Utama The First Mariners

The First Mariners

This volume summarizes the history and findings of the First Mariners Project, which the author, Robert G. Bednarik, commenced in 1996 in order to explore the Ice Age origins of seafaring. This is the largest archaeological replication project ever undertaken with several hundred people involved in the construction of eight primitive vessels with stone tools under scientifically controlled conditions, six of them sailing. Four bamboo rafts have succeeded in accomplishing the historically documented crossings they sought to replicate. One of the successful experiments, a 1000 kilometer journey to Australia in 1998, attempted to recreate the first human arrival in Australia, probably around 60,000 years ago. Other voyages attempted to address the much earlier sea crossings documented to have taken place in the islands of Indonesia, the earliest of which may have occurred nearly a million years ago. These experiments have also featured in BBC and National Geographic documentaries.
The First Mariners comprehensively describes the archaeological background and relevant issues of the project and features an extensive pictorial record, of both the experiments and the archaeological basis of this research – giving a unique experience to readers interested in understanding the earliest marine adventurers from a historical and technical perspective.
Categories: History\\Archaeology
Tahun: 2015
Bahasa: english
Halaman: 304
ISBN 13: 978-9351710073
File: PDF, 72.78 MB
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THE
PIRST
MARINERS

ORI G TIotE r,4 D OF ANCIENT AN: (Festchrift to Robert G. Bednarik)
Edited by
Peddarapu Chenna Reddy

ISBN: 81-89131.()9.5

Edition 2008

1.5)
1

P

Price : 49951· S225

RESEARCH INDIA PRESS

pp. xxiv + 413, Bib., Index, Colour Plate

Price: ~ 4500/- US$15O
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9 7

10073

THE FIRST MARINERS

Robert G. Bednarik

RESEARCH INDIA PRESS
ew Delhi (I DlA)

@

Robert G. Bednarik

ISBN: 978-93-5171-007-3

Price : ~ 4500/-

First Edition: 2014

All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior
written permission of the Editors.

Cataloging in Publication Data-DK
Courtesy: D.K Agencies (P) Ltd. <docinfo@dkagencies.com>
Bednarik, Robert G.
The first mariners / Robert G. Bednarik. - 1st ed.
p. em.
Includes bibliographical reference (p. ) and index.
ISBN 9789351710073
1. Archaeology.

1. Title.

DOC 930.123

Published by .'
RESEARCH INDIA PRESS
E-6I34, Sangam Vihar
New Delhi-110062
Phone: 011-26047013, (M) 9818085794
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Typesetting by
G. RSharma

CONTENTS

1.
rior

Introduction ................................................................................. ...................... ........ 1-28
A preamble
Creating the human past
Heretics in archaeology
Tbe discovery of b/lll/onity's great olltiq/lity
The discovery of fossil man
The discot~ry of Pleistocene or!
Tbe discovery of Homo ereetllS
Tbe discovery of AllslrolopifheClis
Alodem beretics ill arcboeology
Dogged by dogma

2. The Domestication of Eve and Adam .................................................................... 29-57
African beginnings
The Asian lacunae
The European theatre
Anatomy o f a scientific controversy
The domestication of humans
Genius and madn ess
The price of perfection
3. The Origins of Human Modernity ......................................................................... 58-90
An unlikely story
Exograms
Ostrich eggshell beads
Underrating the ancients
The trouble with archaeology
So what really happened?

vi

THE FIRST MARINERS

4. Pleistocene Seafarers .. ............. ............................................................................... 91-134
Ratlonale of maritime experiments
The empirical evidence
Ilominins in Wallacea
I lominins in Australia
About rafts
5. Bound for Australia ............................................................................................... 135-190
The games people play
Few are chosen
On the trail of Homo erectllS
The Nale Tasih 2 expedition
On a steep learning curve
6.

Mariners of the Lower Paleolithic ....................................................................... 191-225
Raising the bar
By the skin of O Uf teeth
Ticket from Africa

7.

Rafts at Sea ........................................................................................................... 226-268
Father of all rafts
Champion of rafts
About Paleolithic seafaring
Pleistocene rafts

8. Primjtive Archaeology .............. ........................................................................... 269-296
Reasonableness in archaeology
Archaeology's hegemonic narrative
Some elementary philosophy
Summing it up
Suggested Reading List ..................................................................................................... .... .................. 297
Index

........... .. .. ................ .. .. .................................................................................................................. 299

CHAPTER -

1

INTRODUCTION

I

A Preamble

According to one of the most influential philosophers of science, Thomas Kuhn, scientific
disciplines develop by two quite different processes. "Normal science" is what happens
most of the time: routine investigation, often on a large and very time-consuming scale,
patiently assembling the tiny pieces of a giant puzzle game about some aspects of physical
reality. But sometimes, perhaps once or a couple of times in a century, there occurs a quantum
jump in most disciplines, for which Kuhn coined the term "revolutionary science." Out of
the blue, something sets off a chain of events that greatly upsets the equilibrium or dissolves
the disciplinary fabric. This usually occurs when it becomes apparent that the pieces of the
puzzle simply form no satisfactory or rational pattern, or when a new framework of thought
renders the puzzle superseded. Perhaps a few of the pieces of the jigsaw have to be removed,
resulting in a lack of fit in various areas of the overall picture. This leads to a phase of
turmoil in the discipline concerned, to a collapse of crucial models, and a major shift of
paradigm could result. The effects of such a revolutionary phase in a discipline can be
profound, a variety of indirect revisions may be prompted, they can spread to other
disciplines, and in extreme cases they can shake the very foundations of human understanding
of the world.
This book is about such a paradigm shift in a minor discipline, archaeology-the
conditions that led to it, how it unfolded, and what its consequences are likely to be.
Once a paradigm shift has run its full course, the discipline in question returns to
its "normal" state, and sets about establishing a new pattern in its grand puzzle. That
state mal' then persist for many decades, even for centuries, until such time when, once
again, it may become apparent that significant parts of the overall pattern have become
untenable.

2

THE FIRST MA RINERS

An examination of the history of Western science soon demonstrates the validity of
Kuhn's characterization. Most progress in any discipline does not occur during the long
periods of blissfully orderly pursuits, but during the usually brief, hectic and tumultuous
periods of scientific revolution. It is actually within this anarchistic aspect of the revision
process that often the seeds may already be sown for the next paradigmatic shift. This is
simply because scholars may over-react or panic during an intellectual crisis, as they witness
the collapse of their false construct.

Archaeology is, strictly speaking, not a science, but it is a pursuit that does make extensive
use of science. It has experienced more than its fair share of minor paradigmatic upsets,
but as a fundamentally conservative discipline it has not had to undergo any profound or
fundamental paradigm shift since the early 19th century. More specifically, in Pleistocene
("lee Age'') archaeology, there have been few significant changes since the beginning of
the 20th century, after the authenticity of Paleolithic cave art was grudgingly accepted in
France and Spain. Acceptances of important discoveries or changes have been very gradual
and these were vigorously resisted for decades. The find of Australopithecus in 1924
remained widely ignored for forty years. Earlier, the discoveries of the first fossil human
eandcrthal) and of the first "missing link" (Homo ereellls) were both utterly rejected by
mainstream scholars for many years, and earlier still, the very possibility of a Pleistocene
archaeology was universally rejected by all archaeologists for decades. The appreciation of
the imporrance of Africa to CJuestions of human evolution also was a gradual process. In
the early 1950s, the revolution through the acceptance of radiocarbon analysis for dating
purposes proceeded reasonably, though not entirely, orderly. And the ideas of the "New
Archaeolog),' during the second half of that century established themselves incrementally.
One might be tempted to think that perhaps Pleistocene archaeology had progressed so
judiciously that there was no need for any precipitous change, but historically this is not the
case at all. The discipline has been notoriously accident-prone; it has always been susceptible
to ideological currents of history and to manipulation by influential groups and individuals.
At any srage, there is no systematic reason apparent why one should have assumed that
Pleistocene archaeology might have "gotten it right." Indeed, when we look at the recently
dominant model of ethnic, technological and cognitive evolution of hominins, which strongly
favors an essentially unlikely scenario, we would be entitled to be a trifle skeptical of the
discipline's capacity of self-correction.
[n this book I will present two basic propositions: first, that the archaeological evidence
of human progress through the lee Ages has been fundamentally misunderstood and
tnIslnterpreted by most scholars in the field; and second, that a major paradigm shift in the
sense of Kuhn is essential in archaeology generally. I \ViU present specific evidence to support

INTRODUCTION

3

my first contention, and offer for consideration a model of cognitive and technological
development that differs dramatically and profoundly from archaeology's current consensus
model. Concerning my second proposition, I have to concede that institutionalized
archaeology with all its vested interests is nor likely to tolerate the traumatic shift of paradigm
I will advocate here. The discipline's existing academic, ideological, and to some extent
even corporate structures must be expected to resist change, even gradual change, and they
are entirely incapable of absorbing a fundamental change of the magnitude I advocate.
Rather, based on ample historical precedents, I expect a repetition of traditional patterns in
the discipline, which means essentially that the response to my suggestions and demands
will be characterized by procrastination; it will be half-hearted at best and viciously obstructive
at worst. Even in the long term it will only result in half measures. In other words, instead
of the paradigmatic shift required, I expect that only a watered-down version of what is
required will be introduced, and only after years of resistance. evertheless, I feel that what
I have to say on this subject ought to be said, if only for the record.
The principal reason for the ability of archaeology to resist change is that, as a largely
non-falsifiable discipline, it can avoid testing by epistemologically sound methods. The "hard
sciences" are much more amenable to scientific review--essentially because their propositions
are supposed to be falsifiable in the first place. This, precisely, is why archaeology musr nor
be defined as a science, but rather as a belief system couched in ontological terms of reference
that are distinctly Western in their origins and were always inrended to serve the ,vinners of
history, today's nation states.
Because of archaeology's tendency to rely on its non-falsifiable status to resist revision, I
prefer to present my case to tile lay reader rather than the biased specialist. After all, archaeology
is an institutionalized hobby that is funded by the public, and concerning its performance ir
should be answerable to society as a whole. In presenting my demand for major changes in
Pleistocene archaeology, I count on tlle common-sense judgment of an informed public in
prompting an introspective self-appraisal of an othenvise reluctant discipline. In tlus book I
will make every effort to fairly present conflicting vie,vs, bur my ultimate aim is to find a way
of persuading the discipline to try and confront the issues I ,ViJl address on these pages.
This book is nor intended to be a tiresome treatise for academics, but a discussion of
rather fundamental issues in archaeology, and a description of what I feel is some of the
most exciting work ever undertaken in replicative archaeology. Inevitably, the reader will be
tempted to draw comparisons between my story and some of the celebrated " replicative"
sea crossings of yesteryear, particularly the heroic journey of Thor HeyerdahI's KO/l-Tiki
across the eastern Pacific over half a century ago. That adventure inspired a generation,
through the incredible courage of its SLX Scandinavian heroes. In purely scientific terms,

