German Early-Man Site Shocks Archaeologists with Improbable Dates
Researcher says, “It just goes to show that the easiest way to be wrong in paleoanthropology is to underestimate our ancestors’ abilities.”
Back 300,000 years ago in the human evolution timeline, our ancestors were supposed to be too brutish to organize, plan, and hunt with sophisticated tools. That all changed in 1995 when archaeologists began excavating remains near a lignite mine east of Hanover, Germany, called the Schöningen site. “I didn’t believe it at first,” one archaeologist said, when he was told spear points dating back 400,000 years were found there. Although the dates were later revised downward to 300,000 years, that’s still too early for early humans to have exhibited the technology coming to light with ongoing research, Michael Balter reports in Science Magazine. Feel the power of falling paradigms:
When [Hartmut] Thieme first reported the discoveries in Nature in 1997, along with their initial dating—400,000 years old—they electrified the archaeological community. With one swift thrust, the paper pierced the dominant paradigm of the day, which held that hominins at that early time, well before the rise of modern humans, were scavengers rather than hunters, lacking the cognitive skills to make such sophisticated weapons or mount organized hunts for large game. To top it all, Thieme found what appeared to be four hearths, which were then considered the earliest evidence for controlled use of fire. “Schöningen was one of those sites that revolutionized our views about earlier humans,” says John Shea, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University in New York. “It just goes to show that the easiest way to be wrong in paleoanthropology is to underestimate our ancestors’ abilities.”
It’s not easy to make a spear. These spears “continue to astonish,” because they “were skillfully made, with planning and forethought.”
In a 2009 paper titled “How to think a simple spear,” Miriam Haidle, an archaeologist at Tübingen, detailed the elongated chain of steps required to make and use them: First, recognize that the group needed food; then procure the wood to make a wooden tool; then use the wooden tool to knap a stone tool; then carve a previously procured tree branch into a spear. Finally, the group had to wield the spears skillfully to kill an animal.
Subsequent excavations, especially those led by University of Tübingen archaeologists Christopher Miller and Jordi Serangeli since 2008, have tried to answer questions like who the ancestors were, how they lived, and how long they stayed there. Was this a habitation of Homo heidelbergensis, “widely believed to be the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans”? “A lot of people would be uncomfortable attributing these kinds of behaviors to Homo heidelbergensis,” one said, because previously paleoanthropologists assumed only “modern humans had the smarts to make them.” Thus, newer interpretations have put the emergence of cognitive ability further back in time, have downsized estimates of how many lived at Schöningen, and have stretched out the habitation to cover centuries or even millennia.
Now estimated to be 300,000 years old in the evolutionary timeline, the site contains numerous horse bones that suggest this was a long-term habitation for a group: “the bones and spears are thought to represent multiple, smaller events that took place over years, decades, or even centuries, at a site that was a vibrant crossroads for wildlife and humans.” The site also shows evidence that fruits, nuts and material for bedding were abundant. “For daily life you need plants as food, bedding, and so on,” one archaeologist noted; she believes the people had to walk a long distance to get the wood and materials for the spears.
Fresh Wood 300,000 Years Old?
Another astonishing fact about the Schöningen site is the freshness of the wood:
That’s what makes the site so valuable today: Wooden objects that ended up in the muck were preserved by low oxygen levels. Defying decay, broad chunks of oak, alder, and birch trees poke through the wet sediments, the waterlogged wood still fresh after 300,000 years. For archaeology, the harvest has been extraordinary, Conard says: “Ninety percent or more of the wooden artifacts from the Middle Pleistocene”—from about 780,000 to 125,000 years ago—“are at Schöningen.”
Balter did not blink an eye at the dates. He seems to assumed that, given the 300,000 year date, it must be possible for wood to stay fresh that long. 300,000 years seems like an awful long time to keep oxygen away from fresh wood. A lot of geological change can happen at a given location in far less time than that.
All the evolutionists’ puzzles would evaporate if they would jettison the long ages. Schöningen is just a post-Flood campsite used by intelligent hunter-gatherers migrating westward after Babel, that’s all. If it weren’t that evolutionists need long ages to fit their Darwin tale, the data in a young-age context would make perfect sense. Fresh wood; advanced spears; organized hunting; no problem. But they can’t consider that interpretation, and they won’t, because the word of Darwin is written on their hearts with an iron stylus. All data must be forced into their master’s tale, no matter how uncooperative, how astonishing, or how uncomfortable it makes them. The rest of us can see clearly without the Darwin glasses on. We are not wrong a priori, therefore, because we do not underestimate our ancestors’ abilities.