December 7, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

Early Man: Toumai Deposed

A new research study has debunked one of the most important human evolution fossils ever discovered, commonly known as Toumai man. Soon after his remains were discovered, the world’s leading science journal, Nature, featured a photograph of him on the cover, above which were printed in bold letters the words announcing the finding as “The Earliest Known Hominid.”[1] The Nature article about the hominid listed 38 authors who predicted it was going to shake up the human family tree. These 38 authors included some of the most distinguished paleoanthropologists alive today, many teaching at the world’s leading universities. The seven-page-long article included numerous color photographs of the find, plus several pages that meticulously described him in fine detail.[2]

Figure 1. Toumai skull. It consists of hundreds of fragments glued together like a jigsaw puzzle. (Wiki Commons)

What soon followed was a storm of articles in the popular and scientific press about the path-breaking discovery. The many articles included a cover story in Time Magazine[3] that featured a picture of two bipedal African hominids walking around near a water hole. Newsweek followed with a three-page spread containing the bold heading, “All in the Family,” which described the discovered remains as the oldest fossil yet discovered of a human ancestor.[4] The anti-creation website talk.origins claimed that “all scientists have been in agreement with its finders that Toumai is a find of major significance.”[5]

Soon National Geographic Magazine touted the new find[6] as did New Scientist in their headline, “Oldest hominid skull shakes human family tree.”[7] The reason it has shaken the family tree is because “the new species is close to the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees” and it, and other recent discoveries, strongly challenged “our conceptions of the earliest steps of hominid history… The divergence between chimp and human must be even older than we thought.”[8] The paleoanthropologist who found the Toumai fossil, Michel Brunet of the French University of Poitiers, commented it was very emotional “to have in my hand the beginning of the human lineage. I have been looking for this for so long.”[9]

Not to be outdone, in August 2002 the National Geographic Magazine included a cover story on their new hominid find that they described as the first pioneer evolving on the way into modern humanity. This new find was not another article about Toumai as one would expect, but another new find that was predicted to again shake-up the family tree, a hominid called Dmanisi Man.[10]

Articles about the “Oldest member of human family found” proliferated for the next 18 years.[11] Toumai was even described as “the Oldest Human Ancestor” in a 2016 video about him.[12] The fanfare was typified by the following:

After a decade of digging through the sand dunes of northern Chad, Michel Brunet found a skull 6-7 million years old. He named it Toumaï. Toumaï is thought to be the oldest fossil from a member of the human family. It’s a dispatch from the time when humans and chimpanzee were going their separate evolutionary ways. A thrilling, but confusing dispatch.[13]

Was the Hominin Status of the Find Overturned by a Leg Bone?

Figure 2. The leg bones of Toumai carefully analyzed as part of the new research.

For some unknown reason, after over a decade, “a crucial fossil of an early human relative has finally been scientifically described.”[14] The conclusion of the analysis was the leg bone of Toumai, the “earliest species generally regarded as an early human, or hominin, didn’t walk on two legs…. Instead the shape of the femur ….  is typical of apes like chimps and therefore may not have been a hominin at all, but rather was more closely related to other apes like chimps.”[15]

It is shocking that the femur bones were not carefully evaluated before advertising the Toumai discovery in both peer-reviewed and popular magazines as proof of human evolution. The find had been considered so important that it forced the rewriting of the textbooks. This incident is among those that reduce public trust, for very good reasons, toward evolutionists and their “theory.” In an article last month (18 Nov 2020) in New Scientist, Michael Marshall says, “A paper from a rival group, not yet peer-reviewed, disputes this. The studies are the latest twist in a bitter saga that has seen the fossil held back from publication and its existence ignored.”[16] Another problem is

Brunet and his colleagues have always maintained that Sahelanthropus habitually walked on two legs – like modern humans but unlike chimpanzees and other apes. This was based on an analysis of the base of the skull, suggesting that the spine was held upright. Many other researchers have argued that this isn’t sufficient evidence for bipedality.[17]

Besides a skull, fragments of the lower jaw and some teeth were found[18] but the discovers evidently withheld the fact that they also found

a femur, or thigh bone, along with two ulnas, or forearm bones, that would help clarify the matter, but they published nothing about them for almost two decades, prompting criticism from colleagues. Brunet didn’t respond to a request for comment from New Scientist.[19]

One has to be very skeptical about the professionalism, honesty and ethics of some paleoanthropologists, specifically the 38 authors of the paper. They included some of the most distinguished paleoanthropologists alive today. In a court of law, withholding exculpatory evidence would be enough to negate a criminal verdict. The central importance of the Toumai controversy was described by Marshall as follows:

