7 - ANOMALOUS
HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS
Galley Hill Skeleton
Moulin Quignon Jaw
Moulin Quignon Update
La Denise Skull Fragments
Buenos Aires Skull
South American Homo Erectus?
Monte Hermoso Vertebra
More Human Fossils from the
California Gold Country
Extremely Old Finds in
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.
Because the Trenton femur was like that of modern humans, Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution thought it must be of recent
He expected that a genuinely ancient human femur should display
primitive features. Hrdlicka therefore said about the Trenton femur:
"The antiquity of this specimen must rest on the geological evidence
alone." But he was unable to point out anything wrong with the
During the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, several
discoveries of human skeletal remains were made in Middle
Pleistocene formations in Europe. These discoveries include those
made at Galley Hill, Moulin Quignon, Clichy, La Denise, and Ipswich.
Doubts remain as to the true age of these bones. We have
nevertheless included them in our discussion for the sake of
The presence of these skeletons in Middle Pleistocene
strata could be attributed to recent intrusive burial, mistakes in
reporting, or fraud. Nonetheless, there are reasons for thinking
that the skeletons might in fact be of Middle Pleistocene age. We
shall now briefly review some of the more noteworthy cases.
GALLEY HILL SKELETON
In 1888, workmen removing deposits at Galley Hill, near London,
England, exposed a bed of chalk. The overlying layers of sand, loam,
and gravel were about 10 or 11 feet thick. One workman, Jack Allsop,
informed Robert Elliott, a collector of prehistoric items, that he
had discovered a human skeleton firmly embedded in these deposits
about 8 feet below the surface and about 2 feet above the chalk bed.
Allsop had removed the skull but left the rest of the skeleton in
place. Elliott stated that he saw the skeleton firmly embedded in
"We carefully looked for any signs of the section being
disturbed, but failed: the stratification being unbroken."
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.'"
stone tools were also recovered from the Galley Hill site.
According to modern opinion, the Galley Hill site would date to the
Holstein interglacial, which occurred about 330,000 years ago.
Anatomically, the Galley Hill skeleton was judged to be of the
modern human type. Most scientists now think that anatomically
modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) originated in Africa around
100,000 years ago. They say that Homo sapiens sapiens eventually
entered Europe in the form of Cro-Magnon man approximately 30,000
years ago, replacing the Neanderthals.
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.
The Galley Hill bones had a nitrogen content similar to that of
fairly recent bones from other sites in England. Nitrogen is one of
the constituent elements of protein, which normally decays with the
passage of time. But there are many recorded cases of proteins being
preserved in fossils for millions of years. Because the degree of
nitrogen preservation may vary from site to site, one cannot say for
certain that the relatively high nitrogen content of the Galley Hill
bones means they are recent. The Galley Hill bones were found in
loam, a clayey sediment known to preserve protein.
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
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
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:
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
At the same time, the testimony of Elliott and Heys casts
doubt on the report of Oakley and Montagu.
MOULIN QUIGNON JAW
In 1863, J. Boucher de Perthes discovered an anatomically modern
human jaw in the Moulin Quignon pit at Abbeville, France. He removed
it from a layer of black sand and gravel that also contained stone
implements of the Acheulean type. The black layer was 16.5 feet
below the surface of the pit. The Acheulean sites at Abbeville are
of the same age as the Holstein interglacial and would thus be about
330,000 years old.
Upon 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 England, they cut it open and were surprised at
how well preserved it appeared. This enhanced their doubt, but many
physical anthropologists have noted that fossil teeth of great age
are often well preserved.
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."
In May 1863, British geologists met with their French counterparts
in Paris to decide the status of the jaw. The commission jointly
declared in favor of the authenticity of the jaw, despite some
reservations by two of the British members.
Thereafter, however, the
British members continued to oppose the Moulin Quignon jaw and
eventually won most scientists over to their side.
"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 de 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.
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
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
In 1868, 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 Clichy human bones were
found was the same age as the one in which the Galley Hill skeleton
This would make the Clichy bones approximately
330,000 years old. The depth at which the Clichy human fossils were
found (over 17 feet) argues against recent burial.
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.
Even after hearing de Mortillet relate the workman's story about
stashing the bones of the Clichy skeleton, a number of scientists
remained convinced Bertrand's discovery was genuine.