4

THE FIRST MARINERS

Heyerdahl's various expeditions, as well as a good number of other sea crossings in primitive
vessels of all kinds, yielded only modest returns. Perhaps these and smUlar great endeavors
demonstrated possibilities of how island populations might have been founded in the last
couple of millennia, by showing what was humanly possible with a given technology. WIthout
wishing to detract in any way from the profound accomplishments and the personal
dedication and courage that led to many such adventurous journeys undertaken throughout
the 20th century, it is fair to say that no maritime experiments have so far resulted in a
significant reassessment of archaeological colonization models, let alone in the reappraisal
of the discipline as a whole. Perhaps South American mariners did manage to cross ro
Polynesia, as Heyerdahl thought, but since there is no evidence that this influenced the
course of history it is of little more than anecdotal importance-if it so happened. Perhaps
the Chinese did reach America before the Spanish, but much the same applies: in what way
can that be demonstrated to have influenced human history? There are sea crossings that
may have had effects, especially in establishing specific animal and plant species in regions
to which they are not native. Clearly some of the many navigation feats attributed to antiguity
at one time or another are a great deal more likely to have occurred than others, but in the
end it is evident that the scientific proof that such crossings occurred is generally lacking.
In practically all of the claims made in this respect, we are really considering levels of
probability, not demonstrated empirical data of history.
The project outlined in the present book departs from this pattern significantly, in that
it only deals with early maritime feats that can be safely demonstrated to have occurred. Yet
incredibly these feats occurred up to hundreds of times as long ago than any others ever
considered in detail. This bo k will not only reconsider the conditions under which a whole
continent was initially peopled, it will also report the first known crossings of the sea by
groups of colonizing hominins (early humans), and it will seek to determine l •• ~ conditions
under which the very first mariners succeeded. This is in itself an ambitiOlls rationale, but
in the overall context of what I set our to do here it is merely one major aspect of an
archaeological/ollr deforce I intend to take the reader on. My primary intention remains to
llse the examples of Pleistocene seafaring, hominin evolution and artistic production to
illustrate that current archaeological perceptions about the cultural evolution of Our Ice
Age ancestors are entirely unrealistic. For well over a century, archaeology has been engaged
in the creation and perpetuation of a largely false, whimsical and illogical mythology about
the non-biological evolutionary process of humans. I intend ro demonstrate this here, and
I will argue that Pleistocene archaeology is badly in need of a decisive paradigm shift. Much
if not most of what archaeologists have told us happened in those distant times did not
happen, or happened very differently, and the extent to which the discipline got it wrong

:'

,

INTRODUCTION

It

5

increases with antiquity: the earlier the time, the more falsities should be expected in our
received knowledge. There are good scientific reasons to expect that.
My ultimate question to be asked will be: how could it have been possible that an entire
discipline has consistently been so far off track, and has so meticulously misinterpreted the
available evidence? The answer is not at all straightforward, and a great variety of contributing
factors need to be considered. To facilitate the general purpose of tlus book, which is to
argue for the need of a fundamental revision in Pleistocene archaeology, I wiLl also introduce
a revolutionary new model of how I would like so-called archaeological evidence interpreted,
and of how, in my view, the history of hominin development should be reconstructed on
the basis of a new epistemological framework.
I will consider these important issues in the concluding chapter, but before doing so I
would be well advised to present a rather well-documented case. Some fairly convincing
evidence will need to be tabled as to why the ratl1er bold, if not to say impertinent, claims I
make here nlight be justified. I shall begin the daunting task I have set myself, of rattling
the windows of the ivory towers of academe, by defining tl1e crucial issues, and by describing
the currently donlinant model. Contrasting tlUs model with tl1e evidence as it stands will set
the stage for describing the scientific purpose of a series of raft experiments conducted in
Southeast Asian and Australian waters as well as in tl1e Mediterranean. It will also illustrate
the purpose of the archaeological research in progress on several Indonesian islands. The
findings of the various expeditions described in tlUs book, together with other evidence I
have collected in all continents, will then form the basis of tl1e most consequential pan of
tlUs volume-the reassessment of our collective construct of honlinin evolution.
Creating the Human Past

The current consensus model of the biological, technological, and cognitive evolution of
the human species is still largely based on what is popularly known as the "African Eve"
hypothesis. Its basic prenlises are straightforward: "anatonlically modern humans," as they
are often called, evolved in genetic isolation in some unspecified region of sub-Saharan
Africa. SupposedUy tlUs occurred between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago. According to the
extreme version of tlUs model, speciation happened rapid ly and Eve's progeny became
unable to interbreed successfully (i.e. produce fertile offspring) with any other human
population in the world. Around 100,000 years ago, tlUs new species of humans had
developed dramatically superior characteristics-technologically, cognitively and mentallyand began to expand its geographical range. Having already spread through northern Africa,
these "superior," fully modern humans now set about colonizing the rest of the Old World
as well as Australia, beginning 'with tl1e lear East. They reached Indonesia by 60,000 years

6

THE FIRST MARINERS

ago at the latest, set sail for Australia, colonizing Siberia soon after, but they marched on
Europe only 20,000 years later.
All of these regions, in fact most of the Old World right up into the Arctic, had been
occupied by ear~er humans for hundreds of millennia. These people are collectively known
as "archaic HOII/o sapims," and bcing very much more "primitive," they had no effective
defense against the onslaught of the African "superhumans." In no case did they contribute
their genes to those of the newcomers; they were "replaced," supplanted, perhaps even
exterminated by them in the most extensive genocide in human history. This model is
therefore known as the " replacement hypothesis." It argues that all human populations
other then the descendants of the African Eve were entirely wiped out through the superior
technology, communication abi~ty, cognition, hunting strategies, social systems, and intellect
of the African Oberll/fIIschfll. I n this otherwise rather Biblical origins myth, with its various
references to Genesis, the "meek" certainly failed to inherit the Earth.
Whether the archaic people became the victims of genocide on a scale never again seen
n tnis planet, or they were simply out-competed by the superiority of the invaders or by
their diseases, one thing is thought to be sure. By about 30,000 BP (years before present),
the "inferior" races of humans had aU become extinct, with the last remnant populations in
southern Spain, Croatia and Java losing their quest for survival. When the victorious Moderns
reached the south-easternmost corner of Eurasia, at Bali (then part of the mainland), they
set about at once to develop seafaring capability, so that they might cross the numerous sea
barriers separating the many islands of the Indonesian archipelago east of Bali, which hitherto
had remained unoccupied by any humans. By perhaps 60,000 BP, these fIrst Stone Age
mariners set out brazenly to reach a new continent, the Great Southern Land, which was
not e\'en visible throughout that entire epic journey.
I think the reader would be perfectly justifIed at this point to form the im!-,u.:ssion that
aU of this has the familiar ring of an origi ns myth about some hypothetical los t tribe. There
is the gruesome implication of near-global genocide, there is an Eden in Africa, there is a
hint of the desired promised land--eventually found in the rich, predator-poor continents
of Australia and the ew World, where massive herds of large mammals that had never
seen man waited to be barbecued. But the Biblical metaphors do not end here; they are a
conSlstent, ever-present feature of this scenario. Indeed, there is the concept of the founding
mother of these superhumans, Eve of Africa herself, to which all living human beings,
and Indeed all humans of the last thirty millennia, are geneticall y related. Yes, we all
can trace our lineage to one common mother, through the mitochondria that are passed on
down the female line, so we are all distant brothers and sisters. More than that, we can also
trace our ancestry back to one single male, the African Adam, through the Y chromosomes.

INTRODUCTION

7

Could all of this simply be a plot by fundamentalists to invent a scientifically updated
version of the Gospel's explanation of human origins? At a first glance this seems to be a
somewhat preposterous suggestion. Surely the sober discipline of paleoanthropology, which
investigates the physical origins of humans through the study of their skeletal remains, and
whose own gospel is Darwinism, would not permit such blasphemous notions to gain a
foothold in its modes of thinking.
The issue is probably far too complex for such a simplistic rationalization. For one
thing, paleoanthropology as a science stands itself on rather wobbly feet, perched
precariously somewhere between paleontology (the study of extinct life forms), physical
anthropology, human anatomy and pathology, and Qften relies on archaeology, a discipline
in the business of creating modern mythologies about the past, for supplementary
information. The paleoanthropologist tries to make sense of the human fossil record,
which in practice often means seeking to determine how closely specimens might be
related to one another. This is attempted having nothing other than fragments of skeletal
remains at our disposal, and it is easy to judge the effectiveness of this pursuit. In 2004,
the bones of a very small adult human were excavated in the cave Liang Bua in western
Flores, Indonesia. Named Homo florcsiensis, the tiny creature, only about a meter tall,
immediately became the object of a raging controvers)'. Some experts claimed it was a
dwarf form of an early hominin, Homo cree/liS, others saw it as related to even earlier
hominins, such as Homo habilis or australopithecines, and it was also suggested to be an
ape. Others again argued vehemently in favor of it being a modern human with
pathological conditions, including microcephaly. There was even a claim that one of the
molars found contains a filling, which would presumably point to a fake discovery. What
this extreme spectrum of opinions about one simple find shows is that, firstly, the
academics have learnt nothing from identical controversies in the past eanderthal, HOlllo
cree/liS, Piltdown, Australopithecus, to name just the more prominent); and secondly, that
they lack the ability of identifying human remains reliably at the species level. The message
they are conveying is that the Flores "Hobbit," a it was dubbed, is somewhere between a
gibbon and a modern human. Obviously, any non-specialist could have determined that
just from the images of the bones, which seems to suggest that the collective understanding
of the paleoanthropologists is in need of considerable improvement. We do not accept
pronouncements by chemists that a given substance's pH is somewhere between 0 and
14, or by geologists that a given rock facies dates from some time between the Precambrian
and the Holocene; we could have guessed that much without expert help. If
paleoanhropologists cannot perform bener than that, perhaps they need to either improve
their craft or admit their impotence.

