The Finds of Carlos Ribeiro
The Finds of L. Bourgeois at Thenay,
Implements from Aurillac,
Discoveries by A. Rutot in
Discoveries by Freudenberg
Stone Tools from Burma
Tools from Black's Fork
Grade paleoliths represent an advance over the eoliths. Eoliths are
naturally-broken pieces of stone that are used as tools with little
or no further modification. A working edge might be slightly
retouched or it might simply show signs of wear. Paleoliths,
however, are often deliberately flaked from stone cores and are more
THE FINDS OF CARLOS RIBEIRO IN PORTUGAL
The first hint of
Carlos Ribeiro's discoveries came to our attention
quite accidentally. While going through the writings of the
nineteenth-century American geologist J. D. Whitney, we encountered
a sentence or two about Ribeiro having discovered flint implements
in Miocene formations near Lisbon, Portugal.
We found more brief mentions in the works of S. Laing, a popular
English science writer of the late nineteenth century. Curious, we
searched libraries, but turned up no works under Ribeiro's name and
found ourselves at a dead end. Sometime later, Ribeiro's name turned
up again, this time in the 1957 English edition of Fossil Men by
Boule and Vallois, who rather curtly dismissed the work of the
nineteenth-century Portuguese geologist.
We were, however, led by Boule and Vallois to the 1883 edition of Le Prehistorique, by
Gabriel de Mortillet, who gave a favorable report of Ribeiro's
discoveries, in French. By tracing out the references mentioned in
de Mortillet's footnotes, we gradually uncovered a wealth of
remarkably convincing original reports in French journals of
archeology and anthropology from the latter part of the nineteenth
The search for this buried evidence was illuminating, demonstrating
how the scientific establishment treats reports of facts that no
longer conform to accepted views. Keep in mind that for most current
students of paleoanthropology, Ribeiro and his discoveries simply do
not exist. You have to go back to textbooks printed over 30 years
ago to find even a mention of him.
In 1857, Carlos Ribeiro was named to head the Geological Survey of
Portugal, and he would also be elected to the Portuguese Academy of
Sciences. During the years 1860-63, he conducted studies of stone
implements found in Portugal's Quaternary strata.
geologists generally divided the geological periods into four main
(1) the Primary, encompassing the periods from the
Precambrian through the Permian
(2) the Secondary, encompassing the
periods from the Triassic through the Cretaceous
(3) the Tertiary,
encompassing the periods from the Paleocene through the Pliocene
(4) the Quaternary, encompassing the Pleistocene and Recent
During the course of his investigations, Ribeiro learned
that flints bearing signs of human work were being found in Tertiary
beds between Canergado and Alemquer, two villages in the basin of
the Tagus River northeast of Lisbon.
Ribeiro immediately began his own investigations, and in many
localities found flakes of worked flint and quartzite in Tertiary
beds. But Ribeiro felt he must submit to the prevailing scientific
dogma, still current, that human beings were not older than the
In 1866, on the official geological maps of Portugal, Ribeiro
reluctantly assigned Quaternary ages to certain of the
implement-bearing strata. Upon seeing the maps, the French geologist
Edouard de Verneuil took issue with Ribeiro's judgment, pointing out
that the so-called Quaternary beds were certainly Pliocene or
Miocene. Meanwhile, in France, the Abbé Louis Bourgeois, a reputable
investigator, had reported finding stone implements in Tertiary
beds. Influenced by de Verneuil's criticism and the discoveries of
Bourgeois, Ribeiro began openly reporting that human implements were
being found in Pliocene and Miocene formations in Portugal.
In 1871, Ribeiro presented to the Portuguese Academy of Science at
Lisbon a collection of flint and quartzite implements, including
some gathered from the Tertiary formations of the Tagus valley. In
1872, at the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and
Archeology meeting in Brussels, Ribeiro displayed more specimens,
mostly pointed flakes. Scientific opinion was divided.
At the Paris Exposition of 1878, Ribeiro displayed 95 specimens of
Tertiary flint tools. Gabriel de Mortillet, the influential French
anthropologist, visited Ribeiro's exhibit and declared that 22
specimens had undoubted signs of human work. Along with his friend
and colleague Emile Cartailhac, de Mortillet brought other
scientists to see Ribeiro's specimens, and they were all of the same
opinion—a good many of the flints were definitely made by humans.
De Mortillet wrote:
"The intentional work is very well established,
not only by the general shape, which can be deceptive, but much more
conclusively by the presence of clearly evident striking platforms
and strongly developed bulbs of percussion."
