• Eoliths of the Kent Plateau, England

  • Discoveries by J. Reid Moir in East Anglia

  • Two Famous Debunkers of Eoliths

  • Recent Examples of Eolithic Implements from the Americas

  • George Carter and the Texas Street

  • Louis Leakey and the Calico Site

  • Toca da Esperanga, Brazil

  • Monte Verde, Chile

  • Recent Pakistan Finds

  • Siberia and India

  • Who Made the Eolithic Implements?


Nineteenth-century scientists found many stone tools and weapons in Early Pleistocene, Pliocene, Miocene, and older strata. They were reported in standard scientific journals, and they were discussed at scientific congresses. But today hardly anyone has heard of them. Whole categories of facts have disappeared from view.

We have, however, managed to recover a vast hoard of such "buried" evidence, and our review of it shall take us from the hills of Kent in England to the valley of the Irrawady in Burma. Researchers of the late twentieth century have also discovered anomalously old stone-tool industries.

The anomalous stone-tool industries we shall consider fall into three basic divisions: (1) eoliths, (2) crude paleoliths, and (3) advanced paleoliths and neoliths.

According to some authorities, eoliths (or dawn stones) are stones with edges naturally suited for certain kinds of uses. These, it was said, were selected by humans and used as tools with little or no further modification. To the untrained eye, Eolithic stone implements are often indistinguishable from ordinary broken rocks, but specialists developed criteria for identifying upon them signs of human modification and usage. At the very least, unmistakable marks of usage should be present in order for a specimen to qualify as an eolith.

In the case of more sophisticated stone tools, called crude paleoliths, the signs of human manufacture are more obvious, involving an attempt to form the whole of the stone into a recognizable tool shape. Questions about such implements center mainly upon the determination of their correct age.

Our third division, advanced paleoliths and neoliths, refers to anomalously old stone tools that resemble the very finely chipped or smoothly polished stone industries of the standard Late Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.

For most researchers, eoliths would be the oldest implements, followed in turn by the paleoliths and neoliths. But we will use these terms mainly to indicate degrees of workmanship.


It is impossible to assign ages to stone tools simply on the basis of their form.



The small town of Ightham, in Kent, is situated about twenty-seven miles southeast of London. During the Victorian era, Benjamin Harrison kept a grocery shop in Ightham. On holidays he roamed the nearby hills and valleys, collecting flint implements which, though now long forgotten, were for decades the center of protracted controversy in the scientific community.

Harrison did much of his work in close consultation with Sir John Prestwich, the famous English geologist, who lived in the vicinity. Harrison also corresponded regularly with other scientists involved in paleoanthropological research and carefully catalogued and mapped his finds, according to standard procedures. Harrison's first finds were polished stone artifacts of the Neolithic type. According to modern opinion, Neolithic cultures date back only about 10,000 years, and are associated with agriculture and pottery. Harrison found neoliths scattered over the present land surfaces around Ightham.

Later, he began to find paleoliths in ancient river gravels. These Paleolithic implements, although cruder than Neolithic implements, are still easily recognized as objects of human manufacture.

How old were the these Paleolithic tools? Prestwich and Harrison considered some of the stone implements found near Ightham to be Pliocene in age. Twentieth-century geologists, such as Francis H. Edmunds of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, have also said that the gravels in which many of the implements were found are Pliocene. Hugo Obermaier, a leading paleoanthropologist of the early twentieth century, stated that the flint implements collected by Harrison from the Kent Plateau belong to the Middle Pliocene.


A Late or Middle Pliocene date for the implements of the Kent Plateau would give them an age of 2-4 million years. Modern paleoanthropologists attribute the Paleolithic implements of the Somme region of France to Homo erectus, and date them at just .5-.7 million years ago. The oldest currently recognized implements in England are about .4 million years old.

Among the Paleolithic implements collected by Benjamin Harrison from the Kent Plateau were some that appeared to belong to an even more primitive level of culture. These were the eoliths, or dawn stones. The Paleolithic implements discovered by Harrison, although somewhat crude in appearance, had been extensively worked in order to bring them into definite tool and weapon shapes.

The Eolithic implements, however, were natural flint flakes displaying only retouching along the edges. Such tools are still employed today by primitive tribal people in various parts of the world, who pick up a stone flake, chip one of the edges, and then use it for a scraper or cutter.

Critics claimed Harrison's eoliths were just figments of his imagination—merely broken pieces of flint. But Leland W. Patterson, a modern authority on stone tools, believes it is possible to distinguish even very crude intentional work from natural action.

"It would be difficult," said Patterson, "to visualize how random applications of force could create uniform, unidirectional retouch along a significant length of a flake edge."

Unifacial tools, with regular chipping confined to one side of a surface, formed a large part of the eoliths gathered by Harrison. According to Patterson's criterion, these would have to be accepted as objects of human manufacture. On September 18, 1889, A. M. Bell, a Fellow of the Geological Society, wrote to Harrison:

"There seems to be something more in the uniform though rude chipping than mere accidental attrition would have produced. . . . having made my conclusion, I hold it with all firmness."

On November 2, 1891, Alfred Russell Wallace, one of the most famous scientists of his time, paid an unannounced visit to Benjamin Harrison at his grocery shop in Ightham. Harrison showed Wallace his collection of stone tools and took him to some of the sites. Wallace accepted the tools as genuine and asked Harrison to write a thorough report on them.

Sir John Prestwich, one of England's foremost authorities on stone tools, also accepted Harrison's find as genuine. Answering the charge that the eoliths were perhaps nature facts rather than artifacts, Prestwich stated in 1895:

"Challenged to show any such natural specimens, those who have made the assertion have been unable, although nearly three years have elapsed since the challenge was given, to bring forward a single such specimen. . . . So far from running water having this constructive power, the tendency of it is to wear off all angles, and reduce the flint to a more or less rounded pebble."

In another article, published in 1892, Prestwich made this important observation:

"Even modern savage work, such as exhibited for example by the stone implements of the Australian natives, show, when divested of their mounting, an amount of work no greater or more distinct, than do these early palaeolithic specimens."