THE FIRST MARINERS

8

considering the evolutionary history of humans, we also depend profoundly on
information provided by archaeology. This discipline, as it operates today, IS based on the
theory of uniformitarianism: past events are interpreted in terms of processes that nowadays
cause similar phenomena. This principle was adopted from geology, where tn a simplistic
but perfectly correct way it can be illustrated thus: if we watch what happens to the sand on
a hillside during a rain downpour, we can see how the grains are washed down the tncline.
I f we make the deduction that this same process affected the hill in the distant past, we use
uniformitarianist argument to speculate about the past. By extrapolating the process far
back in time, we can see that the hill must have been higher in the past, and we can predict
that, all other things being equal, it will continue to erode.
Archaeologists also deal with events and phenomena of the past, so the same kind of
logic was introduced. For instance if we find a particular form of evidence we assume that
it was created by proce ses similar to those that would result in the same kind of evidence
today. But there are three basic arguments against this logic, which underpins practically all
archaeological reasoning. First, it relies on an assumption that has not been demonstrated,
namely, that in human history similar results demand similar causes. We judge the remains of
ancient culrures as if we already possessed access to their meaning, for instance by attempting
to bridge the gap with ethnographic analogies. The argument runs something like this: because
the southern San people in Africa have been observed using ostrich eggshell beads in certain
ways, similar beads were probably used in similar ways by people of the distant past.
Secondly, even if uniformitarianism has served disciplines such as geology or
paleontol gy very well, tllat does not automatically warrant its utiliry in other fields. Its
axioms work faultlessly if we have adequate knowledge of all the variables involved in
processes, and if we are concerned with purely natural systems. However, in the case of
human societies we are bound to generate false explanations if we subject them to similar
deterministic rationalizations. We know that human individuals as well as whole societies
rarely behave rationally. Most of our actions and decisions are made at the behest of intrinsic
cultural inlperatives and similar irrational systems, such as religious beliefs, priorities dictated
by social conditioning, and behavior patterns possibly too complex to analyze effectively
even in modern people. I-Iumans have a great capaciry for making mistakes and for making
illogical decisions. To treat humans and their societies as mechanistic entities motivated only
by rationaliry seems ludicrous for any time or culture. We all know that the human potential
for folly has no bounds, and that this is not so in spite of our much-vaunted intelligence, but
rather precisely because of it. Seen from this perspective it is absurd to treat the so-called
archaeological record as a material reflection of societies governed by rationaliry, where behavior
and intent can be accessed by recourse to sets of uniformitarian predictions.
[n

INTRODUCTION

9

One more objection to the way simplistic archaeology has operated I find particularly
important. It concerns an internal contradiction in its underlying practice. On the one hand
we have the acceptance that dle discipline is imperfect, that its method of data collection is
severely flawed because it is incapable of predicting the methods available or the questions
asked in hundreds of years from now. Yet every archaeological deposit can only be excavated
once, and is essentially destroyed once excavated. Hence we can safely assume that the
excavator, the destroyer of archaeological strata, is likely to throw out more data potential
than he collects. Therefore it is considered most inappropriate to destroy all available deposit,
and sites are only partially excavated as a rule. But then we have the assumption implicit in
all interpretations that at;chaeological investigation yields ral/do", samples of data. Data, here,
means any form of information considered relevant, such as number of instances per unit,
their density relative to another variable, or indeed any quantitative expression of evidence.
"Random sample," in science, refers to a given quantity of evidence that is thought to be
typical of the evidence class it is considered to represent. In archaeology it is impossible to
collect random samples of anything. A site may be toO large to be sampled in its entirety,
and the archaeologist is in any case not permitted to excavate it completely. So he or she
selects a sampling area and hopes that the recorded data are representative for the whole
site, society or culture. For the purpose of merely describing what evidence has survived
there can be no major objection to sum practices. One can argue, however, that no part of
a site is typical for the whole, and that no sample of site contents can be typical of the
whole site's contents. Nor could the whole site be typical of a greater unit, say, a tradition or
culture. The most significant problems begin as soon as the armaeologist assumes that the
sample collected would be similar to a sample of the same kind of material collected from
the living society in question. Many archaeologists understand very well that there carmot
possibly be a one-to-one relationship, but few have ever thought about the real extent of
these distortions by, among other things, preservation conditions.
In the early 1990s I discovered the theoretical principles determining how distorted the
archaeological record really is, and I presented a method of quantifying this phenomenon.
These principles were prominendy published (e.g. in the journal Al1tiqllity, in 1994, and in
several other academic papers), and yet two decades later not a single archaeologist has
responded to my propositions in print. The reason is simple. The new form of logic I
proposed for the interpretation of archaeological phenomena affects virtually all
archaeological explanations ever attempted. Its impact increases in proportion to the age
of the material evidence, and by the time we consider finds of the Ice Ages, it becomes
devastating and eventually renpers all traditional explanations unwarranted. This is because
the distorting influences of selective preservation, selective deposition and selective recovery

10

THE FIRST MARINERS

increase with age. Once we have gone back in time to the earliest period in human history,
called the Lower Paleolithic, the effects of this phenomenon have so eroded the credibility
of the existing interpretational models that nearly all of them can safely be assumed to be
false. Only the broadest based, most generalized explanations ever offered by archaeology
have prospects of surviving this scrutiny reasonably intact.
This leaves us with a fascinating scenario. The archaeology of the Ice Ages and of the
last part of the preceding geological period, called the Pliocene, which together cover more
than 99.9% of the entire history of humankind, has spawned a vast number of
interpretations, explanations and-more often--downright authoritative pronouncements
about the physical, cultural, cognitive, technological, and mental evolution of the human
species. If most of them had to be rejected because they have no realistic empirical basis, it
would render invalid most archaeological constructs we have been presented with over the
last century and a half. We would find ourselves with a discipline that has been, for all
practical purposes, wrong most of the time.
In the present book I will submit that this is indeed the case, and I will not only
demonstrate this with specific examples, but also in the end show why it was indeed entirely
predictable. This latter claim is particularly interesting, in part because it shows that the
errors made in Ice Age archaeology might have been avoidable. It also offers a way of
avoiding them in future. If we seek a genuine understanding of human origins we really
have no choice but to discard superseded ideas and research methodology, and to make an
effort in considering the classes of evidence proffered in this field within a realistic theory
of interpretation. That theory will be presented in the concluding chapter, and it will be
illustrated with practical applications.
Before embarking on this journey into a more realistic Pleistocene archaeology, it would
be worthwhile and instructive to consider the reasons for the proliferation of precipitate
and often false hypotheses in this field. Explaining mistakes can greatly assist in avoiding
them in the future, and in revising the academic dynamics of knowledge acquisition in the
discipline itself. What foUows is therefore nor a gleeful criticism of a discipline that has
erred, but is intended as a constructive analysis that might facilitate sincere re-examination.
It is most certainly nor intended to weaken archaeology, but rather to strengthen it, by
excising, or at least understanding, its various inherent weaknesses.

S~ far, archaeology has never operated as a scientific discipline, but rather as a pursuit

seJecovely harnessmg falslfiable propositions of other disciplines (such as physics, chemistry,
sedimentology, etc.) to construct internally non-falsifiable propositions about the distant
human past. To render archaeology scientific, its own hypotheses would need to be so
formulated as to be testable internally, i.e. \vithout recourse to one of the hard sciences.

INTRODUCTION

11

Most archaeologists are well aware that their discipline as practiced yields no scientific,
testable propositions. As a kind of defense mechanism to counter this inherent weakness,
archaeology has fostered a system of laudable conservatism, which protects the discipline
against frivolous hypotheses, but has also led to a considerable reluctance to revising existing
models. In practice, very minor adjustments to the dominant paradigm are possible, but
any major changes are resisted vigorously, while fundamental revisions are essentially out
of the question. Therefore, the conservatism intended to protect the discipline becomes a
liability if the dominant dogma can be preserved but is itself faulty. Whereas the sciences
need to be responsive to falsifying evidence, in a discipline lacking falsifiability this safeguard
does not apply; it can maintain its un falsifiable dogma.
This saddles the discipline with a profound epistemic weakness. Conservatism in
interpretation is certainly a virtue, but in a field dominated by untestable and often quite
fallacious interpretations it can become counterproductive. For instance, I would predict
that the most common reaction of archaeologis ts to this book will be that, for all my
huffing and puffing, I must be wrong, because how could it possibly be that generations
of experts could have been so far off the mark? This sounds like a reasonable argument
until we consider the history of archaeology, which features a long succession of heretics
who, despite turning out to be right, were rejected, rubbished, and often destroyed by
archaeology.
Heretics in Archaeology

The most characteristic feature of archaeology is not that it deals with the past; many
disciplines do that, including paleontology, palynology, geology, or astronomy-no human
has ever seen a present-time star. Nor is it that archaeology conjures up images of mystery
and adventure; most disciplines can do d,at. Nor that it often deals with interesting remote
places and countries. Arcl1aeology is more readil)' characterized by a collection of rad,er
negative factors. For instance, it is the only "scientific" discipline that seeks to control access
to methods, data, sites and knowledge. 0 other discipline (except medicine, for ethical
reasons) restricts work in its field to card-carrying members of the relevant academic trade
union. Another distinctive aspect of archaeology is the uneasy relationship it has developed
with its two principal client groups: the interested public, whicl, it relegates to the status of
spectators, "cult archaeologists" and "folk arcl1aeologists;" and the political structures in
the struggle of indigenous people around the world. The latter in many cases object to
archaeological practices as undermining their fragile cultural legitimacy, because archaeology
represents d,e dominant or colonizing society. The tensions are in all cases not only due to
excessive curatorial desires of the discipline's practitioners and the political agendas they

12

THE FIRST MARINERS

serve, as servants of the state, but also due to archaeologists' misunderstandings of the role
and capabilities of archaeology, and the ethical fact that archaeologJcal property does not
belong to state-appointed "experts." They speak neither for indigenous peoples nor for
science; in fact their curatorial demands conflict with principles of acaderruc freedom as
well as the aspirations of cultural autonomy of autochthon peoples.
. .
But by far the most characteristic feature of establishment archaeology IS ItS treatment
of heretics and iconoclasts: the people who disagree with its established dOgJnas. It IS not
so much that heretics may not also be rejected in other disciplines, but in other fields of
human endeavor there is a tendency to learn from mistakes made in rejecting heretics. This
is not evident in archaeology. That discipline has had to deal with dissent for its entire
history, and that history provides ample evidence that archaeology as an academic discipline
has learnt nothing from these encounters--or from the great embarrassments they have
led to. Today it uses precisely the same strategies of silencing these people it used almost
200 years ago. This is what I seek to demonstrate here. To see this, and to understand this
extreme conservatism it is necessary to examine some case histories.
on-archaeologists have offered important ideas, data or finds to the discipline in
hundreds of cases, only to be indignantly rejected, and yet it was subsequently found that
the finds were authentic, the data valid or the ideas extremely important in developing
archaeology. Often this realization that the discipline had made a great error in rejecting
such outsiders only came after the death of the heretical scholar. And yet the discipline's
knee-jerk-like rejection, and much later grudging acceptance of iconoclasts continues
unabated, and this pattern is by far the most characteristic aspect of archaeology as a
reactionary discipline. In this and other senses, orthodox archaeology is very reminiscent
of some religions, especially the Roman Catholic version of Christianity of past centuries.
Although archaeology does not appreciate being compared with religion, " has strong
dOgJnas, it "crucifies" heretics, it is a belief system (or so I will argue in this book), and its
history is inter-woven with specific religions. "Biblical archaeology" remains a valid subject
at Western universities. Such institutions are dedicated to an intellectually corrupt form of
scholarship, the misuse of cientific techniques to demonstrate the validity of religious fantasies
and mythologies. But it does offer an escape from the scientific proposition that humans are
nOt qualitatively different from other animals, such as other primates, or only so by a very slim
margin (and I will argue in this book that we are a species of neotenous apes).
In order to examine possible historical patterns in the treatment of archaeological heretics
it is most instructive to consider the most "celebrated" cases in the history of the discipline.
It IS useful to appreciate that no truly important archaeological discovery was ever made by
a professional archaeologist. The most important finds made in Pleistocene and Pliocene