Professor E. T. Hamy said:
"Mr. Bertrand's discovery seems to me to
be so much less debatable in that it is not the first of this kind
at Avenue de Clichy. Indeed, our esteemed colleague, Mr. Reboux,
found in that same locality, and almost at the same depth (4.20
meters), human bones that he has given me to study."
Keith reported that initially almost all authorities in France
believed that the Clichy skeleton was as old as the layer in which
Bertrand said it was found. Later, after accepting the Neanderthals
as the Pleistocene ancestors of modern humans, French
anthropologists dropped the Clichy skeleton, which predated the
Neanderthals, from the list of bona fide discoveries. A
representative of the modern human type should not have been
existing before his supposed ancestors.
The Neanderthals are thought
to have existed from 30,000 to 150,000 years ago. But the Clichy
skeleton would be over 300,000 years old.
In his remarks to the Anthropological Society, Bertrand provided
additional evidence for the great antiquity of the Clichy skeleton.
He stated that he found a human ulna in the stratum containing the
other bones of the Clichy human skeleton. The ulna is the larger of
the two long bones of the forearm.
When Bertrand tried to extract
the ulna it crumbled into dust. He offered this as proof that the Clichy human skeleton must have been native to the layer in which it
was found. Apparently, Bertrand reasoned that a bone as fragile as
the decayed ulna could not possibly have been removed from an upper
layer of the quarry and stashed by a workman in the lower layer in
which Bertrand found it—it would certainly have been destroyed in
This indicated that the ulna belonged to the stratum in
which Bertrand found it, as did the other human bones.
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."
The 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 France.
But such comparisons are
not of much value, because the content of nitrogen or fluorine in
bones depends heavily on sediment type, temperature, and water flow,
which can vary greatly from place to place.
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.
In 1911, J. Reid Moir discovered an anatomically modern human
skeleton beneath a layer of glacial boulder clay near the town of
Ipswich, in the East Anglia region of England. Reading through
various secondary accounts, we learned that J. Reid Moir later
changed his mind about the skeleton, declaring it recent. We thus
did not consider the Ipswich skeleton for inclusion in this book.
But after further investigation, we determined that the Ipswich
skeleton could be genuinely old.
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 of Pleistocene animal fossils found elsewhere in the
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.
presumption that the modern type of man is also modern in origin,"
he stated, "a degree of high antiquity is denied to such specimens."
Despite opposition, Moir initially stuck to his guns, holding that
the Ipswich skeleton was genuinely old. What then happened to change
his mind? He found nearby, at the same level, some stone tools
resembling those from the Aurignacian period, considered to be about
30,000 years old. He concluded that the layer of boulder clay above
the skeleton had been formed at that time from the sludge-like
remnants of the original boulder-clay deposit, formed hundreds of
thousands of years earlier.
In Moir's 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 Hueyatlaco, Mexico, in strata yielding a uranium
series age of over 200,000 years.
During the nineteenth century,
very advanced stone objects turned up in the California gold mines,
in gravels that might be as old as the Eocene. Therefore, we cannot
agree with Moir that the discovery of tools of advanced type at the
same level as the Ipswich skeleton was sufficient reason to
reinterpret the site stratigraphy to bring the age of the skeleton
into harmony with the supposed age of the tools.
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
The glacial sands in which the Ipswich skeleton was found must have
been laid down between the onset of the Anglian glaciation, about
400,000 years ago, and onset of the Hoxnian interglacial, about
330,000 years ago. It would thus appear that the Ipswich skeleton is
between 330,000 and 400,000 years old. Some authorities put the
onset of the Mindel glaciation (equivalent to the Anglian) at about
600,000 years, which would give the Ipswich skeleton an age
potentially that great.
Yet human beings of modern type are not
thought to have appeared in Western Europe before 30,000 years ago.
The Terra Amata site is located on the Mediterranean coast of
southern France. There, in the late 1960s, French anthropologist
Henry de Lumley found oval patterns of post holes and stone circles
indicating that hominids erected temporary shelters and built fires
about 400,000 years ago. Also found were bone tools. Among them was
one apparently used as an awl, perhaps to sew skins.
found in the old land surface at the site were said to demonstrate
that the hominids slept or sat on hides. Stone implements were also
found, including an object described as a projectile point, made
from volcanic rock obtained from the Esterel region, 30 miles away.