Therefore, we need not attribute the Plateau eoliths to a primitive race of ape-men. Since the eoliths are practically identical to stone tools made by Homo sapiens sapiens, it is possible that the eoliths (and the paleoliths) may have been made by humans of the fully modern type in England during the Middle or Late Pliocene. As we shall see in Chapter 7, scientists of the nineteenth century made several discoveries of skeletal remains of anatomically modern human beings in strata of Pliocene age.

Interestingly, modern experts accept tools exactly resembling Harrison's eoliths as genuine human artifacts. For example, the cobble and flake tools of the lower levels of Olduvai Gorge are extremely crude. But scientists have not challenged their status as intentionally manufactured objects.

Some critics thought that even if Harrison's tools were made by humans, they might not be of Pliocene age. They might have been dropped in the Pliocene gravels during fairly recent times.

In order to resolve the controversy over the age of the eoliths, the British Association, a prestigious scientific society, financed excavations in the high-level Plateau gravels and other localities in close proximity to Ightham. The purpose was to show definitively that eoliths were to be found not only on the surface but in situ, deep within the Pliocene pre-glacial gravels.


Harrison had already found some eoliths in situ (such as some from post holes), but this excavation, financed by the respected British Association, would be more conclusive. The British Association selected Harrison himself to supervise the Plateau excavations, under the direction of a committee of scientists. Harrison recorded in his notebooks that he found many examples of eoliths in situ, including "thirty convincers."

In 1895, Harrison was invited to exhibit his eoliths at a meeting of the Royal Society. Some of the scientists remained skeptical. Others, however, were quite impressed. Among them was E. T. Newton, a Fellow of the Royal Society and member of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, who wrote to Harrison on December 24, 1895 about the implements:

"Some of them, to say the least, show human work. . . . they have been done intentionally, and, therefore, by the only intellectual being we know of, Man."

In 1896, Prestwich died, but Harrison, in his prominent patron's absence, continued with the Plateau excavations and answered the doubters. Ray E. Lankester, who was a director of the British Museum (Natural History), became a supporter of Harrison's Kent Plateau eoliths.

One may question the necessity of giving such a detailed treatment of the Harrison eoliths. One reason is to show that evidence of this kind was not always of a marginal, crackpot nature. Rather anomalous evidence was quite often the center of serious, longstanding controversy within the very heart of elite scientific circles, with advocates holding scientific credentials and positions just as prestigious as those of the opponents. By presenting detailed accounts of the interplay of conflicting opinion, we hope to give the reader a chance to answer for himself or herself the crucial question—was the evidence actually rejected on purely objective grounds, or was it dropped from consideration and forgotten simply because it did not lie within the parameters of certain circumscribed theories?

Harrison died in 1921, and his body was buried on the grounds of the parish church, St. Peter's, in Ightham. A memorial tablet, set in the north wall of St. Peter's on July 10, 1926, bears this inscription:

"IN MEMORIAM.—Benjamin Harrison of Ightham, 1837-1921, the village grocer and archaeologist whose discoveries of eolithic flint implements around Ightham opened a fruitful field of scientific investigation into the greater antiquity of man."

But the fruitful field of scientific investigation into the greater antiquity of man opened by the eoliths of the Kent Plateau was buried along with Harrison. Here is what appears to have taken place. In the 1890s, Eugene Dubois discovered and promoted the famous, yet dubious, Java ape-man (Chapter 8). Many scientists accepted Java man, found unaccompanied by stone tools, as a genuine human ancestor.


But because Java man was found in Middle Pleistocene strata, the extensive evidence for tool-making hominids in the far earlier Pliocene and Miocene periods no longer received much serious attention. How could such tool-making hominids have appeared long before their supposed ape-man ancestors?


Such a thing would be impossible; so better to ignore and forget any discoveries that fell outside the bounds of theoretical expectations.



Our journey of exploration now takes us to the southeast coast of England and the discoveries of J. Reid Moir, a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and president of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Starting in 1909, Moir found flint implements in and beneath the Red and Coralline Crags.

The Red Crag formation, in which Moir made some of his most significant discoveries, is composed of the shelly sands of a sea that once washed the shores of East Anglia. At some places beneath the Red Crag is found a similar formation called the Coralline Crag.

After studying modern geological reports, we have arrived at an age of at least 2.0-2.5 million years for the Red Crag. The Coralline Crag would thus be older. Below the Red and Coralline Crags of East Anglia there are detritus beds, sometimes called bone beds. These are composed of a mixture of materials—sands, gravels, shells, and bones derived from a variety of older formations, including the Eocene London Clay.

J. Reid Moir found in the sub-Crag detritus beds stone tools, showing varying degrees of intentional work. Having concluded that the cruder tools were from as far back as the Eocene, Moir said

"it becomes necessary to recognize a much higher antiquity for the human race than has hitherto been supposed."

At the very least, Moir's implements are Late Pliocene in age. But according to present evolutionary theory one should not expect to find signs of tool-making humans in England at 2-3 million years ago.

Moir thought that the makers of his oldest and crudest tools must "represent an early and brutal stage in human evolution." But even today, modern tribal people are known to manufacture very primitive stone tools. It is thus possible that beings very much like Homo sapiens sapiens could have made even the crudest of the implements recovered by Moir from below the Red Crag.

The implements themselves were a matter of extreme controversy. Many scientists thought them to be products of natural forces rather than of human work. Nevertheless, Moir had many influential supporters. These included Henri Breuil, who personally investigated the sites. He found in Moir's collection an apparent sling stone from below the Red Crag.


Another supporter was Archibald Geikie, a respected geologist and president of the Royal Society. Yet another was Sir Ray Lankester, a director of the British Museum. Lankester identified from among Moir's specimens a representative type of implement he named rostro-carinate. This word calls attention to two prominent characteristics of the tools. "Rostro" refers to the beaklike shape of the working portion of the implements, and "carinate" refers to the sharp keel-like prominence running along part of their dorsal surface.