INTRODUCTION

13

archaeology are perhaps the discoveries of man's antiquity, of fossil man, of Paleolithic
cave art, of Homo erectlls, and of Allstra!opitheclls. They were all made by non-archaeologists,
and they were all rejected by the archaeologists, in all cases without seriously attempting to
examine the evidence fairly.
The Discovery of Humanity's Great Antiquity

One of the first to recognize the immense
antiquity of humankind was Jacques Boucher .-_ _ _ _ _ _ _-==_____--,
de Crevecceur de Perthes (1788--1868). He was
a French customs official who for decades in
his spare time collected Paleolithic stone tools,
such as hand axes, in the gravels of the River
Somme (Figure 1). In examining finds made by
a local medical doctor, Casimir Picard, in the
1820s he recognized these as the handiwork of
human beings, and finding them together with
the bones of extinct animals he realized that
humans must have lived in France during the
Pleistocene, the Ice Age. A year after having
been seconded to Abbeville in 1825 he began
to collect stone implements and he soon became
a regular visitor to the region's quarries, canal
diggings, and gravel pits. About 1832 he
Figure 1: Jacques Boucher de Crevec<Eur de
commenced serious excavations, amassing a
Perthes.
large collection of flint tools and other material,
and by 1838 he presented his theory and evidence to the Societe d'Emulation. Undaunted
by tile skepticism that greeted him, he did the same in the follo\ving year before the Paris
Institute, where hi s ideas and finds were thoroughly rejected. He then published his work in
five volumes entitled 011 the Creatioll, again finding it rejected by the "experts."
Unfortunately this man also had some other eccentric ideas: he thought that women
should have rights, he suggested tile raising of the living standards of the working classes,
and he advocated universal peace. In short, it was easy to see tint Boucher de Perthes was
just a crank. evertheless, he proved to be a very persistent crank, and during the late
1840s, Scandinavian arcl1aeologists had begun to turn the tide in his favor, with their Three
Age system (Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages). By 1847 he had become so confident that he
claimed humans existed many tllousands, even hundreds of thousands of years ago. This

14

THE FIRST MARINERS

he deduced from the geological age of the strata he had excavated, and he quite correctly
pointed out that most tools then may have been made from wood, but that In order to work
wood the use of a harder material, flint, was essential.
Of particular interest here is Boucher de Perthes' own reaction to the consistent rejection
he experienced over some decades: "They employed against me a weapon more potent
than objections, than criticism, than satire or even persecution-the weapon of disdam .
They did not discuss my facts, they did not even take the trouble to deny them . They
disregarded them." This is important, because the same weapon is still widely employed In
contemporary archaeology, and in precisely the same way.
The final denouncement came in 1858, at a French archaeology congress that issued a
unanimous declaration according to which all of de Perthes' stone tools from Abbeville
were "a worthless collection of randomly picked up pebbles." The archaeologists, who had
long objected to the disciplinary trespass of this troublesome amateur, had realized that
Boucher de Perthes was not going to give up easily, and that he was even gaining a little
support, especially from two more amateur archaeologists, another doctor and a geologist
Marcel-Jerome Rigollot and Edmond Hebert. So it was decided to act decisively against
these cranks. This turned out to be a great and rather untimely embarrassment, because in
the following year, two British geologists, who had quietly worked away testing Boucher de
Perthes' propositions (which is precisely what good scientists do), published their findings,
confirming that he had been right all along and the "worthless pebbles" were the tools of
"DilU\~al man." Hugh Falconer and Joseph Prestwich had themselves become aware that
he might be right, after taking part in the 1858 supervised excavation of Windmill Hill
Cave, Brixton, by another autodidact, William Pengelly (1812-1894). Pengelly, a self-taught
geologist, had earlier excavated in Kents Cavern where he had found extinct animal remains
together with flint tools, and repeated Boucher de Perthes' claims.
Over the following years, in the wake of Darwin's Origill of the species (1859) and Lyell's
The olltiqlli(y of II/till (1863), public opinion swung around sharply, and it is important to note
that archaeological opinion followed suit. As we will see in this book, this is the usual pattern:
archaeology follows public opinion, it is the most populist discipline, always ingratiating
itself with the public. Boucher de Perthes lived to see his tenacity of half a lifetime vindicated
becau~e he persevered and he addressed the public. Those heretics of archaeology who
faded In this were not so fortunate to witness their "exoneration."

The Discovery of Fossil Man
In the very year of another amateur's book, D arwin's 1859 seminal volume (which was,
however, preceded b)' more than a millennium by the discovery of natural selection and

INTRODUCTION

15

environmental determinism through Al-Jahiz [776869] in his Kitob ol-hqyoJl!oll ['Rook of animals']) and
Prestwich's substantiation of de Perthes' claims, an
article by an unknown author appeared in a German
journal. Johann Carl Fuhlrott (1803-1877) was a
schoolteacher (Figure 2), and he presented a paper
about what he claimed to be skeletal remains of a preHistoric human being that probably was of the Diluvial
period (the Pleistocene or Ice Age). But instead of
welcoming the opportunity of publishing the first
report ever of fossil man the journal explicitly rejected
the interpretation of the find, publishing with it a
footnote expressing its disagreement with Fuhlrott's
op1illon.
The bones had been excavated in August 1856 by
two workers in a limestone quarry in the eander valley
Figure 2: Johann Carl Fuhlrott.
in Germany. In removing the sediment fill of the
Kleine Feldhofer Cave, they threw the bones on the slope of waste material, where an
owner of the quarry noticed them. Thinking that they were cave bear bones, he collected
the larger ones and gave them to Fuhlrott, whose work as a naturalist was known locally.
Fuhlrott recognized that the individual represented by the bones differed significantly from
modern humans, and he also recognized that the clay deposit in the cave seemed to be of
the Diluvial period-as the Pleistocene was then known. In 1857 he presented these findings
to a conference in Bonn where they were rejected, except for the anatomist Hermann
Schaaffhausen, who had examined the bones and tentatively agreed with the teacher from
Eberfeld.
In 1860, the founder of British geology, Charles Lyell, visited Fuhlrott and the eander
valley, taking a plaster cast of the cranium, and Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin's most
outspoken supporter and yet another amateur, commented that it was the most ape-like
human skull he had ever seen. His view was shared by Irishman William King, and one
would have thought Fuhlrott's views would have been accepted within a few years, particularl)'
in view of the rise of D arwinism at that time. Far from it; over the following years, the
remains were variously attributed to a Iongolian Cossack, a Celt, a Dutchman, a Friesian,
and an idiot. The bone architecture was attributed to various bone di eases, the curved leg
bones to a life of riding horses. The raging controversy was "resolved" in 1872 when Germanls
foremost expert, Professor Rudolf Virchow, entered the fray at long last. As the president of

----

16

THE FIRST MA RINERS

the Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory, and an anatomist of great prestige,
he determined the health history of the individual since his childhood from the bones available,
in a classic.'ll demonstration of the value of deductive diagnosis. His authoritative rejection of
Fuhlron's interpretation seemed to be decisive and public perception was guided by it.
That would have been the end of the story for some rime if it had not been for the
British Darwinists. Interestingly, Virchow was quite supportive of the evolution theory at
the time, even though he defmed it as not adequately supported by empirical data. However,
his position over the following years hardened, and when odd-looking human mandibles
were found in twO other caves (La Naulette in France and Sipka Cave in Moravia) he rejected
them as being rypical of a "race." By 1877 he warned against Ernst Heinrich Haeckel's
proposal to teach evolution theory in schools. He felt it would "dispossess" the churches,
and he became alarmed that Socialists had adopted evolutionism into their political agenda.
Virchow was politically active, and one of the founders of a political party, the German
Progressive Party. He grew progressively concerned about the implications of political
Darwinism and eventually also spoke out against biological Darwinism as "limiting academic
freedom." Thus the position of eanderthal man became subordinated to other agendas,
such as tho e of academic prestige and monopolization, political issues and tribal warfare
among the tribes of academia. Fuhlrott had become irrelevant, a mere footnote in the
discipline's history.
However, in 1886, after almost 30 years, he was finally vindicated. An excavation in a
cave at Spy, near amur, Belgium, produced two substantially complete skeletons of humans,
found together with numerous stone tools and the bones of extinct animal species. The
characteristics of the human bones matched those of the Neanderthal find, and the theory
of congenital bone deformations collapsed. By now it was widely accepted outside of
Germany that these were representatives of fossil humans of the Ice Age, and yet, in
Germany it tOok another fifteen years before a detailed favorable study of the Neander
,'alley remains was published. It was in fact a student of Vircho\Y, Gustav Schwalbe, who
published a reassessment of the original! eander valley skeleton in 1901, pronouncing it as
belongmg to a separate human species, Homo neander/halensis.

I

The Discovery of Pleistocene Art

The .existence of Paleolithic cave art was long known, probably always since the lee Age.
For u:s~ce we know that m 1458 Pope Calixtus III decreed that the religious ceremonies
held m the Sparush cave wtth the horse pictures" had to cease. We cannot know which
ca,'e he referred to, but it was almost certainly a cave with Paleolithic art. However while
many people of the ten thousand years after the Ice Age were perfectly farniliar \~th the

t-

.
"

",p.:.'--

..

,

.