The bulbs of percussion
also sometimes had eraillures, small chips removed by the force of
impact. Some of Ribeiro's specimens also had several long, vertical
flakes removed in parallel, something not likely to occur in the
course of random battering by the forces of nature.
Leland W. Patterson, a modern expert on stone tools, holds that the
bulb of percussion is the most important sign of intentional work on
a flint flake. If the flake also shows the remnants of a striking
platform, then one can be even more certain that one is confronted
with a flake struck deliberately from a flint core and not a piece
of naturally broken flint resembling a tool or weapon.
De Mortillet further observed:
"Many of the specimens, on the same
side as the bulb of percussion, have hollows with traces and
fragments of sandstone adhering to them, a fact which establishes
their original position in the strata." But some scientists were
still doubtful. At the 1880 meeting of the International Congress of
Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology, held in Lisbon, Portugal, Ribeiro displayed more specimens from Miocene beds.
In his report, Ribeiro stated: "
(1) They were found as integral parts of the beds
(2) They had sharp, well-preserved edges, showing that
they had not been subject to transport for any great distance.
They had a patina similar in color to the rocks in the strata of
which they formed a part."
The second point is especially important. Some geologists claimed
that Pleistocene flint implements had been washed into fissures in
Miocene beds by floods and torrents. But if the flints had been
subjected to such transport, then the sharp edges would most
probably have been damaged, and this was not the case. The Congress
assigned a special commission to inspect the implements and the
sites. On September 22, 1880, the commission members boarded a train
and proceeded north from Lisbon.
During the journey, they gazed at
the old forts topping the hilltops, and pointed out to each other
the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary terrains as they moved
through the valley of the Tagus River. They stepped off the train at
Carregado. They then proceeded to nearby Otta and two kilometers
(just over a mile) from Otta arrived at the hill of Monte Redondo.
At that point, the scientists dispersed into various ravines in
search of flints.
In his book Le Prehistorique, Gabriel de Mortillet gave an
informative account of the events that took place at Monte Redondo:
"The members of the Congress arrived at Otta, in the middle of a
great freshwater formation. It was the bottom of an ancient lake,
with sand and clay in the center, and sand and rocks on the edges.
It is on the shores that intelligent beings would have left their
tools, and it is on the shores of the lake that once bathed Monte
Redondo that the search was made. It was crowned with success.
able investigator of Umbria [Italy], Mr. Bellucci, discovered in
situ a flint bearing incontestable signs of intentional work. Before
detaching it, he showed it to a number of his colleagues. The flint
was strongly encased in the rock. He had to use a hammer to extract
it. It is definitely of the same age as the deposit. Instead of
lying flat on a surface onto which it could have been secondarily
recemented at a much later date, it was found firmly in place on the
underside of a ledge extending over a region removed by erosion. It
is impossible to desire a more complete demonstration attesting to a
flint's position in its strata."
Some modern authorities consider
the Otta conglomerates to be Early Miocene, about 15-20 million
years old. Altogether, there seems little reason why Ribeiro's
discoveries should not be receiving some serious attention, even
THE FINDS OF L. BOURGEOIS AT THENAY, FRANCE
On August 19, 1867, in Paris, L. Bourgeois presented to the
International Congress for Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology a
report on flint implements he had found in Early Miocene beds (15-20
million years old) at Thenay, in north-central France. Bourgeois
said they resembled the types of Quaternary implements (scrapers,
borers, blades, etc.) he had found on the surface in the same
region. He found on almost all of the Miocene specimens the standard
indications of human work: fine retouching, symmetrical chipping,
and traces of use.
At the Paris congress, only a few scientists admitted they were
actual artifacts. Undeterred, Bourgeois continued finding more
specimens and convincing individual paleontologists and geologists
they were the result of intentional work. Gabriel de Mortillet was
one of the first to be so convinced.
Some scientists questioned the stratigraphic position in which the
flints had been found. The first specimens collected by Bourgeois
came from rocky debris along the sides of a small valley cutting
through the plateau at Thenay. Geologists such as Sir John Prestwich
objected that these were essentially surface finds. In response,
Bourgeois dug a trench in the valley and found flints showing the
same signs of human work.
Still unsatisfied, critics proposed that the flints found in the
trench had come to their positions through fissures leading from the
top of the plateau, where Pleistocene implements were often found.
To meet this objection, Bourgeois, in 1869, sank a pit into the top
of the plateau. During the excavation, he came to a layer of
limestone one foot thick, with no fissures through which Pleistocene
stone tools might have slipped to lower levels.