Lankester presented a detailed analysis of what he called "the Norwich test specimen." A particularly good example of the rostro-carinate type of implement, it was discovered beneath the Red Crag at Whitlingham, near Norwich. If the Norwich test specimen is from below the Red Crag, it would be over 2.5 million years old. The Norwich test specimen combined a good demonstration of intentional work with clear stratigraphic position.


Lankester wrote in a Royal Anthropological Institute report in 1914:

"It is not possible for anyone acquainted with flint-workmanship and also with the non-human fracture of flint to maintain that it is even in a remote degree possible that the sculpturing of this Norwich test flint was produced by other than human agency."

Lankester thought tools of this type might be of Miocene age.

An important set of discoveries by Moir occurred at Foxhall, where he found stone tools in the middle of the Late Pliocene Red Crag formation. The Foxhall implements would thus be over 2.0 million years old. Moir wrote in 1927:

"The finds consisted of the debris of a flint workshop, and included hammer-stones, cores from which flakes had been struck, finished implements, numerous flakes, and several calcined stones showing that fires had been lighted at this spot. . . . if the famous Foxhall human jaw-bone, which was apparently not very primitive in form, was, indeed, derived from the old land surface now buried deep beneath the Crag and a great thickness of Glacial Gravel, we can form the definite opinion that these ancient people were not very unlike ourselves in bodily characteristics."

The jaw spoken of by Moir has an interesting history (see Chapter 7). Some scientists who examined it considered it like that of a modern human being. It is unfortunate that the Foxhall jaw is not available for further study, for it might offer additional confirmation that the flint implements from Foxhall were of human manufacture. But even without the jaw, the tools themselves point strongly to a human presence in England during the Late Pliocene, perhaps 2.0-2.5 million years ago.

In 1921, the American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn came out strongly in favor of the implements and argued for a Pliocene date. He said that proofs of humans in the Pliocene

"now rest on the firm foundation of the Foxhall flints in which human handiwork cannot be challenged."

According to Osborn, the Foxhall specimens included borers, arrowhead-like pointed implements, scrapers, and side scrapers.

Osborn backed not only the Foxhall flints but the rest of Moir's work as well:

"The discoveries of J. Reid Moir of evidences of the existence of Pliocene man in East Anglia open a new epoch in archaeology . . . they bring indubitable evidence of the existence of man in southeast Britain, man of sufficient intelligence to fashion flints and to build a fire, before the close of the Pliocene time and before the advent of the First Glaciation."

Another scientist won over by the Foxhall finds was Hugo Obermaier, previously a consistent and vocal opponent of Eolithic discoveries. Obermaier was one of those scientists who believed that eoliths were produced by natural forces similar to the forces operating in cement and chalk mills. But Obermaier wrote in 1924:

"This discovery of Foxhall is the first evidence we have of the existence of Tertiary man."

The Tertiary epoch extends from the Eocene through the Pliocene.

Moir also made discoveries in the more recent Cromer Forest Bed of Norfolk. These tools would be about .4 million years to about .8 million years old. Some estimates for the age of the lower part of the Cromer Forest Bed formation go up to 1.75 million years.

But many scientists continued to refuse to accept Moir's specimens as genuine tools. They argued that the objects had been produced by purely natural forces. For example, S. Hazzledine Warren said they were produced by geological pressure that crushed pieces of flint against hard beds of chalk. As proof, he referred to some specimens of chipped stone from the Bullhead Bed, an Eocene site in England.


About one such object, Warren said in a 1920 report to the Geological Society of London:

"This, a good example of a trimmed-flake point, is the most remarkable specimen of the group. If considered by itself, upon its own apparent merits, and away from its associates and the circumstances of its discovery, its Mousterian affinities could scarcely be questioned."

The Mousterian is an accepted stone-tool industry of the later Pleistocene. Warren thought it impossible that one could find tools in Eocene strata. But those free from such prejudices might wonder whether Warren had actually discovered, in the Eocene strata of Essex, a genuine implement.

In the discussion following Warren's report to the Geological Society, one of the scientists present pointed out that in some cases the Moir's tools were found in the middle of Tertiary sedimentary beds and not directly on the hard chalk. This would rule out the particular pressure explanation given by Warren.

At this point, the controversy over Moir's discoveries was submitted to an international commission of scientists for resolution. The commission, formed at the request of the International Institute of Anthropology, was composed of eight prominent European and American anthropologists, geologists, and archeologists. This group supported Moir's conclusions.


They concluded that the flints from the base of the Red Crag near Ipswich were in undisturbed strata, at least Pliocene in age. Furthermore, the flaking on the flints was undoubtedly of human origin. Members of the commission also carried out four excavations into the detritus bed below the Red Crag and themselves found five typical specimens. These tools would be at least 2.5 million years old. And because the detritus bed contains materials from ancient Eocene land surfaces, the tools might be up to 55 million years old.

Commission member Louis Capitan stated:

"There exist at the base of the Crag, in undisturbed strata, worked flints (we have observed them ourselves). These are not made by anything other than a human or hominid which existed in the Tertiary epoch. This fact is found by us prehistorians to be absolutely demonstrated."

Surprisingly, even after the commission report, Moir's opponents, such as Warren, persisted in attempting to show that the flint implements were the product of natural pressure flaking. Warren said that the flints may have been crushed by icebergs against the ocean bottom along the coast. But to our knowledge no one has shown that icebergs can produce the numerous bulbs of percussion and elaborate retouching reported on Moir's implements.

Furthermore, many of the Red Crag specimens are lying in the middle of sediments and not on hard rock surfaces against which an iceberg might have crushed them. In addition, J. M. Coles, an English archeologist, reported that at Foxhall implements occur in layers of sediment that appear to represent land surfaces and not beach deposits. This would also rule out the iceberg action imagined by Warren.

After Warren put forward his iceberg explanation, the controversy faded. Coles wrote in 1968:

"That . . . the scientific world did not see fit to accept either side without considerable uncertainty must account for the quite remarkable inattention that this East Anglian problem has received since the days of active controversy."