INTRODUCTION

anclent art, nobody had told the
archaeologists about it. This factor should
turn out to be of serious consequences for
D on Marcelino Santiago Tomas Sanz de
Sautuola (1831-1888), a nobleman of the
Santander region in northern Spain (Figure
3). In due course it would destroy his life.
A landowner of wealth and diverse
interests, he had been one of the first to
introduce eucalypts in Spain, he had a
magni Bcent library and a good knowledge
of the region's geology and ancient sites.
In fact he was appointed vice-president of
the monuments commission of his district
in 1872, just seven years before the fateful
discovery that would ruin him.

17

Figure 3: Marcelino Santiago Tomas Sanz de Sautuola
and his daughter, Maria.

The story begins in 1868, when a hunter, Modesto Cubillas, lost his dog on A1tamira, a
limestone hill on de Sautuola's property. It had climbed into a cave and found itself unable to
come out. The hunter opened up a hole and found a large cavern. This was mentioned to the
land's owner years later, in 1875, who decided to explore the cave. He found a considerable
quantity of split bone upon digging in its floor deposir, some of which he took to show a
geologist friend, Juan Vilanova y Piera at Madrid University. Vilanova recognized the bones as
being from extinct species, and that they had been fractured by humans. In 1878, de Sautuola
visited the World Exhibition in Paris, which included an exhibit of stone tools and bones
recently excavated in caves of the French Perigord. De Sautuola remembered his own cave,
and in the spring of the following year began in earnest to excavate part of the A1tamira cave.
Mi,xed with the bones of animals and oyster shells, he found the typical stone blades of the
Magdalenian period in large quantities. Deeper in the cave, a complete skeleton of a cave bear
was encOlilltered, and the explorer also observed black markings on the cave wall, but gave
them no further thought at that time. It was his 12-year-old daughter Maria, who played in the
cave as he was digging, who first noticed that there were animal pictures on the ceiling. This
was in ovember 1879, after he had worked in the cave for quite some months.
I t was at once clear to de Sautuola that the incredible gallery of paintings of bison he
now began to see was probably the work of the same people whose debris he was digging
up, partly because he had already observed seashells full of paint pigment, and some of
their debris occurred right on top of the floor deposit. H e reported this incredible discovery

THE FIRST MARINERS

18

,

I.
.'

W
""

-7
-.; i '

~. ." .

.

,

immediately to Vilanova, who came to inspect the End. Upon examination of the floor
sediments Vilanova agreed with his friend that the many pamongs were anCIent. He gave ~
lecture in Santander the discovery made headlines across Spam, and King Alfonso XI
visited the A1tamira c~ve.ln 1880 de Sautuola produced a publication, describing the paintings
and the occupation evidence, but cautiously avoiding the claim that the twO forms of evidence
necessarily needed to belong to the same time. It was a sober treatise, entirely lacking ill
flamboyant claims. For the illustrations he required he employed a destitute and dumb French
painter he had befriended earlier, and this turned out to be a fatal mistake.
The publication was greeted with considerable disapproval, which soon built up to
ridicule and anger. The di scipline decided collectively that de Sautuola was either a
charlatan, or at the very least he had been severely duped. At the International Congress
of nthropology and Prehistory in Lisbon, where the elite of Europe's prehistorians
gathered, Vilanova presented the discoveries in A1tamira, strongly defending de Sautuola.
One of the most influential French delegates, Professor Cartailhac, walked out in disgust,
and later rounrlly declared the paintings to be a fraud, without even bothering to see
them. In fact all other experts refused to examine the site initially, and the French decided
that the whole affair was a plot by Spanish Jesuits to undermine the credibility of preHistory as it had emerged. Once again we see the struggle between the discipline and the
hurch made explicit. Eventually, a railways engineer who had a good knowledge of
paleontology, Edouard Harle, was requested to examine de Sautuola's outrageous claims,
and he promptly discovered the involvement of the dumb painter (who in the meantime
had disappeared). 0 further investigation was needed, the case was clear enough to
him.
Vilanova tried in vain to use his academic prestige to promote acceptance of the find.
He was judged to have been the Erst to have been duped by the charlatan of A1tamira, and
unable to concede that. De Sautuola, for his part, did not respond to the accusations. As a
Spanish nobleman he felt that he could not enter into a discussion of whether he was
honorable or not, but we know that he suffered greatly. He tried to present his case at a
French conference in Algiers in 1882 and submitted a self-funded booklet to another
conference, in Berlin, but both endeavors were ignored. Six years later he died at the age of
fifty-seven, a broken and bitter man, in the full knowledge that he had made one of the
greatest discoveries in the history of archaeology. He also knew that he had failed in effectively
conveying this knowledge to a thoroughly hostile academic world. His death weighs heavily
on archaeology, particularly as he was judged without trial-but all to no avail, as we will
see. Bemg an archaeologist certainly is a health risk, and as one practitioner, Paul Bahn,
'WTyly observed, it requires the hide of a rhinoceros.

----

.-

INTRODUCTION

19

A French schoolteacher, Leopold Chiron, had found engravings deep in the cave of
Chabot already in 1878, and in 1890 in another site, Figuier. In 1883 Francois Daleau
excavated engravings on a wall in Pair-non-Pair that had been covered by Ice Age sediments.
In 1895, a bison engraving was discovered in the French cave La Mouthe, and Emile Riviere,
who had actually seen the Altamira paintings, found more rock art in La Mouthe, and four
years later a Paleolithic lamp. The evidence in favor of Paleolithic rock art mounted. In
1897 Cartailhac still refused to publish the note of a new discovery of cave art, but in 1902
he published his famous "Mea culpa d'un sceptique," in which he grudgingly accepted that
he had been monumentally wrong.
The Discovery of Homo Erectus

During the last decade of the 19th century, another of
the greatest discoveries of Pleistocene archaeology was
just in the making. Eugene Dubois (1858-1941) was a
Dutch physician who had been bitten by the
archaeology bug as a young man (Figure 4). Haeckel,
who had supported the initial iden tification of
Neanderthal man, predicted the existence of a "missing
link" on the fossil record, a creature that would be an
intermediate form between extinct apes and human
beings. He had given it the name Pithecanthropus in 1886,
and in the absence of any fossil find s at the time, had
sketched out what such a creature might look like. In
1870 Haeckel had lectured in Holland, and Dubois set
out quite deliberately to find the remains of
Pithecanthropus, deciding that the region of today's
Figure 4: Eugene Dubois.
Indonesia was the right place to look for them. Bearing
in mind the almost complete lack of knowledge about
hominin evolution at the time in question, this was certainly a most audacious plan-and
not one likely to succeed too readily. A passage in a book by the British naturalist Alfred
Russell Wallace, who mentioned South-east Asian caves and apes in connection with the
origins of humans, was Dubois' main clue, apart from the reasoning of both Wallace and
Darwin that these origins were to be found in the tropics.
He signed up as military physician to go to Sumatra in 1879, specifically intending to
look for the "missing link." His investigations of caves in Sumatra led to no exciting finds,
however, and after twO years, following a bout of Malaria, he was transferred to the drier

20

THE FIRST MARINERS

Java. Here he secured limited support from the colonial administration~ and the use of
convict labor for major excavations. He began to dig at several sites, finding the sedll11ents
rich in fossils. In 1891, while excavating on the Solo River, he recovered first a tooth, then
a cranium, which he judged to be of a large, human-li ke ape. In the following year, a
thighbone was found, clearly of an upright walking primate, and a second molar. I n 1893
Dubois claimed to have found an apelike hominin at Trinil, on the basis of these four
speclmens.
Even the telegraphed reports preceding Dubois' return to Holland created controversy,
and it was claimed he had combined a human femur with the cranium and teeth of an ape.
One member of the Dutch Zoological Society asked, if we were to continue searching at
the Trinil site and found a second left femur, would that indicate that Pithecanthropus had
rwo left legs? Or that he had two different heads, if a human skull were found another 15 m
further? Dubois had no idea what awaited him, and when a few weeks after his arrival he
addressed a congress in Leiden, the assembled experts soon began to form opposing camps.
Interestingly enough, these were largely divided along national lines, for instance, most
Germans saw the creature as an ape with some human features, the British as a human \\~th
some simian features, while the Americans shared Dubois' view.
Over the following years, this debate raged without any agreement in sight. In 1928
Dubois recorded wryly that no less than fifteen different interpretations of his fossil finds
had been proposed by as many scholars. He made great efforts to contribute to resolving
the controversy, traveling widely, and learning the skills of a dentist, a photographer and a
sculptor, creating a life-size statue of his beloved Pithecallthropus. He invented a special "stereoorthoscopic" camera, capable of taking photographs of fossils from all sides without
distortion . But all his endeav rs seemed to be doomed, which he found increasingly
exasperating. The escalation of the controversy, the rejection of his views and the continuing
sniping about the circumstances of the recovery and his status as an amateur were hard to
bear, and personally hurtful for him. Instead of finding recognition for his incredible success,
he found himself in the middle of a controversy he had not wanted, and which overshadowed
his achievement completely. As a result of his personal hurt he became increasingly reclusive,
and finally he-who had gone to extreme lengths to promote understanding of his finds,
and carried them around with him in a suitcase for years to show to any researcher who
might be interested-refused to receive any further scholars. In fact he is reputed to have
hidden the fossils under the floorboards of his house. So deeply was he hurt that for thirty
years he turned his back on the scholars. Opponents of evolution rejoiced, saying that this
was attributable to 1115 remorse, for the cardinal sin of having aided and abetted such a
sacrilegious teaching with his Pithecallthropl/s.

INTRODUCTION

21

Aged 74 he relented at last and invited several prominent scholars to see him. A new
generation had taken over in the discipline, whose methods and ideas were somewhat more
sophisticated, and who were no longer concerned about the issues that had dominated
Dubois' thinking. The Javan fossils were now attributed to Homo eree/lls, of whom numerous
specimens had in the meantime been discovered on a hill at Zhoukoudian near Beijing. At
80, Dubois was visited by Franz Weidenreich (whom we will meet again later), who was to
become the most significant paleoanthropologist in the discipline's history. Weidenreich's
most important teaching has to this day been completely misunderstood by practically all
Anglophone specialists, in what could fairly be described as the "paleoanthropological
misunderstanding of the century." As a result, d,e multiregional hypothesis of hominin
origin s, which emerged some years later, has now been disparaged for several decades. The
issue of the "missing link" was no longer so pressing, after all, that link had been discovered
in England, at Piltdown (which was a fake). In fact even a kind of "missing link" that was
J10t afake had been discovered by that time, in South Africa. The only problem wid, that was
that nobody even took any notice of it.