Deeper in his pit, at a depth of about 14 feet in Early Miocene
strata, Bourgeois discovered many flint tools. De Mortillet stated
in Le Prehistorique:
"There was no further doubt about their
antiquity or their geological position."
Despite this clear demonstration, many scientists retained their
unreasonable doubts. A showdown came in Brussels, at the 1872
meeting of the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology
Bourgeois presented many specimens, figures of which were included
in the published proceedings of the Congress. Describing a pointed
implement, Bourgeois stated:
"Here is an awl-like specimen, on a
broad base. The point in the middle has been obtained by regular
retouching. This is a type common to all epochs. On the opposite
side is a bulb of percussion."
Bourgeois described another
implement, which he characterized as a knife or cutting tool:
edges have regular retouching, and the opposite side presents a bulb
On many of his specimens, noted Bourgeois, the edges
on the part of the tool that might be grasped by the hand remained
unworn, while those on the cutting surfaces showed extensive wear
Another specimen, was characterized by Bourgeois as a projectile
point or an awl. He noted the presence of retouching on the edges,
obviously intended to make a sharp point. Bourgeois also saw among
the objects he collected a core with the two extremities retouched
with the aim of being utilized for some purpose. He observed:
most prominent edge has been chipped down by a series of artificial
blows, probably to prevent discomfort to the hand grasping the
implement. The other edges remain sharp, which shows this flaking is
not due to rolling action."
In order to resolve any controversy, the
Congress of Prehistoric
Anthropology and Archeology nominated a fifteen-member commission to
judge the discoveries of Bourgeois. A majority of eight members
voted that the flints were of human manufacture. Only five of the
fifteen found no trace of human work in the specimens from Thenay.
One member expressed no opinion and another supported Bourgeois with
Bulbs of percussion were rare on the Early Miocene flints of Thenay,
but most of the flints displayed fine retouching of the edges. The
retouching tended to be concentrated on just one side of an edge,
while the other side remained untouched; this is called unifacial
flaking. De Mortillet, like modern authorities, believed that in
almost all cases unifacial flaking is not the result of chance
impacts but of deliberate work. In his book Musée Prehistorique,
de Mortillet included reproductions of some Thenay flints that
displayed very regular unifacial retouching.
Some of the critics of Bourgeois commented that among all the Early
Miocene flint pieces he collected at Thenay, there were only a very
few good specimens, about thirty. But de Mortillet stated:
incontestable specimen would be enough, and they have thirty!"
Modern authorities on stone stools, such as
L. W. Patterson, say
that parallel flake scars of approximately the same size are good
indications of human work. Illustrations of the flints from the
Early Miocene of Thenay show such flake scars.
Many of the flints of Thenay have finely cracked surfaces indicating
exposure to fire. De Mortillet concluded that humans had used fire
to fracture large pieces of flint. The resulting flakes were then
made into tools.
Through the writings of S. Laing, knowledge of the Thenay tools from
the Early Miocene reached the intelligent reading public of the
"The human origin of these
implements has been greatly confirmed by the discovery that the Mincopics of the Andaman Islands manufacture whet-stones or scrapers
almost identical with those of Thenay, and by the same process of
using fire to split the stones into the requisite size and shape. On
the whole, the evidence for these Miocene implements seems to be
very conclusive, and the objections to have hardly any other ground
than the reluctance to admit the great antiquity of man."
Who made the flint implements of Thenay? Some thought they had been
made by primitive, apelike human ancestors.
But in 1894, S. Laing
said of the flints of Thenay:
"Their type continues, with no change
except that of slight successive improvements, through the Pliocene,
Quaternary, and even down to the present day. The scraper of the Esquimaux and the Andaman islanders is but an enlarged and improved
edition of the Miocene scraper."
If humans make such scrapers today,
it is certainly possible that identical beings made similar scrapers
back in the Miocene. And, as we shall see in coming chapters,
scientists did in fact uncover skeletal remains of human beings
indistinguishable from Homo sapiens in the Tertiary.
It thus becomes clearer why we no longer hear of the flints of
Thenay. At one point in the history of paleoanthropology, several
scientists who believed in evolution actually accepted the Thenay
Miocene tools, but attributed them to a precursor of the human type.
Evolutionary theory convinced them such a precursor existed, but no
fossils had been found. When the expected fossils were found in
1891, in Java, they occurred in a formation now regarded as Middle
Pleistocene. That certainly placed any supporters of Miocene ape-men
in a dilemma.