This may be in part true, but there is another possible explanation—that elements of the scientific community decided silence was a better way to bury Moir's discoveries than active and vocal dissent. By the 1950s, scientific opinion was lining up solidly behind an Early Pleistocene African center for human evolution. Therefore, there would have been little point, and perhaps some embarrassment and harm, in continually trying to disprove evidence for a theoretically impossible Pliocene habitation of England.


That would have kept both sides of the controversy too much alive. The policy of silence, deliberate or not, did in fact prove highly successful in removing Moir's evidence from view. There was no need to defeat something that was beneath notice, and little to gain from defending or supporting it either.

Coles provides an exception to the usual instinctive rejection of Moir's discoveries (or complete silence about them). He felt it "unjust to dismiss all this material without some consideration" and in a 1968 report hesitantly accepted some of the implements as genuine.

Although most modern authorities do not even mention Moir's discoveries, a rare notice of dismissal may be found in The Ice Age in Britain, by B. W. Sparks and R. G. West:

"Early in this century many flints from the Lower Pleistocene Crags were described as being artifacts, such as the flints, some flaked bifacially, in the Red Crag near Ipswich, and the so-called rostro-carinates from the base of the Norwich Crag near Norwich. All are now thought to be natural products.


They do not satisfy the requirements for identification as a tool, namely, that the object conforms to a set and regular pattern, that it is found in a geologically possible habitation site, preferably with other signs of man's activities (e.g. chipping, killing, or burial site), and that it shows signs of flaking from two or three directions at right angles."

Sparks and West, of Cambridge University, are experts on the Pleistocene in Britain.

Briefly responding to Sparks and West, we may note that Moir and other authorities, such as Osborn and Capitan, were able to classify the Crag specimens into definite tool types (hand axes, borers, scrapers, etc.) comparable to those included in accepted Paleolithic industries, including the Mousterian. The Foxhall site, with the Foxhall jaw, was taken by many authorities to represent a geologically possible habitation site.


Moir considered it to be a workshop area and noted signs of fire having been used there. As far as flaking from several directions at right angles is concerned, this is not the only criterion that might be applied for judging human workmanship upon stone objects. Even so, M. C. Burkitt of Cambridge did find flaking from several different directions at right angles on some of the implements collected by J. Reid Moir.

Burkitt, who served on the international commission that examined Moir's implements in the 1920s, gave favorable treatment to them in his book The Old Stone Age, published in 1956.

Burkitt was particularly impressed with the site at Thorington Hall, 2 miles south of Ipswich, where flint implements had been collected from the Crag deposits.

"At Thorington Hall bivalve shells with the hinges still intact have been collected from just above the artifacts . . . no subsequent differential movement of the gravel, such as might have caused fracturing of the contained flints, can have taken place, since it would certainly have led to the smashing of the delicate hinges of these shells."

Burkitt then delivered a striking conclusion about the implements discovered in and below the Red Crag:

"The eoliths themselves are mostly much older than the late pliocene deposits in which they were found. Some of them might actually date back to pre-pliocene times."

In other words, he was prepared to accept the existence of intelligent tool-making hominids in England over 5 million years ago. Because there is much evidence, including skeletal remains, that humans of the fully modern type existed in pre-Pliocene times, there is no reason to rule out the possibility that Moir's implements from the below-the-Crag formations were made by Homo sapiens over 5 million years ago.

Another supporter of Moir's finds was Louis Leakey, who wrote in 1960:

"It is more than likely that primitive humans were present in Europe during the Lower Pleistocene, just as they were in Africa, and certainly a proportion of the specimens from the sub-crag deposits appear to be humanly flaked and cannot be regarded merely as the result of natural forces. Implements from below the Crags would, however, be not Early (Lower) Pleistocene but at least Late Pliocene in age."



In paleoanthropology, we sometimes encounter the definitive debunking report—one that is used again and again to invalidate certain evidence. In the case of European eoliths, there are two good examples of definitive debunking reports.


These are H. Breuil's paper claiming that pseudo-eoliths were formed by geological pressure in the French Eocene formations at Clermont (Oise), and A. S. Barnes's paper claiming to demonstrate, by statistical analysis of platform-striking angles, the natural origin of Eolithic industries.

In 1910, Henri Breuil conducted investigations he thought would put an end to the eolith controversy. In his often-cited report, he said he found flints resembling stone tools in the Thanetian formation at Belle-Assise, near Clermont, France.


This formation is Early Eocene, making the flints about 50-55 million years old. But Breuil could not imagine human beings existed in the Eocene. How, then, had the flint objects been produced? During his excavations, Breuil found a few pieces of flint with detached flakes lying nearby. Some of these detached flakes had bulbs of percussion. Others had some flaking on them that resembled retouching. The cause of these effects, according to Breuil, was simply geological pressure.

Can geological pressure really create the effects observed by Breuil? Leland W. Patterson, a modern authority on stone tools, says that pressure flaking very rarely produces clearly marked bulbs of percussion. It usually takes an intentionally directed blow.

Breuil probably selected for illustration his best examples of flakes found in contact with the parent block of flint. But the flaking and retouching on them is far cruder than on the cores and flakes selected by Breuil as examples of pseudo-eoliths. Breuil said all the effects resulted from natural geological pressure flaking. But he would have been justified in making such a statement only if he had found the flakes from better-looking eoliths in contact with their parent blocks of flint. And this he did not do.

The unsatisfactory nature of Breuil's geological-pressure hypothesis becomes even clearer when we consider what Breuil called "two truly exceptional objects, of which the site of discovery, in the interior of the beds, is absolutely certain."

Breuil said the first object was virtually indistinguishable from an Azilio-Tardenoisian grattoir, or end scraper. Scientists generally attribute Azilio-Tardenoisian stone implements to Homo sapiens sapiens in the Late Pleistocene of Europe. In describing the second exceptional object, Breuil compared it to tools found at Les Eyzies, a Late Pleistocene site in France. Geological-pressure flaking does not seem adequate to explain these two tools, which are over 50 million years old.
Breuil's paper is still cited as proof that eoliths are natural rather than artificial productions. This kind of citing is a very effective propaganda technique. After all, how many people will bother to dig up Breuil's original article and see for themselves if what he had to say really made sense?