The Discovery of Australopithecus
Piltdown is certainly not the only fake in archaeology, there are millions of fakes; nor is it
even a particularly elaborate fake. It is just the most "celebrated" of all archaeological fakes.
Oh yes, dl ere are probably more archaeological fakes around than there are fakes of great
art works. \Vho le industries of creating fake artifacts exist, particularly in northern Africa,
sou thwe stern Asia and the And ean countries. And, quite possibly, the majority of
archaeological fakes remain undiscovered.
What distinguishes Pil tdown is the very public way in which it exposed some of the
weaknesses of the discipline. It began with the discovery of nine cranial fragments and a
lower right mandible with two molars in a Sussex gravel pit in D ecember 1912. But while
the brain case was clearly human, the jawbone was decidedly simian. Here was a classical
"missing link" specimen, and best of all, it came from d,e most deserving place on earth,
E ngland. Although it must be said that dlere were skeptical voices right from dle start, tbey
were easily drowned out by tbe believers, and the question for dle crad le of humanity seemed
solved at last. It took 41 years to expose tbe fraud by scientific tests in the 1950s, which is
truly amazing. After all, the forgery was so crude that it can hardly be called that, and
almost certainly was a hoax radler than a fraudulent attempt to mislead science. This is
emphasized by the later planting of more "fmds," including a bone shaped into a cricket
bat, clearly intended to show d,e discerning observer dlat this was simply a prank by a
person wid, a great sense of humor-who, however, wished to remain anonymous. The

22

THE FIRST MARINERS

preferred explanation identifies Martin A. C. Hinton as the joker, who had an old grudge
against one of the principal "discoverers." One cannot help but feel sympathy for Hinton,
who had probably set out to expose and humiliate a pompous superior whom he
considered incompetent, only to discover that none of the people he hoped would expose
his superior had the competence to see through the joke. The prankster completely
overe timated the proficiency of the discipline. Instead of exposing the intended victim,
the exasperated Hinton apparently succeeded in exposing the gullibiliry of academe. It
remains to be explained how the world's experts of human anatomy could have been
fooled by this crude fraud that was probablY meant to be exposed. The filing traces where the
bones had to be trimmed to fit together were still visible to the naked eye, and the artificial
patination of the bones to give them a brown color was unconvincing. Moreover, the
various finds were such an incongruous, ill-fitting collection that it needs to be asked
why it took to 1953 to expose the prank.
Be that as it may, the Piltdown affair
had a considerable effect on the discipline,
particularly in the rejection of evidence
that would tend to contradict Piltdown.
Even evidence that might detract from the
importance of "Piltdown Man" was
unwelcome for several decades. So when
in 1924 a young, Australian-born
anatomist
In
South
Africa
(Figure 5) reported finding skeletal
remains of a creature that seemed about
half-way between ape and human, his
report was greeted with sco rn and
contempt. Having in the previous decade
discovered that humans had evolved in
England, European and especially British
Figure 5: Raymond Arthur Dart.
archaeologists and physical anthropologists
were. in no mood to seriously consider such a competing counter claim "from the colonies."
The mfant specimen from Taung, in Bophuthatswana, consisted of a brain cast and the facial
bones of a creature Raymond Arthur Dart (1893-1988) named Allstralopithems africallJlS, the
southern ape of fnca. He had found them in two crates of fossil bones from a limestone
quarry. The Taung child had distinctive human-like features, and yet the experts of the time
relegated It to the status of a new fossil ape. After all, PiItdown made it perfectly clear that the

INTRODUCTION

23

brain evolved before the rest of the skull did, and only after it matched that of modem
humans did the remaining bone structure develop in this direction. On that basis Austrolopzthecus,
despite its rather human-like dentition, still had to be an ape.
During the 1920s, tons of Australopithectls bones were quarried at another South African
site, Makapansgat, and calcinated to make lime powder. A local naturalist named Eitzman
tried desperately to interest a paleontologist in the study of the incredible wealth of fossils
in this former cave's fill material. He made limited observations the best he could, and
reported seeing an apparently complete skeleton of Allstrolopithecus before it was thrown
into a kiln. All his endeavors to interest anyone in this site were in vain, and when he
showed the Makapansgat jasper cobble to Dart,
who was himself disappointed by the reception
Atlstrolopithecus had received, Dart showed no
interest. This stone is now regarded as the
earliest evidence ever recovered that suggests the
emergi ng capacity to perceive figurative
properties in a natural form, which is called
pareidolia (Figure 6). This important piece of
evidence was not properly studied and analyzed
for 72 years Q.e. until I did so in 1997). Indeed,
many aspects of the discovery of AIIStrolopithectls
indicate an incredible scientific apathy.
A medical doctor, Robert Broom, found
further specimens of this very early, humanlike creature in the 1930s and 1940s, and by
the middle of the century it was becoming
5cm
glaringly apparent that Piltdown had to be a
fake. It was also becoming clear that its
Figure 6: The Makapansgat manuport, 2.5 to 3
acceptance by the experts had retarded the
million years old.
study of human origins for four decades, and
that there was more than one species of AtistrolopitheclIs. Today we distinguish half a dozen
of them, and we think that the australopithecines persisted for several million years in
Africa. Fortunately for D art, he was a young man when he discovered them, and he survived
the time of the eventual acceptance of his find by many years. He had not been victimized,
his reputation was not torn to shreds, he had merely been ignored. As Boucher de Perthes
had observed a century earlier, "they did not discuss my facts, they did not even take the
trouble to deny them. They disregarded them."

24

THE FIRST MARINERS

Modern Heretics in Archaeology

The above are only some of the more prominent examples of archaeological autodidacts
who were rejected by ''The Discipline;" there are hundreds of others who have suffered
similar fates. Lawyer Edouard Piette (1827-1906) comes to mind, for instance; he pioneered
excavation tech nique and discovered a cultural tradition called the Azilian. His experiences
have been said to closely resemble mine. One might ask: is there a decrease in the severity
of the treatment mainstream archaeology has meted out to heretics as we consider more
recent, and supposedly more enlightened times? However, as we approach the second half
of the 20th century, I need to be more circumspect and remember that many practitioners
are both still alive (even if brain-dead, to borrow from archaeologist Paul Bahn) and rather
litigious. I evertheless, there are cases that have already been judged by public enquiry, such
as the case of David Rindos at the Archaeology Department of the University of Western
Australia. I t was resolved in 1997, with his premature death during a parliamentary enquiry
during which he sought to recover his academic reputation and hi s job, having been sacked
for reporting that his department was thoroughly corrupt and mismanaged, rife with
complaints of sexual harassment ftom (male) students, that administrative procedures were
flouted, and that the lucrative archaeological consultancies industry of Western Australia
was run by it. There were deep divi sions, general low morale, serious allegations of
"inequitable behavior" within the department, and the professor was accused of "academic
thuggery." After the victi mization and destruction of Rindos, the department was closed
and its head " retired." 1 know of many similar horror stories from various countries but
most cannot be related here due to legal constraints. In short, archaeology remains today
just as vicious as ever in guarding its political interests and power base.
One of the most glaring recent examples of the academic maltreatment of an autodidact
in Pleistocene archaeology is that of i\lexander Marshack (191 8-2004), an American writer
who, when aged arou nd fifty, was assigned to write about Paleolithic art in Europe
(Figure 7). l-lis archaeological knowledge at the time was negligible, but as a very original
thinker he soon noticed that this body of evidence was studied by antiquated methods and
in surprisingly unscientific ways. For instance, he developed a strong interest in the work
ptocesses involved in engraved markings on decorated portable plaques, after realiz ing that
they could tell us a great deal about the circumstances of these productions. ntil the 1970s,
archaeologists had made no consistent use of microscopy in the study of archaeological
work traces. The only exceptions were in Russia where S. A. Semenov had develo ped the
ffilCroSCOPIC study of used stone tool edges in determining what Upper Paleolithic artifacts
had been used for. J\1ars?,ack introduced ~is kind of technology to the study of portable
art objects and called It Internal analYSIS. For the next thirty years he produced a large

INTRODUCTION

25

series of exceptionally scholarly publications,
explaining in painstaking detail how he
deduced certain circumstances of the
manufacture of early markings from optical
microscopy. While it is true that all scientific
evidence is presented for the purpose of
review, and indeed, for falsification, it is
equally true that Marshack's work was
subjected to far more critical attention than
that of comparable work by a professional
archaeologist. Yet no significant part of his
hypotheses was ever falsified, and particularly
Francesco d'Errico, who had embarked on
a sustained campaign to test Marshack's
findings, ended up agreeing with them
substantia ll y. Still, acceptance of these
findings by the mainstream discipline was
Figure 7: Alexander Marshack.
always grudging, and farshack remained an outsider and was not accorded any formal
recognition. This was not because his scholarship was in question, rather the reverse. His
mistake was his scholarly and restrained tone of discourse, and that he sought to address
the academics rather than the public. Nothing he could do and nothing he could present
would ever change their attitudes to him, which were not governed by the merits of his
work, but entirely by his Status as an amateur. His work and his findings are revolutionary
for archaeology, and if they had come from an establishment archaeologist they would be
valued and very weU received. Coming from a member of the archaeologically most despised
group, the archaeological amateurs, they just had to be greeted with disdain, and ways had to
be found to disprove them. A fter all, professional archaeologists were not in the business of
accepting corrections by mere ama teurs.
Dogged by Dogma

Institutionalized archaeology is not some idealistic search for the truth about what happened
in the human past, it is a ruthless oligarchy whose perceived territOry it can and does defend
viciously. The enthusiasm many people experience for archaeology has cost them dearly,
including in the second half of the 20th century. This period began with the introduction
of radiocarbon dating, which shook the very foundations of archaeology because the
chronological structures that had been built, often as mere houses of cards, began to be

26

THE FIRST MARINERS

tested by scientific data. Many archaeologists objected to this vigorously, just as in recent
years some archaeologists have vocally objected to attempts to estimate the ages of rock art
by scientific means. This is well illustrated by the C6a controversy, which is in part concerned
with the perception of some archaeologists that scientists "are trying to take over
archaeology." This is a rather odd argument when we consider that rock art is not even an
archaeological resource until its age is known. Without at least an idea of which archaeological
period the art might belong to, there is absolutely nothing useful any archaeologist can
possibly do with rock art. Archaeology, for better or for worse, is entirely dependent on a
chronological framework, yet archaeologists have consistently shown that they are incapable
of estimating the ages of rock art. But when in the 1980s scientists set about to heIp them
with this, many archaeologists become as defensive as their colleagues who during the 1950s
had suffered from acute radiocarbon-phobia.
The reason for this extreme sensitivity is that the introduction of scientific methods in
an unscientific pursuit, such as traditional archaeology or religion, is likely to produce at
least some results that clash significantly with established dogma. But dogma provides security,
stability, and its challenge involves loss of reputation, upheaval. It is not desirable for the
discipline, which is not only an abstract academic entity, but also a vast power hierarchy
lording over some 100,000 professional archaeologists worldwide-not to mention billions
of dollars worth of infrastructure and funding. Its public reputation is based on just one
singular factor: on the public perception of archaeologists being usually right. Being shown
to have been substantially wrong is simply not a realistic option for such an establishment.
In this light archaeology looks decidedly like a belief system whose influence depends
on not being contradicted. Veracity of archaeological models is not the first priority, because
if being corrected is perceived to involve any damage to professional crerlibility then it is
unacceptable. The preservation of a false model is therefore preferable to the effects its
exposure would have on its prestige, at least in the short term . It can deal with gradual
correction, taking some decades to implement, but not with sudden upheaval.
Therein lies the problem. The scope of the corrections I have in mind for archaeology
i greatly beyond what the discipline could conceivably absorb in the short term.
It seems fairly self-evident to me, and I hope to be able to demonstrate in this book,
that my demands of reform in archaeology are justified and valid, but I don't really have the
patience to wait for decades. I want these corrections implemented now, I demand a rarlical
pararligm shift in the rliscipline, something it has never before experienced. But what I
demand is almost impossible to achieve. It would mean that the textbooks have to be rewritten, that the rliscipline has to be re-invented. The established structures would never
withstand such a hock.