The human precursor, the creature transitional between
fossil apes and modern humans, had been found not in the Early
Miocene, 20 million years ago by current estimate, but in the Middle
Pleistocene, less than 1 million years ago. Therefore, the flints of Thenay, and all the other evidences for the existence of Tertiary
humans (or tool-making Tertiary ape-men), were quietly, and
apparently quite thoroughly, removed from active consideration and
The extensive evidence for the presence of tool-making hominids in
the Tertiary was in fact buried, and the stability of the entire
edifice of modern paleoanthropology depends upon it remaining
If even one single piece of evidence for the existence of
toolmakers in the Miocene or Early Pliocene were to be accepted, the
whole picture of human evolution, built up so carefully in this
century, would disintegrate.
IMPLEMENTS FROM AURILLAC, FRANCE
In 1870, Anatole Roujou reported that geologist Charles Tardy had
removed a flint knife from the exposed surface of a Late Miocene
conglomerate at Aurillac, in southern France. To describe the
removal, Roujou used the word arraché, which means the flint had to
be extracted with some force. De Mortillet believed Tardy's flint
tool had only recently been cemented onto the surface of the Late
Miocene conglomerate and therefore chose to assign it a Pleistocene
The French geologist J. B. Rames doubted that the object found by
Tardy was actually of human manufacture. But in 1877 Rames made his
own discoveries of flint implements in the same region, at Puy
Courny, a site near Aurillac. These implements were taken from
sediments lying between layers of volcanic materials laid down in
the Late Miocene, about 7-9 million years ago.
In 1894, S. Laing gave a detailed description of the signs of human
manufacture that Rames had observed on the flints:
consist of several well-known palaeolithic types, celts, scrapers,
arrow-heads, and flakes, only ruder and smaller than those of later
periods. They were found at three different localities in the same
stratum of gravel, and comply with all the tests by which the
genuineness of Quaternary implements is ascertained, such as bulbs
of percussion, conchoidal fractures, and above all, intentional
chipping in a determinate direction."
According to Laing, French
anthropologist Armand de Quatrefages noted fine parallel scratches
on the chipped edges of many specimens, indicating usage. These use
marks were not present on other unchipped edges. The flint
implements of Puy Courny were accepted as genuine at a congress of
scientists in Grenoble, France.
Laing also said about the tools:
"The gravelly deposit in which they
are found contains five different varieties of flints, and of these
all that look like human implements are confined to one particular
variety, which from its nature is peculiarly adapted for human use.
As Quatrefages says, no torrents or other natural causes could have
exercised such a discrimination, which could only have been made by
an intelligent being, selecting the stones best adapted for his
tools and weapons."
Max Verworn, of the University of Gottingen in Germany, was
initially doubtful of reports of stone tools from the Pliocene and
earlier. So in 1905 he went to Aurillac to conduct his own
investigations of the stone tools found there.
Verworn remained at Aurillac for six days, making excavations at a
site called Puy de Boudieu, not far from Puy Courny.
results of his first day's work, he wrote:
"I had the luck to come
upon a place where I found a great number of flint objects, whose
indisputable implemental nature immediately staggered me. I had not
expected this. Only slowly could I accustom myself to the thought
that I had in my hand the tools of a human being that had lived in
Tertiary times. I raised all the objections of which I could think.
I questioned the geological age of the site, I questioned the
implemental nature of the specimens, until I reluctantly admitted
that all possible objections were not sufficient to explain away the
The sharp-edged, chipped flint objects, apparently tools, were found
in small groups, among stones that were very much rolled and worn.
This meant that the flint objects had not been subjected to much
movement since their deposition and that the flaking upon them was
therefore of human rather than geological origin. The fact that the
sharp-edged implemental flints were found in groups also suggested
the presence of workshop sites.
Verworn then discussed at length various ways to identify human work
on a flint object. He divided evidence of such work into three
(1) signs of percussion resulting from the primary blow that
detached the flake from a flint core
(2) signs of percussion
resulting from secondary edge chipping on the flake itself
signs of use on the working edges
Considering all the various characteristics of percussion and use,
Verworn suggested that none of them are in themselves conclusive.
"The critical analysis of a given combination of symptoms is the
only thing that will put us in a position to make decisions," he
This is the same methodology suggested by
L. W. Patterson, a modern
expert on stone tools. Patterson does, however, give more weight
than Verworn to bulbs of percussion and unidirectional flaking along
single edges of flakes, especially when numerous specimens are found
at a site. Patterson's studies showed that natural forces almost
never produce these effects in significant quantities.
Verworn then provided an example to illustrate how his method of
analysis might be applied:
"Suppose I find in an interglacial stone
bed a flint object that bears a clear bulb of percussion, but no
other symptom of intentional work. In that case, I would be doubtful
as to whether or not I had before me an object of human manufacture.