Breuil's definitive 1910 report came before most of J. Reid Moir's discoveries in East Anglia. Eventually, when Moir's finds began to attract attention, Breuil went to England to conduct firsthand evaluations. Surprisingly, Breuil backed Moir. He accepted the implements from the Pliocene Red Crag at Foxhall as genuine and also said that some of the implements from the beds below the Red Crag were "absolutely indistinguishable from classic flint implements."


The sub-Crag formations could be anywhere from 2 to 55 million years old. Breuil apparently became noncommittal later on. The 1965 edition of his book Men of the Old Stone Age, published after his death, stated only that "a certain number of flakes might be accepted, though their angle of cut is generally against it." One wonders why there is no mention of the objects Breuil previously said were "not simply eoliths but are absolutely indistinguishable from classic flint implements."

Another important element in the eolith controversy was the platform-angle test, promoted by Alfred S. Barnes. Barnes, who defended Moir in the 1920s, later became opposed. In 1939, he delivered what many authorities still regard as the deathblow to Moir's English eoliths. But Barnes did not limit his attention to Moir. In his study, titled "The Differences Between Natural and Human Flaking on Prehistoric Flint Implements," Barnes also considered stone-tool industries from France, Portugal, Belgium, and Argentina.

Supporters of eoliths generally argued that natural forces could not produce the kinds of chipping observed on the objects in question. Barnes looked for some measurable way to demonstrate whether or not this was so. For this purpose, Barnes chose what he called the angle platform-scar.

"The angle platform-scar " he said, "is the angle between the platform or surface on which the blow was struck or the pressure was applied which detached the flake, and the scar left on the tool where the flake has been detached."

In genuine human work, the angle would be acute. Natural fractures would, he said, yield obtuse angles.

We find Barnes's description of the angle to be measured somewhat ambiguous. We have spoken with experts on stone tools at California's San Bernardino County Museum, including Ruth D. Simpson, and they have also been unable to specify exactly what angle Barnes was measuring. In any case, in the angle platform-scar, Barnes believed he had found the objectively measurable feature by which one could distinguish natural chipping from human work.

To be effective, the measurement had to be applied not to a single specimen, but to a large sample of specimens from the industry in question. Barnes stated that a sample "may be considered of human origin if less than 25% of the angles platform-scar are obtuse (90 degrees and over)." Having established this, Barnes delivered a devastating conclusion: none of the eoliths he examined, including those of Moir, were of human origin. Interestingly enough, it appears that Moir himself was aware of the Barnes criterion and believed his specimens were within the required range. But for Barnes, and almost everyone else in the scientific community, the controversy was over.

In fact, in mainstream circles the controversy about the eoliths and other Tertiary stone-tool industries had long since ceased to be a burning issue. With the discoveries of Java man and Beijing man, the scientific community had become increasingly convinced that the key transition from apelike precursors to tool-making humans (or protohumans) had taken place in the Early to Middle Pleistocene.


This made the presumed stone tools of humans in the Pliocene and earlier a sideshow topic of little concern. Barnes, however, performed the valuable, if menial task, of sweeping away some useless remnants of irrelevant evidence. Thereafter, whenever the topic of very old stone-tool industries happened to come up, as it still does from time to time, scientists could conveniently cite Barnes's report. Even today scientists studying stone tools apply the Barnes method.

But on close examination, it appears that Barnes's definitive debunking report may be in need of some debunking itself. Alan Lyle Bryan, a Canadian anthropologist, wrote in 1986:

"The question of how to distinguish nature facts from artifacts is far from being resolved and demands more research. The way the problem was resolved in England, by application of the Barnes statistical method of measuring the angles of platform-scar, is not generally applicable to all problems of differentiating nature facts from artifacts."

During a phone conversation with one of us on May 28, 1987, Bryan also expressed a cautious belief that Barnes may have gone too far in trying to eliminate all of the anomalous European stone-tool industries. Giving attention to more recent discoveries, Bryan said that there are Late Pleistocene Australian tools that do not conform to Barnes's specifications.

Another example of an industry that apparently does not conform to the Barnes criterion is the Oldowan, from the lower levels of the Olduvai Gorge. Considering the extremely crude nature of the objects, which Louis Leakey said were comparable to Moir's implements, it is remarkable that they have never been challenged by the scientific community. This is probably because the Oldowan industry offers support to the African evolution hypothesis of human origins, which is accepted as dogma.

In light of the views presented by Bryan and others, it is clear that wholesale rejection of the Eolithic and other early stone-tool industries by application of the Barnes criterion is unwarranted.



Despite the best efforts of Barnes and Breuil, the eolith question continues to haunt archeologists. Several anomalously old crude stone-tool industries of Eolithic type have been discovered in the Americas.

Most archeologists say Siberian hunters crossed into Alaska on a land bridge that existed when the last glaciation lowered sea levels. During this period, the Canadian ice sheet blocked southward migration until about 12,000 years ago, when the first American immigrants followed an ice-free passage to what is now the United States. These people were the so-called Clovis hunters, famous for their characteristic spear points. These correspond to the highly evolved stone implements of the later Paleolithic in Europe.

Nevertheless, many sites, excavated with modern archeological methods, have yielded dates as great as 30,000 years for humans in America. These sites include El Cedral in northern Mexico, Santa Barbara Island off California, and the rock-shelter of Boquierao do Sitio da Pedra Furada in northern Brazil.


Other controversial sites are far older than 30,000 years.



A good example of a controversial American early stone-tool industry reminiscent of the European eoliths is the one discovered by George Carter in the 1950s at the Texas Street excavation in San Diego.


At this site, Carter claimed to have found hearths and crude stone tools at levels corresponding to the last interglacial period, some 80,000-90,000 years ago. Critics scoffed at these claims, referring to Carter's alleged tools as products of nature, or "cartifacts," and Carter was later publicly defamed in a Harvard course on "Fantastic Archeology." However, Carter gave clear criteria for distinguishing between his tools and naturally broken rocks, and lithic experts such as John Witthoft have endorsed his claims.