INTRODUCTION

27

This is where it is useful to recall the experiences of earlier heretics in archaeology. It is
clear that those who relied on the perceived "self-correction" of the discipline were badly
mistaken, and that those who did not oppose the establishment effectively went under-in
fact we probably never heard about most of them. After all, the only ones we can expect to
know about historically are those who managed to raise enough of a ruckus at the time. But
there is another factor that emerges from a study of the above case histories. Those
iconoclasts who had some limited success within a reasonable time did not restrict themselves
to addressing the academic discipline; they deliberately sought to disseminate their ideas
directly to the interested sector of the public. They wrote books intended for the interested
public, and it was through pressure from their readers that the ivory tower dwellers of
academia changed their spots. Darwin addressed the public, and even though he was an
amateur par excellence, academics were restrained in their critique of him. Academics may
appear to be aloof in so many ways, but they do know who underwrites their comfortable
life style. Archaeology, in particular, remains an institutionalized hobby, it has never been
anything else, and archaeologists, who produce nothing of economic worth, are well aware
that their hobby is financed by the public. So if an amateur such as Darwin (or Louis Leakey,
or whoever) had the ear of the public, tl1e academics also paid heed to him. This is amply
evident from the treatment of those who secured the public'S attention. Dubois, de Sautuola
and FulUrott, who tried so hard to address academia, wasted their breath by comparison. This
is particularly obvious with Marshack, who made superhuman efforts to show academia that
he had a good case, but being a scholar and a gentleman won him no recognition. Boucher de
Perthes, by contrast, went public, no doubt he recognized the issue of transparency.
I certainly have. For thirty years I wrote purely for the academics, reporting data,
presenting hypotheses, berating my tenured "colleagues." Many have admitted ptivately that
the theoretical base of my alternative archaeology is superior to what we have in place, but
that the discipline simply was not ready for this. As I looked more closely at the history of
the discipline, I began to understand that in archaeology, history really does repeat itself.
Learning from the mistakes of Marshack and his predecessors, I recognized several key
issues in the 1990s. For instance, a chance meeting ,vith a brilliant South African archaeologist
who had turned his back on the academic discipline exposed for me the weak underbelly of
that discipline. Professor ReviJ Mason, a rebel of archaeology if ever there was one, showed
me a litany of published studies demonstrating that the discipline is to some degree run by
people with severe personality defects, and he explained to me tl,at it is often the greatest
scoundrels who rise to the highest positions.
The C6a (portugal) furor of 1995 completed my conversion from unconditional devotee
of archaeology to an opponent of its institutional and corporate power structure. Of

28

THE FIRST MARINERS

particular concern to me was the involvement of professional archaeologists in many parts
of the world in the vandalism and destruction of rock art, especially as agents of the state
or of almighty resources companies. I found that if the dogma has precedence over veracity,
simply to protect the reputation of celebrated scholars, then the discipline is worthless as a
scientific force. Its purpose was then not an idealistic pursuit of knowledge, which I had
naively assumed to be the sole purpose of the exercise, but the protection of the discipline's
status and influence, which was perceived to depend on its ability to repel any challenges.
But I also realized that one of the most debilitating characteristics of archaeology was its
epistemological shallowness. As mentioned above, the Pleistocene cave art was consistently
rejected by archaeology because it was ignorant of the fact that this corpus had been known
for centuries, even as far back as Roman times. The rock art of the lower Coa valley was
"discovered" by archaeologists in 1994, but in fact its existence had been known by the
local people since its creation, and Jose Silverio de Campos Henriques Salgado de Andrade
mentioned it in a book to which he contributed a chapter, published in 1940. The locals at
the nearby petroglyph site Siega Verde even knew who made them in the early 20th century,
yet the archaeologists, who "discovered" them in 1991, universally placed them in the Upper
Paleolithic. This habit of ignoring existing knowledge about archaeology runs like a red
thread though the discipline, I could list thousands of examples of it.
By 1995 I departed quite deliberately from my previous, purely scholarly course, now
thinking about how to present my work to the public. Many of my projects since then were
intentionally targeted to affect public perception-how to project ideas in such a way that
the public might find them interesting. I believe this is a good strategy, and that it will
prevent me from becoming a misanthrope like Dubois, from curling up and dying like de
Sautuola and from disappearing into oblivion like Fuhlrott. I find that lowe it to my beloved
discipline, archaeology, to take its sometimes intellectually pathological and academically
corrupt illuminati to task.

CHAPTER -

2

THE DOMESTICATION OF EVE AND ADAM

The Pleistocene, also known as the "Ice Ages," is the geological period during which the
crucial stages of human evolution occurred, beginning about 1.7 million years ago and
ending 10,500 years (10.5 ka) ago. Hominins-pre-human primates that are either precursors
of the genus H OII/o, or may have been so-first evolved during the preceding Pliocene
period, which lasted from 5.2 to 1.7 million years ago. Earlier contenders such as Sohelonthruplls
tchodeflSis are even 7 million years old, but the Pliocene is the period during which the
australopithecines flourished in Africa. They occurred in several forms, at least one of
which is by some thought to be a human ancestor. By about 3.5 million years ago,
KeI!yonthroplls ploryops, currently the earliest species thought to be directly ancestral to the
human line, appeared in east Africa.
Up until recent years, paleoanthropologists distinguished between the subfamilies of
Hominoids, which were humans and their ancestors, and Anthropoids. The latter
comprised chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutan, according to the old Linnean taxonomy.
However, molecular D A studies have shown that humans, chimpanzees and gorillas
are genetically closer to each other than each of them is to orangutans. Therefore we
now distinguish the subfamilies Pongidae (orangutans) and Homininae (humans, their
ancestors, chimpanzees and gorillas). The latter were then divided into Hominini (humans
and their ancestOrs), Panini (chimpanzees and bonobos) and Gorillini (gorillas). Therefore
a hOll/inin is a creature agreed to be either human or a potential human ancestor, such as
the various species of Homo, AlIStrO/opitheclIs, PoronthroplIs or Ardipitbems. In the past, these
were subsumed under the name "horninids," which now refers to what used to be known
as "hominoids," i.e. those early species that seemed to be broadly related to the human
line.

30

THE FIRST MARINERS

African Beginnings
1n recent decades, a strong case has been mad e lor
e horruruns
.. to have initially evolved

exclusively in Africa. The issue, however, needs to be regarded as unresolved, because the
amount of research conducted in Asia since the mid-20th century has been lOadequate by
comparison to the focus on Africa, especially eastern Africa. Prior to .the 1950s, ASIa shared
with Africa the status of potential theatre of initial human evolution. While ASIan prePliocene primates such as Ramapithecus are no longer considered contenders as honurun
ancestors, we need to be aware that there remain large gaps in our knowledge of human
evolution. The available record is greatly biased, in terms of both preservation and relative
research efforts. Hominin and other fossils are only found in those regions where geolOgIcal
or other preservarion conrlitions favored their survival, and they are only found where we
look for them. Recent rliscoveries in Asia, such as the remains of tiny humans on the
Indonesian island of Flores and the Micronesian island Palau, or the flOds in Denisova
Cave in Siberia and the eight human teeth in Qesem Cave, Israel, have shown that we have
a g reat deal still to learn about hominin evolution, especially in Asia. Finds from two Chinese
sites, in Renzi Cave, Anhui Province, and in the Nihewan basin, imply that stone tools there
may be as old as 1.77 to 2.25 million years. If these dates were correct, the origins of the
earliest undisputed human ancestor, Homo erectus, would remain unresolved: he may have
originated in either or both continents, Africa and Asia.
While the African record would seem to favor an initial emergence of the horninin line
in that continent, even in Africa the course of human evolution is far from clear. For instance,
the earliest species named there that seems to be ancestral to humans is SahelaflthroplIs tchadellSis,
a species from Chad with a braincase resembling that of a chimpanzee, but with more
human-like teeth and a strongly developed brow ridge, a creature thought to have walked
upright. If this is a human ancestor, it questions the evolutionary role of the later
australopithecines. Orronll Illgenellsis from Kenya, at about 6 million years, is a million years
more recent, and also challenges the Status of the australopithecines as contenders of human
ancestry. Orronfl was clearly bipedal and had a mixed rliet that included meat, but acceptance
of its hominin status also contrarlicts the so-called "molecular clock" prediction that humans
and chimpanzees split about 5 million years ago. The position of the current two Ardipithecus
species, Ardipilhecus ralll/dus and Ardipithectls kadabba, also remains controversial. They lived
about 4.4 million years ago, like the precerling species in forests rather than savannas, and
since they also walked upright this seems to contrarlict the hypothesis that bipedalism is a
response .to reduction of Woodlands. A revolutionary view of the origins of bipedalism is
that It denves from tile neotenization of humans rather than environmental causes. Moreover,
there is rlisagreement over whether ArdipitheClis is on the human or chimpanzee side after
the split, which does not encourage much confidence in these various pronouncements.