But suppose I find there a flint which on one side shows all the
typical signs of percussion, and which on the other side shows the
negative impressions of two, three, four, or more flakes removed by
blows in the same direction. Furthermore, let us suppose one edge of
the piece shows numerous, successive parallel small flakes removed,
all running in the same direction, and all, without exception, are
located on the same side of the edge. Let us suppose that all the
other edges are sharp, without a trace of impact or rolling. Then I
can say with complete certainty it is an implement of human manufacture."
Verworn, after conducting a number of excavations at sites near
Aurillac, analyzed the many flint implements he found, employing the
rigorously scientific methodology described above. He then came to
the following conclusion:
"With my own hands, I have personally
extracted from the undisturbed strata at Puy de Boudieu many such
unquestionable artifacts. That is unshakable proof for the existence
of a flint-working being at the end of the Miocene."
Most of the implements found by Verworn in the Miocene beds of
Aurillac were scrapers of various kinds. "Some scrapers," he wrote,
"show only use marks on the scraping edge, while the other edges on
the same piece are quite sharp and unmarked. On other specimens the
scraping edge displays a number of chips intentionally removed in
the same direction. This chipping displays quite clearly all the
usual signs of percussion. Even today the edges of the impact marks
of previous blows on the upper part of some implements are perfectly
sharp. The goal of the work on the edges is clearly and without
doubt recognizable as the removal of cortex or the giving of a
definite form. On many pieces there are clearly visible handgrip
areas, fashioned by the removal of sharp edges and points from
places where they would injure or interfere."
About another object, Verworn said:
"The flake scars on the scraper
blade lie so regularly next to each other in parallel fashion that
one is reminded of Paleolithic or even Neolithic examples."
accepted sequence, Paleolithic and Neolithic tools are assigned to
the later Pleistocene.
Verworn also found many pointed scrapers:
"Among all the flint
objects, these show most clearly the intentional fashioning of
definite tool shapes, at least in the area of the working edges. In
fact, the points are generally made in such a way that one can speak
of genuine care and attention in the technique. The edges have been
worked by many unidirectional blows in such a way as to make the
intention of fashioning a point unequivocal."
Also found at Aurillac were notched scrapers, with rounded concave
openings on the working edge suitable for scraping cylindrical
objects like bones or spear shafts. Verworn observed:
"In most cases
the notched scrapers are made by chipping out one of the edges in a
curved shape by unidirectional blows."
Verworn also uncovered several tools adapted for hammering, hacking,
and digging. Describing one such tool, Verworn wrote:
pointed tool for chopping or digging. It is formed from a natural
slab of flint by the working of a point. One sees on the surfaces of
the piece the cortex of the flint and at the top a point made from
numerous flakes, mostly removed in the same direction."
another pointed tool, Verworn stated:
"This tool has on the side
directly below the point a handgrip made by removing the sharp,
cutting edges. It might have been a primitive hand axe used for
hammering or chopping."
Verworn also found tools he thought were
adapted for stabbing, boring, and engraving.
"At the end of the Miocene there was here a
culture, which was, as we can see from its flint tools, not in the
very beginning phases but had already proceeded through a long
period of development. . . . this Miocene population of Cantal knew
how to flake and work flint."
Verworn went on to say:
"The size of
the implements points toward a being with a hand of the same size
and shape as our own, and therefore a similar body. The existence of
large scrapers and choppers that fill our own hands, and above all
the perfect adaptation to the kind found in almost all the tools,
seems to verify this conclusion in the highest degree.
Tools of the most different sizes, which show with a perfect clarity
useful edges, use marks, and hand-grips, lie for the most part so
naturally and comfortably in our hands, with the original sharp
points and edges intentionally removed from the places where a hand
would grasp, that one would think the tools were made directly for
Verworn then said about the makers of the tools:
"While it is
possible that this Tertiary form might possibly have stood closer to
the animal ancestors of modern humans than do modern humans
themselves, who can say to us that they were not already of the same
basic physical character as modern humans, that the development of
specifically human features did not extend back into the Late
As we explain in Chapter 7, fossil skeletal remains
indistinguishable from those of fully modern humans have been found
in the Pliocene, Miocene, Eocene and even earlier. When we also
consider that humans living today make implements not much different
from those taken from Miocene beds in France and elsewhere, then the
validity of the standard sequence of human evolution begins to seem
In fact, the standard sequence only makes sense when a lot
of very good evidence is ignored. When all the available evidence,
implemental and skeletal, is considered, it is quite difficult to
construct any kind of evolutionary sequence. What we are left with
is the supposition that there have been various types of human and
humanlike beings, living at the same time and manufacturing stone
tools of various levels of sophistication, for tens of millions of
years into the past.