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.
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.
BUENOS AIRES SKULL
A very strong case for anatomically modern humans existing in very
early times comes from Argentina. In 1896, workers excavating a dry
dock in Buenos Aires found a human skull. They took it from the
rudder pit at the bottom of the excavation, after breaking through a
layer of a hard, limestone-like substance called tosca. The level at
which the skull was found was 11 meters (36 feet) below the bed of
the river La Plata.
The workers who found the skull gave it to Mr. Junor, their
supervisor, a senior member of the public works division of the Port
of Buenos Aires. Information about the skull was furnished to the
Argentine paleontologist Florentino Ameghino by Mr. Edward Marsh
Simpson, an engineer for the company contracted to excavate the port
of Buenos Aires. In the opinion of Ameghino, the skull removed from
the rudder pit belonged to a Pliocene precursor of Homo sapiens. He
called this precursor Diprothonio platensis. B
ut according to Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution, the skull was just like
that of modern humans.
The skull was found in what Ales 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 of
South America—would be unexpected.
Mr. J. E. Clark, the foreman of
the workers who found the skull, said he was "quite sure the skull
was found at the Rudder Pit and under tosca."
Bailey Willis, the geologist who accompanied Hrdlicka on his
expedition to Argentina, interviewed Mr. Junor and reported:
fragment of skull was taken out of the well [i.e., the rudder pit].
And although this statement rests on the say-so of the foreman who
was told so by a workman, it appears to be the one item in the early
history of the find that is not open to serious doubt."
on to offer some vague, unfounded speculations about how the skull
could have arrived in that position.
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?
Before 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 New World in particular.
In 1970, 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 Brazil. When Bryan showed
photographs of the skullcap to several American physical
anthropologists, they were unable to believe it could have come from
the Americas, and proposed that it was either a fake, a cast, or
possibly an Old World skullcap that had somehow been introduced into
the Brazilian collection examined by Bryan.
But Bryan countered that both he and his wife, who also saw the
skullcap, had abundant experience with human fossil bones. And they
were both quite sure that the skullcap could not have been a fake or
a cast—it was a genuine, highly fossilized human skullcap. That the
Lagoa Santa calotte was not an Old World fossil, accidentally
introduced into the Brazilian collection, was supported, said Bryan,
by the fact that it differed in several important measurements from
known Old World skulls.
What is the significance of the Lagoa Santa calotte? The presence of
hominids with Homo erectus features in Brazil at any time in the
past is highly anomalous. Paleoanthropologists holding standard
views say that only anatomically modern humans ever came to the
Americas. The methodology of science allows for views to change, but
the kind of change inherent in accepting the presence of Homo
erectus in the New World would be revolutionary.
The Lagoa Santa skullcap mysteriously disappeared from the Brazilian
museum after it was examined by Bryan. An important skeleton
discovered by Hans Reck at Olduvai Gorge also disappeared from a
museum. In the case of Bryan's and Reck's discoveries, we at least
had a chance to hear about them before they disappeared.
suspect that other fossils have escaped our attention because they
were misplaced in museums or were perhaps intentionally
In 1855, a human jaw was discovered at Foxhall, England, by workers
digging in a quarry. John Taylor, the town druggist, purchased the
Foxhall jaw from a workman who wanted a glass of beer, and Taylor
called it to the attention of Robert H. Collyer, an American
physician then residing in London. Collyer, having acquired the
fossil, visited the quarry on Mr. Law's farm. He noted that the bed
from which the jaw was said to have been taken was 16 feet below the
The condition of the jaw, thoroughly infiltrated with iron
oxide, was consistent with incorporation in this bed. Collyer said
that the Foxhall jaw was "the oldest relic of the human animal in
existence." The 16-foot level at Foxhall is the same from which Moir
later recovered stone tools and signs of fire.
Anything found at
this level would be at least 2.5 million years old.
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
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 abovementioned 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."
But many 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 Heidelberg Homo erectus jaw was found by German workmen,
whose foreman later turned it over to scientists. If scientists can
seriously consider these discoveries, then why can they not
seriously consider the Foxhall jaw as well?