In 1973, Carter conducted more extensive excavations at Texas Street and invited numerous archeologists to come and view the site firsthand. Almost none responded. Carter stated:

"San Diego State University adamantly refused to look at work in its own backyard."

In 1960, an editor of Science, the journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, asked Carter to submit an article about early humans in America. Carter did so, but when the editor sent the article out to two scholars for review, they rejected it.

Upon being informed of this by the editor, Carter replied in a letter, dated February 2, 1960:

"I must assume now that you had no idea of the intensity of feeling that reigns in the field. It is nearly hopeless to try to convey some idea of the status of the field of Early Man in America at the moment. But just for fun: I have a correspondent whose name I cannot use, for though he thinks that I am right, he could lose his job for saying so. I have another anonymous correspondent who as a graduate student found evidence that would tend to prove me right. He and his fellow student buried the evidence.


They were certain that to bring it in would cost them their chance for their Ph.D.s. At a meeting, a young professional approached me to say, 'I hope you really pour it on them. I would say it if I dared, but it would cost me my job.' At another meeting, a young man sidled up to say, 'In dig x they found core tools like yours at the bottom but just didn't publish them.'"

The inhibiting effect of negative propaganda on the evaluation of Carter's discoveries is described by archeologist Brian Reeves, who wrote with his coauthors in 1986:

"Were actual artifacts uncovered at Texas Street, and is the site really Last Interglacial in age? . . . Because of the weight of critical 'evidence' presented by established archaeologists, the senior author [Reeves], like most other archaeologists, accepted the position of the skeptics uncritically, dismissing the sites and the objects as natural phenomena."

But when he took the trouble to look at the evidence himself, Reeves changed his mind. He concluded that the objects were clearly tools of human manufacture and that the Texas Street site was as old as Carter had claimed.



Early in his career, Louis Leakey, who later became famous for his discoveries at Olduvai Gorge in Africa, began to have radical ideas about the antiquity of humans in America. At that time, scientists thought the entry date for the Siberian hunters was no greater than 5,000 years ago.

Leakey recalled:

"Back in 1929-1930 when I was teaching students at the University of Cambridge . . . I began to tell my students that man must have been in the New World at least 15,000 years. I shall never forget when Ales Hrdlicka, that great man from the Smithsonian Institution, happened to be at Cambridge, and he was told by my professor (I was only a student supervisor) that Dr. Leakey was telling students that man must have been in America 15,000 or more years ago. He burst into my rooms—he didn't even wait to shake hands."

Hrdlicka said,

"Leakey, what's this I hear? Are you preaching heresy?"

"No, Sir!" said Leakey. Hrdlicka replied, "You are! You are telling students that man was in America 15,000 years ago. What evidence have you?"

Leakey answered, "No positive evidence. Purely circumstantial evidence. But with man from Alaska to Cape Horn, with many different languages and at least two civilizations, it is not possible that he was present only the few thousands of years that you at present allow."

Leakey continued to harbor unorthodox views on this matter, and in 1964 he made an effort to collect some definite evidence at the Calico site in the Mojave Desert of California. This site is situated near the shore of now-vanished Pleistocene Lake Manix. Over a period of eighteen years of excavation under the direction of Ruth D. Simpson, 11,400 eolith-like artifacts were recovered from a number of levels. The oldest artifact-bearing level has been given an age of 200,000 years by the uranium series method.

However, as happened with Texas Street, mainstream archeologists rejected the artifacts discovered at Calico as products of nature, and the Calico site is passed over in silence in popular accounts of archeology. Leakey's biographer Sonia Cole said,

"For many colleagues who felt admiration and affection for Louis and his family, the Calico years were an embarrassment and a sadness."

Yet the artifacts of Calico also have their defenders, who give elaborate arguments showing that they were human artifacts, not geofacts resulting from natural processes. Phillip Tobias, the well-known associate of Raymond Dart, discoverer of Australopithecus, declared in 1979:

"When Dr. Leakey first showed me a small collection of pieces from Calico . . . I was at once convinced that some, though not all, of the small samples showed unequivocal signs of human authorship."

Ruth D. Simpson stated in 1986:

"It would be difficult for nature to produce many specimens resembling man-made unifacial tools, with completely unidirectional edge retouch done in a uniform, directed manner. The Calico site has yielded many completely unifacial stone tools with uniform edge retouch. These include end scrapers, side scrapers, and gravers."

Flake tools with unifacial, unidirectional chipping, like those found at Calico, are typical of the European eoliths. Examples are also found among the Oldowan industries of East Africa. Among the best tools that turned up at Calico was an excellent beaked graver. Bola stones have also been reported.

In general, however, the Calico discoveries have met with silence, ridicule, and opposition in the ranks of mainstream paleoanthropology. Ruth Simpson nevertheless stated:

"The database for very early man in the New World is growing rapidly, and can no longer simply be ignored, because it does not fit current models of prehistory in the New World. . . . there is a need for flexibility in thinking to assure unbiased peer reviews."



Support for the authenticity of the Calico tools has come from a find in Brazil. In 1982, Maria Beltrao found a series of caves with wall paintings in the state of Bahia. In 1985, a trench was cut in the Toca da Esperansa (Cave of Hope), and excavations in 1986 and 1987 yielded crude stone tools associated with Pleistocene mammals. When the bones were tested by the uranium series method, ages in excess of 200,000 years were obtained. The maximum age was 295,000 years.

The discovery was reported to the scientific world by Henry de Lumley, a famous French archeologist.

The tools were fashioned from quartz pebbles and were somewhat like those from Olduvai Gorge. The nearest source of quartz pebbles is about 10 kilometers from the cave site.

De Lumley and his coworkers said in their report:

"The evidence seems to indicate that Early Man entered into the American continent much before previously thought."

They went on to say:

"In light of the discoveries at the Toca da Esperansa, it is much easier to interpret the lithic industry of the Calico site, in the Mojave Desert, near Yermo, San Bernardino County, California, which is dated at between 150,000 and 200,000 years."