As late as 1924, George Grant MacCurdy, director of the American
School of Prehistoric Research in Europe, reported positively in
Natural History about the flint implements of Aurillac. Similar
tools had been found in England by J. Reid Moir. Some critics argued
that natural forces, such as movements of the earth, had fractured
flints by pressure, thus creating stone objects resembling tools.
But scientists showed that in the particular locations where Moir's
flint tools were found, the geological evidence did not suggest the
operation of such natural causes.
"Conditions favoring the play of natural forces do
not exist in certain Pliocene deposits of East Anglia, where J. Reid Moir has found worked flints. . . . Can the same be said of the
chipped flints from Upper Miocene deposits near Aurillac (Cantal)?
Sollas and Capitan have both recently answered in the affirmative.
Capitan finds not only flint chips that suggest utilization but true
types of instruments which would be considered as characteristic of
certain Palaeolithic horizons. These not only occur but reoccur:
punches, bulbed flakes, carefully retouched to form points and
scrapers of the Mousterian type, disks with borders retouched in a
regular manner, scratchers of various forms, and, finally, picks. He
concludes that there is a complete similitude between many of the
chipped flints from Cantal and the classic specimens from the
best-known Palaeolithic sites."
William Sollas held the Chair of
Geology at Oxford, and Louis Capitan, a highly respected French
anthropologist, was professor at the College of France.
DISCOVERIES BY A. RUTOT IN BELGIUM
In Belgium, A. Rutot, conservator of the
Royal Museum of Natural
History in Brussels, made a series of discoveries that brought
anomalous stone-tool industries into new prominence during the early
twentieth century. Most of the industries identified by Rutot dated
to the Early Pleistocene. But in 1907, Rutot's ongoing research
resulted in more startling finds in sandpits near Boncelles, in the
Ardennes region of Belgium. The tool-bearing layers were Oligocene,
which means they were from 25 to 38 million years old.
Describing the tools, George Schweinfurth wrote in the Zeitschrift
"Among them were choppers, anvil stones, knives,
scrapers, borers, and throwing stones, all displaying clear signs of
intentional work that produced forms exquisitely adapted for use by
the human hand. . . . the fortunate discoverer had the pleasure to
show the sites to 34 Belgian geologists and students of prehistory.
They all agreed that there could be no doubt about the position of
Rutot's complete report on the Boncelles finds appeared in the
bulletin of the Belgian Society for Geology, Paleontology, and
Hydrology. Rutot also said that stone tools like those of Boncelles
had been found in Oligocene contexts at Baraque Michel and the
cavern at Bay Bonnet. At Rosart, on the left bank of the Meuse,
stone tools had also been found in a Middle Pliocene context.
"Now it appears," wrote Rutot, "that the notion of the existence of
humanity in the Oligocene . . . has been affirmed with such force
and precision that one cannot detect the slightest fault."
noted that the Oligocene tools from Boncelles almost exactly
resembled tools made within the past few centuries by the native
inhabitants of Tasmania.
Rutot then described in detail the various types of tools from the
Oligocene of Boncelles, beginning with percuteurs (or choppers).
These included: plain choppers, sharpened choppers, pointed
choppers, and retouchers, which were used to resharpen the working
edges of other stone implements. All categories of percuteurs
displayed chipping to make the implements easier to hold in the hand
and signs of usage on the working edge.
Also found at the Boncelles sites were several anvil stones
characterized by a large flat surface showing definite signs of
Rutot then described some implements he called couteaux, best
translated as cutters.
"One can see," he wrote, "that couteaux are
made from relatively long flakes of flint, blunt on one side and
sharp on the other."
Another type of implement was the racloir, or side scraper. The
racloir was ordinarily made from an oval flake, with one of the
edges blunt and the opposite edge sharp. After retouching for a
suitable grip, the blunt edge was held in the palm of the hand, and
the sharp edge of the implement was moved along the length of the
object to be scraped. During this operation, small splinters were
detached from the cutting edge of the implement and these use marks
could be seen on many specimens.
Rutot then described other types of racloirs: the notched racloir,
probably used for scraping long, round objects, and the double
racloir with two sharp edges. Some of the double racloirs resembled
Mousterian pointed implements from the Late Pleistocene.
Rutot also described a special category of tools, which he called
mixed implements, because they looked as if they could have been
employed in more than one fashion.