One might object that
the Java Homo erectus fossils and the Heidelberg Homo erectus jaw
are still available for inspection, while the Foxhall jaw has
But the original Peking Homo erectus fossils disappeared
from China during World War II; yet they are still accepted as
evidence for human evolution.
Millions of years ago, during the Pliocene period, a warm sea washed
the southern slopes of the Alps, depositing layers of coral and
molluscs. Late in the summer of 1860, Professor Giuseppe Ragazzoni,
a geologist at the Technical Institute of Brescia, traveled to
Castenedolo, about 6 miles southeast of Brescia, to gather fossil
shells in the Pliocene strata exposed in a pit at the base of a low
hill, the Colle de Vento.
"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:
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
"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,
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
In 1875, Carlo Germani, 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.
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,
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
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 partway 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."
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.
In 1883, Professor Giuseppe Sergi, an anatomist from the University
of Rome, visited Ragazzoni and personally examined the human remains
at the Technical Institute of Brescia. After studying the bones, he
determined they represented four individuals—an adult male, an adult
female, and two children.
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."
"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.
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
"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
This find introduced an element of confusion about the discoveries
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:
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
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:
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, showed marine
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
In 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 groundwater. 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 moldering 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."
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
We now turn our attention to another Pliocene find, made at Savona,
a town on the Italian Riviera, about 30 miles west of Genoa. In the
1850s, while constructing a church, workmen discovered an
anatomically modern human skeleton at the bottom of a trench 3
meters (10 feet) deep. The layer containing the skeleton was 3-4
million years old.
Arthur Issel communicated details of the Savona find to the members
of the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and
Archeology at Paris in 1867. He declared that the Savona human "was
contemporary with the strata in which he was found."
De Mortillet, however, wrote in 1883 that the Pliocene layers at
Savona, deposited in shallow coastal waters, contained isolated
bones of land mammals while the human skeleton was largely intact.
"Does this not prove," he said, "that instead of the remains of a
human cadaver tossing in the waves of a Pliocene sea, we are simply
in the presence of a later burial of undetermined date?"
At the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and
Archeology at Bologna in 1871, Father Deo Gratias, a priest who had
been present at the time of the discovery of the human skeleton at
Savona, gave a report indicating that it was not an intrusive
Deo Gratias, a student of paleontology, noted:
"The body was
discovered in an outstretched position, with the arms extending
forward, the head slightly bent forward and down, the body very much
elevated relative to the legs, like a man in the water. Can we
suppose a body was buried in such a position? Is it not, on the
contrary, the position of a body abandoned to the mercy of the
water? The fact that the skeleton was found on the side of a rock in
the bed of clay makes it probable that it was washed against this obstacle."
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.
The combination of fossils found at Savona can thus be explained as
follows. The site was once covered by the shallow shoreline waters
of a Pliocene sea, as shown by the presence of characteristic
shells. Animals could have died on the land, and their isolated
bones could have been washed into the sea and incorporated into the
formation. The human bones, found in natural connection, could have
come to rest in the same marine formation as a result of someone
drowning there during the Pliocene, perhaps after the sinking of a
This accounts for the presence of a relatively complete human
skeleton amid scattered animal bones, without recourse to the
hypothesis of recent intrusive burial.
Keep in mind that the posture
of the skeleton, facedown and with limbs outstretched, was like that
of a drowned corpse rather than one deliberately buried.
MONTE HERMOSO VERTEBRA
In Chapter 5, we discussed the discovery of flint tools and signs of
intentional use of fire at Monte Hermoso in Argentina. Now we will
consider the human bone found there—an atlas, the topmost bone of
the spinal column. Santiago Pozzi, an employee of the Museum of La
Plata, collected it from the Early Pliocene Montehermosan formation
during the 1880s. It did not attract much notice until years later.
At that time, it was still covered by the characteristic
yellowish-brown loess of the Montehermosan formation, which is 3-5
million years old.