THE DOMESTICATION OF EVE AND ADAM

31

The gracile australopithecines commence about 4.2 rniIlion years ago. With a brain little
more than a third the size of a modern human, they were certainly bipedal, as especially the
Laetoli tracks amply demonstrate, but they remained rather chimpanzee-like creatures. It is
unlikely that they possessed complex verbal communication. The Makapansgat cobble, found
among their remains in the filling of a dolomite cave in South Africa (Figure 6), may perhaps
not have been deposited by them, but by a contemporary human such as KCI!yol1thropJls
plotyops. The australopithecines are represented by several species, AJlsfrolopitheCJIs OI1OIJle!1sis
(4.2-3.9 rniIlion years ago), A. oforemis (3.6--2.9 mya), A. afriCOIIJlS (3-2 mya), A. bohrelghozoli
and A. gorhi (c. 2.5 mya). The latter species has been found together with stone tools and
butchered animal remains and has been suggested to link australopithecines to the hominin
line. In view of the common use of tools by modern chimpanzees there can be little doubt
that tool use was increasing during the long reign of the australopithecines. A particularly
interesting aspect of the gracile australopithecines is that they apparently evolved into the
robust forms, now subsumed under the genus Porol1thropllS. They were more muscular and
their skeletal remains are somewhat larger and more robust, and they developed alongside
human species, beginning about fWO million years ago, in the very last part of the Pliocene
period. There is again much disagreement concerning the status of the genus; some
researchers see it as too primitive to compete with the contemporary Homo species, but it
has also been shown to have used Oldowan-type stone tools, and one species, Porol1throplIs
robllStllS, is credited with using both advanced tools and fire at Swartkrans, South Africa.
Interestingly, this has been explained away as being evidence of imitation of human behavior,
an unlikely explanation that we will encounter again towards the end of the human ascent.
The two other PorollthroplIs species currently distinguished are P boisei (2.3-1.4 mya) and P
aethiopiClis. (2.7-2.3 mya). Much ink has been spilt over the introduction of the controlled
use of fIre, and again much of this debate has been unnecessary and uninformed. The
currently earliest such evidence consists of a large hearth deep in Wonderwerk Cave, South
Africa, around 1.7 rniIlion years old, which I helped Peter Beaumont, its discoverer (yet
another non-archaeologist), to excavate (Figure 8).
Kef!yoll/hrop"s platyops lived about 3.5 to 3.3 million years ago and has been proposed by
some to be human, perhaps ancestral to HOfflO hobilis. Others prefer to include K platyops
with the australopithecines, suggesting that the species is not distinctive enough to warrant
having its own genus. On tl1e other hand, some prefer to group HOlllo mdo/femis \vith this
genus, calling it Kef!yoll/hrop"s mdo/fel1sis.
The fully human species that existed alongside australopithecines and then later coincided
with Paroll/hrop"s were Homo habilis, H. mdo/fellsis and H. ergos/er. H. mdo/fel1sis dates from
about 2.5 to 1.9 rniIlion years ago, and the roughly contemporary H. habilis lived 2.3 to 1.6

32

THE FIRST MARINERS

Figure 8: Currently earliest hearth in the world: in Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa,

1.7 million years old.

million years ago. umerous stone tools of the Oldowan tradition have been found with
the latter's temains, and were probably also used by the former. Some researchers consider
them a single species, but it is more widely thought that they were too different. There is
much unresolved speculation about which of the rwo, if any, was the ancestor of the
subsequent hOminins, but H. mdolfellsis seems more developed. The H. habilis brain of 650
cm I volume was considerably larger than the average AlIstra!opitheCIIs brain, and the brain
shape was more human-like. In one of its endocasts (brain-casts), the bulge of Broca's area,
related to the motor control of speech, is visible, suggesting that the species may have been
capable of some verbal communication. That may be confirmed by the find of an
australopithecine infant's hyoid bone (essential for speech) at Dikika in 2006. The brain size
of H. rudOIfeIlSis, with an average cranial capacity of 750 cm ' (the modern average is 1350
cm', ranging from 900 to 1880 cm ', that of australopithecines ranges from 400 to 545
cm) , considerably exceeds that of H. habilis. H. mdolfellsis brains show a pattern that may be
related to handedness and tool-use or manufacture. The degree of cranial asymmetry also
appear to increase in later hominins. The endocast of the type specimen of H. mdolfellsis,
M-ER 1470, shows a somewhat more complex and modern-human_like third inferior
frontal Convolution compared with those of pongids. This is one of the few Sources of

'.

.

~

THE DOMESTICATION OF EVE AND ADAM

33

information we have of the evolutionary reorganization of the brain, because the area it
concerns includes Broca's area. Unfortunately, later hominin endocasts, from H . babilis and
H . erectlls through archaic H. sapiel1S to the present, seldom show the sulcal and gyral patterns
faithfully. With regard to brain reorganization, left-right cerebral hemispheric asymmetries
exist in extant pongids and the australopithecines, but neither the pattern nor direction is as
strongly developed as in modern or fossil humans.
Sexual climorphism, the strong clifferences of the sexes apparent in the early hominins,
reduced gradually with the australopithecines, and by the time of HOflloergaster(cranial volume
848 to 908 cm') had largely clisappeared. This species existed between 1.9 and 1.2 million
years ago and it heralds significant changes, such as the production of typologically clistinctive
stone tools, most importantly bifaces (the famous hand axes). It is also the first that can be
shown conclusively to have existed outside Africa, although the matter of possible previous
human colonizers in Asia remains open.
The Asian lacunae

.~

In particular, several human remains from Dmanisi, Georgia, which are referred to as H omo
georgictls, 1.7 million years old and with a brain ranging from 600 to 780 cm' , seem to be
closer to H. babilis than to H. ergaster. lore importantly, the stone tools at Dmanisi are of
the Oldowan cobble tool type, not of the Acheulian associated with H. ergaster. Moreover,
the very much more recen t H. jloresiellsis remains from I ndonesia have also been claimed to
show affinity with the Dmanisi remains, although this remains a controversial "species."
The earliest supposedly hominin remains we have currently from sia are the late Pliocene
manclibular fragment with two teeth and a single maxillary incisor from the Longgupo
Cave site in China. Thought to be between 1.96 and 1.78 million years old and found \vith
two stone tools, this also questions the sole African development of early humans.
Homo ereettls appears around 1.8 million years ago with a brain capacity of about 850
cm' , but its late representatives, in the order of 500 ka (500,000 years) old or perhaps even
more recent, ranged from 1100 to 1250 cm', i.e. well \vithin the range of modern humans.
The increase occurs without any apparent change in body size, H. erecttls is roughly of
modern height. The species' fossils occur widely in Africa and Asia (at 15 sites in China
alone), but European claims of its occurrence are rejected by many scholars.
D espite a considerable number of hominin fossils from the Midclle Pleistocene, the
subsequent evolutionary history of humans in Asia defining the gracling of H. erechls into
archaic H omo sapiC/ls remains unclear. Chinese fossils of early archaic H. sapiells of erectoid
features are those from Xujiayao, Dingcun, Yunxia, Yenshan and the D ali cranium which is
already of tl1e early Late Pleistocene, but still of very robust features. The maxilla from

34

THE FIRST MARINERS

Wanlongdong at Changyang is of similar age, and is similarly archaic. The picture becomes
even more confusing when we consider the only two Indian finds, of the last part of the
Middle Pleistocene and found with a rich assemblage of Acheulian tools. The Hathnora
calotte from the Narmada valley was initially described as a late H. ereetlls, and while its thick
torus, postorbital constriction and bone thickness do suggest this, the vault is far too well
rounded and of exceptional size (Figure 9). At approximately 1300 cm3 it is not only above
the range of H. erectlls, it is even high for a H. sapiens, since it is thought to be of a female in
her thirties. Only the right half of the cranium, with zygomatic arch, right torus and right
part of occipital are intact. The second Indian specimen, from the same site and stratum,
but from another individual and perhaps another species, is an adult clavicle that suggests a
body size of little over a meter. Combined with the recently discovered dwarf populations
from Flores and Palau, this serves to underline the extremely fragmentary nature of our
evidence of hominin evolution in Asia. This is particularly unfortunate because the current
cultural evidence suggests that some of the major developments in non-physical human
evolution occurred in southern Asia. Certainly the large number of finds in Africa and
eastern Asia, beginning with the late Pliocene, demand that southern Asia must have been
occupied for at least two million years. The recent discovery of stratified Olduwan cobble
tool industries, particularly in the basal layer of Daraki-Chattan, central India, adds a

Narmada,
India
Figure 9: The Hathnora calotte from Narmada valley, central India.

THE DOMESTICATION OF EVE AND ADAM

35

tantalizing note to this scenario (see Chapter 3). The most parsimonious interpretation of
the data as it stands appears to be that pre-H. eree/tlS horninins were established in both
southern and eastern Asia.
Further east, again in Java, there is a second group of very robust hominins, from the
much younger High Solo Gravels. At the main site, 19andong, fourteen partial or complete
crania and other remains have been found since 1931, variously described as H. eree/lls s%el1sis
or as archaic H. sapiells. A set of electron spin resonance and uranium-series dates for these
deposits (from animal teeth) suggest ages ranging from 53 to 27 ka, but these are
controversial. An age of about 300 ka, obtained directly from human remains is much
more realistic. Whatever the case, these finds are more properly assigned to robust H. sapiens.
One of the most challenging horninin finds is the recently discovered Homo jloresimsis,
thought by most to be an endemic species of one Indonesian island, Flores. This is a dwarf
form, little more than one meter tall, with a cranial volume of only 380 em' . It lived there in
the second half of the Late Pleistocene, up to 13 ka ago, and stone tools found with it
appear to be of Upper Paleolithic technology. I had established before its discovery tint H.
ereetlls had reached Flores before the Middle Pleistocene (i.e. before 780 ka ago), and
subsequently also colonized Timor. This incredible feat of seafaring was almost certainly
accomplished by bamboo raft, as I will try to demonstrate later in this book. Dwarfing of
large mammalian species is a very common process among isolated island populati ns, and
this renders it possible that H. jloresiensis developed locally over a period exceeding 700 ka.
However, the issue remains highly controversial, and there are potential alternative scenarios.
It has been suggested that the Flores dwarfs, dubbed "Hobbits," resemble Homo georgjclls
more than another known hominin, while others insist that they are simply a microcephalic
population, or even that they are apes. But in view of one other known Asian dwarf of the
Pleistocene, one of the two Narmada specimens, it seems more likely that there are far too
many lacunae in our knowledge and understanding of human evolution in Asia to explain
the issue at this stage. We cannot even be sure that Asia was initially settled in the late
Pliocene from Africa, perhaps it played a greater role than currently believed. This possibility
is highlighted not only by the inadequate state of our knowledge; there are controversial
claims for several earlier Asian stone tool assemblages. An objective review shows
unambiguously that there are toO many pieces of the puzzle missing at present. If we could
re-focus our attention on Asia for the next century, the picture might