"They tend to have
on the sharp edge a point formed by the intersection of two straight
edges, or more frequently, two notches, made by retouching."
The next type of implement discussed by Rutot was the grattoir,
another category of scraper. He also described percoirs, which might
be called awls or borers. Rutot also noted the presence at Boncelles
of objects that appeared to be throwing stones or sling stones.
Finally, Rutot suggested that certain flint objects bearing traces
of repeated impacts may have been used by the ancient inhabitants of
Boncelles to make fire. Such stones are found in Late Pleistocene
"We find ourselves," Rutot said, "confronted with a grave
problem—the existence in the Oligocene of beings intelligent enough
to manufacture and use definite and variegated types of implements."
Today scientists do not give any consideration at all to the
possibility of a human—or even protohuman—presence in the Oligocene.
We believe there are two reasons for this—unfamiliarity with
evidence such as Rutot's and unquestioning faith in currently held
views on human origin and antiquity.
DISCOVERIES BY FREUDENBERG NEAR ANTWERP
In February and March of 1918,
Wilhelm Freudenberg, a geologist
attached to the German army, was conducting test borings for
military purposes in Tertiary formations west of Antwerp, Belgium.
In clay pits at Hoi, near St. Gillis, and at other locations,
Freudenberg discovered flint objects he believed to be implements,
along with cut bones and shells. Most of the objects came from
sedimentary deposits of the Scaldisian marine stage.
spans the Early Pliocene and Late Miocene and is thus 4-7 million
years old. Freudenberg suggested that the objects he discovered may
have dated to the period just before the Scaldisian marine
transgression, which, if true, would give them an age of at least 7
Freudenberg believed some of the flint implements he found had been
used to open shells. Many of these were found along with cut shells
and burned flints, which Freudenberg took as evidence that
intelligent beings had used fire during the Tertiary in Belgium.
Concerning the cut shells, Freudenberg stated:
"I found many
intentional incisions, mostly on the rear part of the shells, quite
near the hinge."
He said the incisions were "such as could only have
been made with a sharp instrument." Some of the shells also bore
puncture marks. In addition to cut shells, Freudenberg also found
bones of marine mammals bearing what he thought were cut marks. He
carefully considered and rejected alternative hypotheses such as
chemical corrosion or geological abrasion. He also found bones
bearing deep impact marks that could have been made by stone
Further confirmation of a human presence came in the form
of partial footprints, apparently made when humanlike feet
compressed pieces of clay. From a clay pit at Hoi, Freudenberg
recovered one impression of the ball of a foot and four impressions
of toes. According to Freudenberg, patterns of ridges and pores
matched those of human feet and were distinct from those of apes.
Freudenberg was an evolutionist and believed that his Tertiary man
must have been a small hominid, displaying, in addition to its
humanlike feet, a combination of apelike and human features.
Altogether, Freudenberg's description of his Flemish Tertiary man
seems reminiscent of Australopithecus. But one would not, according
to current paleoanthropological doctrine, expect to find any
australopithecines in Belgium during the Late Miocene, over 7
million years ago. The oldest australopithecines date back only
about 4 million years in Africa.
Then who made the footprints discovered by Freudenberg? There are
today, in Africa and the Philippines, pygmy tribes, with adult males
standing less than five feet tall and females even shorter. The
proposal that a small human being rather than an australopithecine
made the footprints is more consistent with the whole spectrum of
evidence—stone tools, incised bones, isolated signs of fire, and
artificially opened shells.
Australopithecines are not known to have
manufactured stone tools or used fire.
In 1871, Professor G. Ponzi presented to the meeting in Bologna of
the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and
Archeology a report about evidence for Tertiary humans in central
Italy. The evidence consisted of pointed flint implements recovered
by geologists from deposits of breccia from the Pliocene
Acquatraversan erosional phase (over 2 million years old).
is a deposit composed of rock fragments in a fine-grained matrix of
hardened sand or clay.
STONE TOOLS FROM BURMA
In 1894 and 1895, scientific journals announced the discovery of
worked flints in Miocene formations in Burma, then part of the
British India. The implements were reported by Fritz Noetling, a
paleontologist who directed the Geological Survey of India in the
region of Yenangyaung, Burma.
While collecting fossils, Noetling noticed a rectangular flint
object. He said its implement like form was "difficult to explain by
"The shape of this specimen reminds
me very much of the chipped flint described in Volume I of the
Records, Geological Survey of India, and discovered in the
Pleistocene of the Nerbudda river, the artificial origin of which
nobody seems to have ever doubted."
Noetling searched further and
found about a dozen more chipped pieces of flint.