That the bone lay for years in a museum before it was recognized
should not disqualify it. The Gibraltar skull lay for many years in
the garrison museum before it was recognized as a Neanderthal
specimen. Also, several Homo erectus femurs from Java were shipped
to Holland in boxes of bones. They went unrecognized and
uncatalogued for several decades but are now listed in textbooks
with other accepted finds. The number of similar cases could be
expanded, the point being that scientists have become aware of many
fully accepted fossil finds in the same way as the Monte Hermoso
After the Pliocene loess was removed, scientists carefully studied
the bone. Florentino 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
There is, however, another possible explanation: human beings of the
modern physiological type were living over 3 million years ago in
Argentina. This is supported by the fact that the atlas showed signs
of having been thoroughly embedded in sediments from the
All 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 Americas would have been placed on very shaky ground.
Today there are many who will insist that the Monte Hermoso atlas
remain in the obscurity into which it was of necessity dropped.
Evidence for a fully human presence 3 million or more years ago, in
Argentina of all places, is still not welcome in mainstream paleoanthropology.
In 1921, M. A. Vignati reported that a human lower jaw, with two
molars, was discovered in the Late Pliocene Chapadmalalan formation
at Miramar, Argentina. Previously, stone tools and a mammalian bone
with an arrowhead embedded in it had been discovered at this site
(Chapter 5). The jaw was discovered by Lorenzo Parodi, a museum
collector. E. Boman reported that Parodi found the jaw and its
attached molars "embedded in the barranca, at great depth in the
Chapadmalalan strata, at about the level of the sea." The jaw would
thus be about 2-3 million years old.
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."
Boman took it for granted that the fully human nature of the Miramar
jaw fragment unequivocally insured its recent date.
But nothing Boman said excludes the possibility that the Miramar fossil
demonstrates a fully human presence in the Pliocene of Argentina.
In Chapter 5, we discussed the numerous stone implements discovered
in the auriferous gravels of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of
California. Human bones were also found in these gravels, which
range from 9 million to 55 million years old.
In February 1866, Mr. Mattison, the principal owner of the mine on
Bald Hill, near Angels Creek in Calaveras County, removed a skull
from a layer of gravel 130 feet below the surface.
The gravel was
near the bedrock, underneath several distinct layers of volcanic
material. Volcanic eruptions began in this region during the
Oligocene, continued through the Miocene, and ended in the Pliocene.
Since the skull occurred near the bottom of the sequence of
interspersed gravel and lava layers at Bald Hill, it would seem
likely that the gravel in which the skull was found was older than
the Pliocene, perhaps much older.
After 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 village of
Murphy's and was an enthusiastic collector of such items.
Jones wrote to the office of the Geological Survey in San Francisco,
and after receiving a reply, he forwarded the skull to this office,
where it was examined by J. D. Whitney, the state geologist. Whitney
at once made the journey to Murphy's and Angels, where he personally
questioned Mr. Mattison, who confirmed the report that was given by
Dr. Jones. Both Scribner and Jones were personally known to Whitney
and were regarded by him as trustworthy.
On July 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.
Some of 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 Calaveras County, he gathered
testimony from some people who were acquainted with Mr. Scribner and
Dr. Jones, and this testimony raised the possibility that the skull
examined by Whitney was not a genuine Tertiary fossil. But there is
a problem with the hoax hypothesis—there are many versions.
religious miners planted the skull to deceive the scientist Whitney.
Some say the miners planted a skull to deceive another miner. Some
say a genuine skull was found by Mattison and later a different
skull was given to Whitney. Some say Mattison's friends from a
nearby town planted the skull as a practical joke. This
contradictory testimony casts doubt on the hoax idea.
After visiting Calaveras county, Holmes examined the actual
Calaveras skull at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
and concluded that "the skull was never carried and broken in a
Tertiary torrent, that it never came from the old gravels in the
Mattison mine, and that it does not in any way represent a Tertiary
race of men."
Some testimony supporting this conclusion comes from
persons who examined the matrix of pebbles and earth in which the
Calaveras skull had been discovered. Dr. F. W. Putnam of Harvard
University's Peabody Museum of Natural History said the skull did
not bear any trace of gravel from the mines. William J. Sinclair of
the University of California also personally examined the skull and
said the material attached to it was not gravel from the gold mine.
He thought it was the kind of material one might find in a cave,
where Indians sometimes placed bodies.
On the other hand, Holmes reported:
"Dr. D. H. Dall states that
while in San Francisco in 1866, he compared the material attached to
the skull with portions of the gravel from the mine and that they
were alike in all essentials."