According to de Lumley and his associates, humans and human ancestors entered the Americas from northern Asia several times during the Pleistocene. The early migrants, who manufactured the tools in the Brazilian cave, were, they said, Homo erectus. While this view is in harmony with the consensus on human evolution, there is no reason why the tools in the Toca da Esperansa could not have been made by anatomically-modern humans. As we have several times mentioned, such tools are still being manufactured by humans in various parts of the world.



Another archeological site that has bearing on the evaluation of crude stone tools is the Monte Verde site in south-central Chile. According to a report in Mammoth Trumpet (1984), this site was first surveyed by archeologist Tom Dillehay in 1976.


Although the age of 12,500 to 13,500 years for the site is not highly anomalous, the archeological finds uncovered there challenge the standard Clovis hunter theory.


The culture of the Monte Verde people was completely distinct from that of the Clovis hunters. Although the Monte Verde people made some advanced bifacial implements, they mostly made minimally modified pebble tools. Indeed, to a large extent, they obtained stone tools by selecting naturally occurring split pebbles. Some of these show signs of nothing more than usage; others show signs of deliberate retouching of a working edge. This is strongly reminiscent of the descriptions of the European eoliths.

In this case, the vexing question of artifacts versus nature facts was resolved by a fortunate circumstance: the site is located in a boggy area in which perishable plant and animal matter has been preserved. Thus two pebble tools were found hafted to wooden handles. Twelve architectural foundations were found, made of cut wooden planks and small tree trunks staked in place. There were large communal hearths, as well as small charcoal ovens lined with clay. Some of the stored clay bore the footprint of a child 8 to 10 years old.


Three crude wooden mortars were also found, held in place by wooden stakes. Grinding stones (metates) were uncovered, along with the remains of wild potatoes, medicinal plants, and seacoast plants with a high salt content. All in all, the Monte Verde site sheds an interesting light on the kind of creatures who might have made and used crude pebble tools during the Pliocene and Miocene in Europe or at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary in Africa. In this case, the culture was well equipped with domestic amenities made from perishable materials. Far from being subhuman, the cultural level was what we might expect of anatomically modern humans in a simple village setting even today.

By an accident of preservation, we thus see at Monte Verde artifacts representing an advanced culture accompanying the crudest kinds of stone tools.


At sites millions of years older, we see only the stone tools, although perishable artifacts of the kind found at Monte Verde may have once accompanied them.



Eolith-like implements that do not fit into standard ideas of human evolution continue to be found in parts of the world outside the Americas. Some fairly recent finds by British archeologists in Pakistan provide an example. These crude chopping tools are about 2 million years old. But according to the dominant African-homeland idea, the human ancestor of that time period, Homo habilis, should have been confined to Africa.

Some scientists considering the Pakistan tools tried to discredit the discovery. Anthropologist Sally McBrearty complained in a New York Times report that the discoverers "have not supplied enough evidence that the specimens are that old and that they are of human manufacture." Our review of anomalous stone implements should make us suspicious of this sort of charge. Scientists typically demand higher levels of proof for anomalous finds than for evidence that fits within the established ideas about human evolution.

A 1987 report from the British journal New Scientist suggests that McBrearty was being overly skeptical. Concerning doubts expressed about the stratigraphical context and age of the stone tools, the New Scientist stated:

"Such doubts do not apply in the case of the stone pieces from the Scan Valley southeast of Rawalpindi, argues Robin Dennell, the field director of the Paleolithic Project of the British Archaeological Mission and the University of Sheffield. He and his colleague Helen Rendell, a geologist at the University of Sussex, report that the stone pieces, all of quartzite, were so firmly embedded in a deposit of conglomerate and grit stone called the Upper Siwalik series, that they had to chisel them out."

According to the New Scientist, the dating was accomplished using a combination of paleo-magnetic and stratigraphic studies.

What about McBrearty's suggestion that the stone objects were not made by humans? The New Scientist gave a more balanced view:

"Of the pieces that they extracted, eight, Dennell believes are 'definite artifacts.' In Dennell's view, the least equivocal artifact is a piece of quartzite that a hominid individual supposedly struck in three directions with a hammer stone, removing seven flakes from it. This multifaceted flaking together with the fresh appearance of the scars left on the remaining 'core' make a 'very convincing' case for human involvement."

So what is going on with the find in Pakistan? Scientists holding the view that Homo erectus was the first representative of the Homo line to leave Africa, and did so about a million years ago, were apparently quite determined to discredit stone tools found in Pakistan, about 2 million years old, rather than modify their ideas.


We can just imagine how such scientists would react to stone tools found in Miocene contexts.



Many other discoveries of stone implements around 2 million years old have been made at other Asian sites, in Siberia and northwestern India.

In 1961, hundreds of crude pebble tools were found near Gorno-Altaisk, on the Ulalinka river in Siberia. According to a 1984 report by Russian scientists A. P. Okladinov and L. A. Ragozin, the tools were found in layers 1.5-2.5 million years old.

Another Russian scientist, Yuri Mochanov, discovered stone tools resembling the European eoliths at a site overlooking the Lena River at Diring Yurlakh, Siberia.


The formations from which these implements were recovered were dated by potassium-argon and magnetic methods to 1.8 million years before the present. Recent evidence from India also takes us back about 2 million years. Many discoveries of stone tools have been made in the Siwalik Hills region of northwestern India. The Siwaliks derive their name from the demigod Shiva (Sanskrit Siva), the lord of the forces of universal destruction. In 1981, Anek Ram Sankhyan, of the Anthropological Survey of India, found a stone tool near Haritalyangar village, in the late Pliocene Tatrot Formation, which is over 2 million years old. Other tools were recovered from the same formation.

The abovementioned Siberian and Indian discoveries, at 1.5-2.5 million years old, do not agree very well with the standard view that Homo erectus was the first representative of the Homo line to emigrate from Africa, doing so about a million years ago. Here is an example from an even more remote time. In 1982, K. N. Prasad of the Geological Survey of India reported the discovery of a "crude unifacial hand-axe pebble tool" in the Miocene Nagri formation near Haritalyangar, in the Himalayan foothills of northwest India.