How certain was the stratigraphic position of Noetling's flints?
Noetling offered this account:
"The exact spot where the flints were
found . . . is situated on the steep eastern slope of a ravine, high
above its bottom, but below the edge in such a position that it is
inconceivable how the flints should have been brought there by any
foreign agency. There is no room for any dwelling place in this
narrow gorge, nor was there ever any; it is further impossible from
the way in which the flints were found that they could have been
brought to that place by a flood. If I weigh all the evidence, quite
apart from the fact that I actually dug them out of the bed, it is
my strong belief that they were in situ when found."
In conclusion, Noetling said:
"If flints of this shape can be
produced by natural causes, a good many chipped flints hitherto
considered as undoubtedly artificial [i.e., human] products are open
to grave doubts as to their origin."
TOOLS FROM BLACK'S FORK RIVER, WYOMING
In 1932, Edison Lohr and Harold Dunning, two amateur archeologists,
found many stone tools on the high terraces of the Black's Fork
River in Wyoming, U.S.A. The implements appeared to be of Middle
Pleistocene age, which would be anomalous for North America.
Lohr and Dunning showed the tools they collected to E. B. Renaud, a
professor of anthropology at the University of Denver. Renaud, who
was also director of the Archaeological Survey of the High Western
Plains, then organized an expedition to the region where the tools
were found. During the summer of 1933, Renaud's party collected
specimens from the ancient river terraces between the towns of
Granger and Lyman.
Among the specimens were crude hand axes and other flaked implements
of a kind frequently attributed to Homo erectus, who is said to have
inhabited Europe during the Middle Pleistocene.
The reaction from anthropologists in America was negative. Renaud
wrote in 1938 that his report had been "harshly criticized by one of
the irreconcilable opponents of the antiquity of man in America, who
had seen neither the sites nor the specimens."
In response, Renaud mounted three more expeditions, collecting more
tools. Although many experts from outside America agreed with him
that the tools represented a genuine industry, American scientists
have continued their opposition to the present day.
The most common reaction is to say the crude specimens are blanks
(unworked flakes) dropped fairly recently by Indian toolmakers. But
Herbert L. Minshall, a collector of stone tools, stated in 1989 that
the tools show heavy stream abrasion even though they are fixed in
desert pavements on ancient flood plain surfaces that could not have
had streams for over 150,000 years.
If found at a site of similar age in Africa or Europe or China,
stone tools like those found by Renaud would not be a source of
controversy. But their presence in Wyoming is certainly very much
unexpected at 150,000 or more years ago. The view now dominant is
that humans entered North America not earlier than about 30,000
years ago at most. And before that there was no migration of any
Some suggested that the abrasion on the implements was the result of
windblown sand rather than water.
In reply Minshall observed:
specimens were abraded on all sides, top and bottom, ventral and
dorsal surfaces equally. That is extremely unlikely for windblown
dust to achieve on heavy stone tools lying in heavy gravel but
expectable on objects subjected to surf or heavy stream action."
Minshall also noted that the tools were covered with a thick mineral
coating of desert varnish. This varnish, which takes a long time to
accumulate, was thicker than that on tools found on lower, and hence
more recent, terraces in the same region.
The cumulative evidence appears to rule out the suggestion that the
implements discovered by Renaud were blanks dropped fairly recently
on the high desert floodplain terraces.
But Minshall noted:
reaction of American scientists to Renaud's interpretation of the
Black's Fork collections as evidences of great antiquity was, and
has continued to be for over half a century, one of general
skepticism and disbelief, even though probably not one in a thousand
archaeologists has visited the site nor seen the artifacts."
According to Minshall, the tools found by Renaud were the work of
Homo erectus, who may have entered North America during a time of
lowered sea levels in the Middle Pleistocene. Minshall believed this
was also true of stone tools found at other locations of similar
age, such as Calico and his own excavation at Buchanan Canyon, both
in southern California.
Minshall was, however, skeptical of another Middle Pleistocene site.
In January 1990, Minshall told one of us (Thompson) that he was not
inclined to accept as genuine the technologically advanced stone
tools found at Hueyatlaco in Mexico (Chapter 5).
The advanced stone
tools found at Hueyatlaco were characteristic of Homo sapiens
sapiens and were thus not easy to attribute to Homo erectus.
Minshall's response to Hueyatlaco was to suggest, without supporting
evidence, that the stratigraphy had been misinterpreted and that the
animal bones used to date the site, as well as the sophisticated
stone artifacts, had been washed onto the site from different
This shows that researchers who accept some anomalies may
rule out others using the double standard method.