And W. O. Ayres, writing in the
American Naturalist in 1882, stated:
"I saw it and examined it
carefully at the time when it first reached Professor Whitney's
hands. It was not only incrusted with sand and gravel, but its
cavities were crowded with the same material; and that material was
of a peculiar sort, a sort which I had occasion to know thoroughly."
It was, said Ayres, the gold-bearing gravel found in the mines, not
a recent cave deposit.
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
Whitney, 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
"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."
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. O. 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 Peabody Museum, as we have seen,
later changed his mind, saying that the matrix of the skull appeared
to be a cave deposit.
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."
MORE HUMAN FOSSILS FROM THE CALIFORNIA GOLD COUNTRY
On 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 Table Mountain in Tuolumne County. The
find was made in 1855 or 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.
"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
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
The gravel just above the bedrock at Tuolumne Table Mountain, where
the skeleton was found, is said to be between 33 and 55 million
years old. This must be the age of the skeleton unless it was
introduced into the gravels at a later time, and we are not aware of
any evidence indicating such an intrusion.
Dr. 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 eastern United States. A skull fragment,
characterized by Dr. J. Wyman, a leading craniologist, as human, was
dispatched by Winslow to the Museum of the Natural History Society
The fossil was labeled as follows:
"From a shaft in Table
Mountain, 180 feet below the surface, in gold drift, among rolled
stones and near mastodon debris. Overlying strata of basaltic
compactness and hardness. Found July, 1857. Given to Rev. C. F.
Winslow by Hon. Paul K. Hubbs, August, 1857."
Another fragment, from
the same skull, and similarly labeled, was sent to the Museum of the
Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
Upon learning of this discovery, J. D. Whitney began his own
investigation. He learned that Hubbs was a well-known citizen of
Vallejo, California, and a former State Superintendent of Education.
Whitney got from Hubbs a detailed written account of the discovery,
which occurred in the Valentine Shaft, south of Shaw's Flat.
"The essential facts are, that the Valentine Shaft was
vertical, that it was boarded up to the top, so that nothing could
have fallen in from the surface during the working under ground,
which was carried on in the gravel channel exclusively, after the
shaft had been sunk. There can be no doubt that the specimen came
from the drift in the channel under Table Mountain, as affirmed by
The skull fragment was found in a horizontal mine shaft
(or drift) leading from the main vertical shaft, at a depth of 180
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 Table Mountain, which is 9 million years old. The oldest
gravels below the lava are 55 million years old. The skull fragment
could thus be from 9 million to 55 million years old.
When 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 Tuolumne Table Mountain. The jaw measured 5.5 inches
across from condyle to condyle, which is within the normal human
range. Whitney remarked that all the human fossils uncovered in the
gold-mining region, including this one, were of the anatomically
modern type. The gravels from which the jaw came could be anywhere
from 9 to 55 million years old.
Whitney also reported several discoveries from Placer County. In
particular, he gave this account of human bones that were found in
the Missouri tunnel:
"In this tunnel, under the lava, two bones had
been found. . . . which were pronounced by Dr. Pagan to be human.
One was said to be a leg bone; of the character of the other nothing
was remembered. The above information was obtained by Mr. Goodyear
from Mr. Samuel Bowman, of whose intelligence and truthfulness the
writer has received good accounts from a personal friend well
acquainted with him. Dr. Pagan was at that time one of the best
known physicians of the region."
According to information provided
by the California Division of Mines and Geology, the deposits from
which the bones were taken are over 8.7 million years old.
In 1853, a physician named Dr. H. H. Boyce discovered human bones at
Clay Hill in El Dorado County, California.
In 1870, Dr. Boyce wrote
to Whitney, who had requested information:
"I purchased an interest
in a claim on this hill, on condition that it prospected
sufficiently well to warrant working it. The owner and myself
accordingly proceeded to sink a shaft for the purpose of working it.
It was while doing so that we discovered the bones to which you
refer. Clay Hill is one of a series of elevations which constitute
the water-shed between Placerville Creek and Big Canon, and is
capped with a stratum of basaltic lava, some eight feet thick.
Beneath this there are some thirty feet of sand, gravel, and clay. .
