists had trouble with Tertiary humans, we can just imagine how difficult it would have been for them to give any serious consideration to the cases we are about to discuss. We ourselves were tempted not to mention such finds as these because they seem unbelievable. But the result of such a policy would be that we discuss evidence only for things we already believe. And unless our current beliefs represent reality in total, this would not be a wise thing to do.
December of 1862, the following brief but intriguing report appeared in a
journal called The Geologist: "In Macoupin county,
examples of anomalous pre-Tertiary evidence are not in the category of fossil
human bones, but rather in the category of fossil humanlike footprints. Professor
W. G. Burroughs, head of the department of geology at
The Upper Carboniferous (the Pennsylvanian) began about 320 million years ago. It is thought that the first animals capable of walking erect, the pseudosuchian the codonts, appeared around 210 million years ago. These lizard like creatures, capable of running on their hind legs, would not have left any tail marks since they carried their tails aloft. But their feet did not look at all like those of human beings; rather they resembled those of birds. Scientists say the first appearance of apelike beings was not until around 37 million years ago, and it was not until around 4 million years ago that most scientists would expect to find footprints anything like those reported by Burroughs from the Carboniferous of Kentucky.
Burroughs stated: "Each footprint has five toes and a distinct arch. The toes are spread apart like those of a human being who has never worn shoes." Giving more details about the prints, Burroughs stated: "The foot curves back like a human foot to a human appearing heel."
David L. Bushnell, an ethnologist with the Smithsonian Institution, suggested the prints were carved by Indians. In ruling out this hypothesis, Dr. Burroughs used a microscope to study the prints and noted: "The sand grains within the tracks are closer together than the sand grains of the rock just outside the tracks due to the pressure of the creatures' feet. . . . The sandstone adjacent to many of the tracks is uprolled due to the damp, loose sand having been pushed up around the foot as the foot sank into the sand." These facts led Burroughs to conclude that the humanlike footprints were formed by compression in the soft, wet sand before it consolidated into rock some 300 million years ago. Burrough's observations were confirmed by other investigators.
According to Kent Previette, Burroughs also consulted a sculptor. Previette wrote in 1953: "The sculptor said that carving in that kind of sandstone could not have been done without leaving artificial marks. Enlarged photomicrographs and enlarged infrared photographs failed to reveal any 'indications of carving or cutting of any kind.'"
Burroughs himself stopped short of claiming that the prints were made by humans, but his presentation leaves one with the strong impression that they were human. When asked about them, Burroughs said, "They look human. That is what makes them especially interesting."
Mainstream science reacted predictably to any suggestion that the prints were made by humans. Geologist Albert G. Ingalls, writing in 1940 in Scientific American, said: "If man, or even his ape ancestor, or even that ape ancestor's early mammalian ancestor, existed as far back as in the Carboniferous Period in any shape, then the whole science of geology is so completely wrong that all the geologists will resign their jobs and take up truck driving. Hence, for the present at least, science rejects the attractive explanation that man made these mysterious prints in the mud of the Carboniferous with his feet."
Ingalls suggested the prints were made by some as yet unknown kind of amphibian. But today's scientists do not really take the amphibian theory seriously. Human-sized Carboniferous bipedal amphibians do not fit into the accepted scheme of evolution much better than Carboniferous human beings- they wreak havoc with our ideas of early amphibians, requiring a host of evolutionary developments we now know nothing about.
Ingalls wrote: "What science does know is that, anyway, unless 2 and 2 are 7, and unless the Sumerians had airplanes and radios and listened to Amos and Andy, these prints were not made by any Carboniferous Period man."
the Moscow News gave a brief but intriguing report on what appeared to be a
human footprint in ISO-million-year-old Jurassic rock next to a giant
three-toed dinosaur footprint. The discovery occurred in the