Resolving this is key, because the Sahelanthropus bones are believed to be 7 million years old, far older than other human relatives like Australopithecus. If it was a biped, that would make it the oldest known hominin. If not, it may not be that closely related to us.”[20]

It would also destroy the impotence of the find, which may well be the reason for concealing the critical femur bones from paleoanthropologists

Professor Michel Brunet may have known all along that Toumai is not related to humans, but is likely a primate having nothing to do with evolution – human or primate. This case appears to be yet another example of evolution’s blunders, frauds and forgeries.[21] Not all scientists were fooled, though. Now that the femur bones are public, many

paleoanthropologists agree with the analysis by Bergeret-Medina’s team. “The shape of the femur and general morphology doesn’t look like a biped to me,” says Brigitte Senut at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France. And Madelaine Böhme at the University of Tübingen in Germany says: “I saw the pictures 10 or 12 years ago, and it was clear to me that it’s [i.e., Toumai’s] more similar to a chimp than to any other hominin.”[22]

Furthermore,

Later, Bergeret-Medina was unable to find the femur. Neither she nor Macchiarelli ever saw it again. However, when Brunet’s team didn’t describe the femur, she and Macchiarelli prepared a study using her photos and measurements. She and her colleagues first tried to present their findings at a 2018 conference in Poitiers, but the presentation was rejected by the organizers. In late 2019, they submitted a paper that has now been published (Journal of Human Evolution, doi.org/fhwp).[23]

Bergeret-Medina may have been unable to find the femur because her

team argues that the femur isn’t that of a bipedal animal. “There are a lot of indicators which deeply discourage bipedal gait,” says Macchiarelli. In particular, the bone is curved, not straight, typical of apes like chimps.[24]

Piltdown Man and other hoaxes related in detail.

Summary of the Case

This case which New Scientist calls a “war over Toumai’s Femur,” is another example of fraud or, at the least, poor decisions, in the endless attempts to prove human evolution. Critical evidence that is hidden, misinterpreted or distorted is a trend that began with the Piltdown forgery and still continues to this day. So anxious are evolutionists to prove human evolution that egos get in the way, as does the evidence, as has occurred time and time again. This is always a problem when people are driven by ideology instead of a drive for the truth.

Likely, the discovers knew the critical factor in proving Toumai was on the way to evolving into modern humans was evidence of bipedal locomotion. Critical to documenting the find of a lifetime was the femur bones. If the femur documented the opposite, the fossil would be just another ape, forever destroying their claim to fame. This would have been especially problematic after the enormous publicity claiming that the find was the oldest member of human family. Now Professor Michel Brunet may forever be remembered as the hoaxer of another Piltdown Man.

References

[1] Brunet, Michael plus 37 other authors. 2002. New Hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad, Central Africa. Nature 418(6894):146-151.

[2] Brunet, et al., 2002.

[3] Lemonick, Michael. 2002. Time 160(4):40-47, July 22.

[4] Guterl, Fred. 2002. “All in the Family.” Newsweek, July 22,pp. 46-49.

[5] TM 266-01-060-1 (Toumaï). http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/toumai.html

[6] Parsell, D.I. 2002 “Skull Fossil From Chad Forces Rethinking of Human Origins.” National Geographic News, July 10.

[7] Hecht, Jeff. 2002. Oldest hominid skull shakes human family tree. New Scientist. : https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2533-oldest-hominid-skull-shakes-human-family-tree/#ixzz6epBSeKxW

[8] Hecht, 2002.

[9] Hecht, 2002.

[10] Gore, Rick. “This is the face that’s changing a thousand minds. National Geographic 202(2):1-10, August 2002.

[11] Whitfield, John. 2002. “Oldest member of human family found.” Nature 418:145, July 2002.

[12] https://www.amazon.com/Toumai-Oldest-Human-Ancestor Pierre/dp/B074NCZGC3/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1& keywords=Toumai%2C+the+Oldest+Human+Ancestor&qid=1606319559&sr=1-1

[13] Whitfield, 2002, p. 145.

[14] Marshall, Michael. 2020. Our supposed earliest human relative may have walked on four legs. NewScientist, p. 17, November 18. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24833093-600-our-supposed-earliest-human-relative-may-have-walked-on-four-legs/

[15] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[16] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[17] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[18] Naturedoi.org/c66kw6.

[19] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[20] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[21] Bergman, Jerry. 2017. Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries. Atlanta, GA: CMI Publishing.

[22] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[23] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.

[24] Marshall, 2020, p. 17.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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