Prasad stated in his report:

"The implement was recovered in situ, during remeasuring of the geological succession to assess the thickness of the beds. Care was taken to confirm the exact provenance of the material, in order to rule out any possibility of its derivation from younger horizons."

Prasad thought the tool had been manufactured by a very apelike creature called Ramapithecus.

"The occurrence of this pebble tool in such ancient sediments," said Prasad, "indicates that early hominids such as Ramapithecus fashioned tools, were bipedal with erect posture, and probably utilized the implements for hunting."

But today most scientists regard Ramapithecus not as a human ancestor but as the ancestor of the living orangutans. This newly defined Ramapithecus was definitely not a maker of stone tools.

So who made the Miocene tool reported by Prasad? The makers could very well have been anatomically modern humans living in the Miocene. Even if we were to propose that some primitive creature like Homo habilis made the Miocene tool, that would still raise big questions.


According to current ideas, the first toolmakers arose in Africa about 2 million years ago.



Even after having heard all of the arguments for eoliths being of human manufacture, arguments which will certainly prove convincing to many, some might still legitimately maintain a degree of doubt. Could such a person, it might be asked, be forgiven for not accepting the eoliths? The answer to that question is a qualified yes. The qualification is that one should then reject other stone-tool industries of a similar nature.


This would mean rejecting many accepted industries, including the Oldowan industries of East Africa, discovered by Louis and Mary Leakey. When illustrations of the eoliths found on the Kent Plateau and in East Anglia are set alongside those of tools from Olduvai Gorge we do not notice much of a difference in workmanship.

The most reasonable conclusion is that both the European eoliths and the Oldowan tools of East Africa were intentionally manufactured. But by whom? Scientists accept practically without question that the Oldowan implements were made by Homo habilis, a primitive hominid species. It should not, therefore, be completely unthinkable for scientists to entertain the possibility that a creature like Homo habilis might also have made the eoliths from East Anglia and the Kent Plateau, some of which are roughly comparable in age to the Oldowan tools.

But there is another possibility. Mary Leakey said this in her book about the Oldowan stone tools:

"An interesting present-day example of un-retouched flakes used as cutting tools has recently been recorded in South-West Africa and may be mentioned briefly. An expedition from the State Museum, Windhoek, discovered two stone-using groups of the Ova Tjimba people who not only make choppers for breaking open bones and for other heavy work, but also employ simple flakes, un-retouched and un-hafted, for cutting and skinning."

Nothing, therefore, prevents one from entertaining the possibility that anatomically modern humans might have been responsible for even the crudest stone tools found at Olduvai Gorge and the European eolith sites.

The standard reply will be that there are no fossils showing that humans of the fully modern type were around then, in the Early Pleistocene or Late Pliocene, roughly 1-2 million years ago, whereas there are fossils of Homo habilis. But Homo sapiens fossils are quite rare even at Late Pleistocene sites where there are lots of stone tools and other signs of human habitation.

Furthermore, as described in Chapters 7 and 12, fossil skeletal remains of human beings of the fully modern type have been discovered by scientists in strata at least as old as the lower levels of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Among them may be numbered the fossil human skeleton discovered in 1913 by Dr. Hans Reck, in Bed II of Olduvai Gorge, and some fossil human femurs discovered by Richard Leakey at Lake Turkana, Kenya, in a formation slightly older than Bed I at Olduvai.

It is, therefore, not correct to say that there is no fossil evidence whatsoever for a fully human presence in the lower levels of Olduvai Gorge.


In addition to fossil evidence, we have a report from Mary Leakey about a controversial circular formation of stones at the DK site in lower Bed I. She suggested that,

"they may have been placed as supports for branches or poles stuck into the ground to form a windbreak or rough shelter."


"In general appearance," she wrote, "the circle resembles temporary structures often made by present-day nomadic peoples who build a low stone wall round their dwellings to serve either as a windbreak or as a base to support upright branches which are bent over and covered with either skins or grass."

For illustration, Mary Leakey provided a photograph of such a temporary shelter made by the Okombambi tribe of South-West Africa (now Namibia).

Not everyone agreed with Leakey's interpretation of the stone circle. But accepting Leakey's version, the obvious question may be raised: if she believed the structure resembled those made by present-day nomadic peoples like the Okombambi, then why could she not assume that anatomically modern humans made the Olduvai stone circle 1.75 million years ago?

Interestingly enough, there is evidence that some of the tools from Olduvai Gorge were quite advanced. J. Desmond Clark wrote in his foreword to the 1971 study by Mary Leakey:

"Here are artifacts that conventional usage associates typologically with much later times (the late Paleolithic or even later)—diminutive scraper forms, awls, burins . . . and a grooved and pecked cobble."

We note, however, that tools of the type found in "the late Paleolithic and even later" are considered by modern scientists to be specifically the work of Homo sapiens rather than Homo erectus or Homo habilis. Advanced stone tools also turn up in the European eolith assemblages. We might thus entertain the possibility that anatomically modern humans were responsible for some if not all of the Oldowan and Eolithic tools.

Louis and Mary Leakey also found in Bed I of Olduvai Gorge bola stones and an apparent leather-working tool that might have been used to fashion leather cords for the bolas. Using bola stones to capture game would seem to require a degree of intelligence and dexterity beyond that possessed by Homo habilis. This concern is heightened by the recent discovery of a relatively complete skeleton of Homo habilis, which shows this hominid to have been far more apelike than scientists previously imagined.

So where does this leave us?


In today's world, we find that humans manufacture stone tools of various levels of sophistication, from primitive to advanced. And as described in this chapter and the next two chapters, we also find evidence of the same variety of tools in the Pleistocene, Pliocene, Miocene, and even as far back as the Eocene. The simplest explanation is that anatomically modern humans, who make such a spectrum of tools today, also made them in the past.


One could also imagine that such humans coexisted with other more primitive humanlike creatures who also made stone tools.


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