. . It was in this clay that we came across the bones.
emptying the tub, I saw some pieces of material which on examination
I discovered were pieces of bones; and, on further search, I found
the scapula, clavicle, and parts of the first, second, and third
ribs of the right side of a human skeleton. They were quite firmly
cemented together; but on exposure to the air began to crumble. We
made no further discoveries." According to Whitney, Boyce "stated
there could be no mistake about the character of the bones, and that
he had made a special study of human anatomy."
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.
This brings us to the end of our review of fossil human skeletal
remains from the gold-bearing gravels of California. Despite the
imperfections of the evidence, one thing is certain—human bones were
found in the Tertiary gravels, dating as far back as the Eocene. How
the bones got there is open to question. The reports of the
discoveries are sometimes vague and inconclusive, yet they are
suggestive of something other than pranks by miners or recent
intrusive burials by Indians. The presence of numerous stone tools,
incontestably of human manufacture, in the same formations, lends
additional credibility to the finds.
In an address to the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, delivered in August, 1879, O. C. Marsh, president of the
Association and one of America's foremost paleontologists, said
about Tertiary man:
"The proof offered on this point by Professor J.
D. Whitney in his recent work (Aurif. Gravels of Sierra Nevada) is
so strong, and his careful, conscientious method of investigation so
well known, that his conclusions seem irresistible. . . . At
present, the known facts indicate that the American beds containing
human remains and works of man, are as old as the Pliocene of
Europe. The existence of man in the Tertiary period seems now fairly
EXTREMELY OLD FINDS IN EUROPE
More evidence for human beings in the early and middle Tertiary
comes from Europe. According to Gabriel de Mortillet, M. Quiquerez
reported the discovery of a skeleton at Delemont in Switzerland in
ferruginous clays said to be Late Eocene. About this find, de
Mortillet simply said one should be suspicious of human skeletons
found with the bones in natural connection. De Mortillet further
stated that one should be cautious about a similarly complete
skeleton found by Garrigou in Miocene strata at Midi de France.
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
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
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
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.
In December of 1862, the following brief but intriguing report
appeared in a journal called The Geologist:
"In Macoupin county,
Illinois, the bones of a man were recently found on a coal-bed
capped with two feet of slate rock, ninety feet below the surface of
the earth. . . . The bones, when found, were covered with a crust or
coating of hard glossy matter, as black as coal itself, but when
scraped away left the bones white and natural."
The coal in which
the Macoupin County skeleton was found is at least 286 million years
old and might be as much as 320 million years old.
Our final examples of anomalous pre-Tertiary evidence are not in the
category of fossil human bones, but rather in the category of fossil
Professor W. G. Burroughs, head of the
department of geology at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, reported
"During the beginning of the Upper Carboniferous (Coal Age)
Period, creatures that walked on their two hind legs and had
humanlike feet, left tracks on a sand beach in Rockcastle County,
Kentucky. This was the period known as the Age of Amphibians when
animals moved about on four legs or more rarely hopped, and their
feet did not have a human appearance.
But in Rockcastle, Jackson and
several other counties in Kentucky, as well as in places from
Pennsylvania to Missouri inclusive, creatures that had feet
strangely human in appearance and that walked on two hind legs did
exist. The writer has proved the existence of these creatures in
Kentucky. With the cooperation of Dr. C. W. Gilmore, Curator of
Vertebrate Paleontology, Smithsonian Institution, it has been shown
that similar creatures lived in Pennsylvania and Missouri."
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.
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.
"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
"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. Burroughs'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
"They look human. That is what makes them especially
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.
"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."
In 1983 the Moscow News gave a brief but intriguing report on what
appeared to be a human footprint in 1[?]0-million-year-old Jurassic
rock next to a giant three-toed dinosaur footprint. The discovery
occurred in the Turkmen Republic in what was then the southeastern
USSR. Professor Amanmyazov, corresponding member of the Turkmen SSR
Academy of Sciences, said that although the print resembled a human
footprint, there was no conclusive proof that it was made by a human
This discovery has not received much attention, but then,
given the current mindset of the scientific community, such neglect
is to be expected.
We only know of a few cases of such extremely
anomalous discoveries, but considering that many such discoveries
probably go unreported we wonder how many there actually might be.