Suppressed evidence of human antiquity

Description: 1993 saw the publication of a scholarly and controversial 900-page work Forbidden Archeology, coauthored by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson.1 It presents abundant evidence – in the form of stone tools, incised bones, and skeletal remains – suggesting that humans of the modern type existed in the Pliocene, the Miocene, and even in early Tertiary times, millions of years before our supposed apelike ancestors are thought to have appeared. Most of this evidence was discovered by reputable scientists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the modern truncated timescale of human evolution became firmly established. Cremo and Thompson write:

These discoveries are not well known, having been forgotten by science over the course of many decades or in many cases eliminated by a biased process of knowledge filtration. The result is that modern students of paleoanthropology are not in possession of the complete range of scientific evidence concerning human origins and antiquity. Rather most people, including professional scientists, are exposed to only a carefully edited selection of evidence supporting the currently accepted theory that protohuman hominids evolved from apelike predecessors in Africa during the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene, and that modern humans subsequently evolved from the protohuman hominids in the Late Pleistocene, in Africa or elsewhere.2

The authors also scrutinize more recent fossil finds, and show how theoretical preconceptions still govern the acceptance or rejection of evidence and the way it is interpreted. They conclude that various types of humanlike and apelike beings have coexisted for tens of millions of years into the past.

The scientific establishment responded angrily to Cremo and Thompson’s challenge to their deeply held beliefs. Richard Leakey called their book ‘pure humbug’. The American Journal of Physical Anthropology labelled it ‘Hindu-oid creationist drivel’, ‘goofy popular anthropology’, ‘a veritable cornucopia of dreck’.3 The authors openly state their affiliation to the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and many critics attacked the book on the grounds that its authors’ beliefs precluded unbiased handling of the subject mater. This is unjust, as all authors – including darwinists – have a philosophical stance which might affect their objectivity. All evidence and arguments must stand or fall on their own merits.

Responses from professional scientists were not entirely negative. Some mainstream scholars acknowledged the quality of the research that went into the book. David Heppell, of the Department of Natural History of the Royal Museum of Scotland, wrote: ‘A very comprehensive and scholarly compilation. ... Whether one accepts the evidence presented or not, it certainly looks as if there will no longer be any excuse for ignoring it.’4 There has been one book-length attempt by an orthodox darwinist to refute Forbidden Archeology, but it merely tries to pick holes in a handful of cases, leaving most of the evidence untouched.5

Much of the evidence presented by Cremo and Thompson came to light soon after Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. At that time, there had been no notable fossil finds except Neanderthal man, and there was no clearly established story of human descent to be defended. As a result, professional scientists reported many discoveries that nowadays would never make it into the pages of any respectable academic journal. Most of the ‘anomalous’ fossils and artifacts were unearthed before the discovery by Eugene Dubois of Java man in 1891/92. Dubois labelled Java man Pithecanthropus erectus, believing it to be intermediate between the apes and the genus Homo, but nowadays it is classed as Homo erectus.

Java Man was found in Middle Pleistocene deposits generally given an age of 800,000 years. The discovery became a benchmark. Henceforth, scientists would not expect to find fossils or artifacts of anatomically modern humans in deposits of equal or greater age. If they did, they (or someone wiser) concluded that this was impossible and found some way to discredit the find as a mistake, an illusion, or a hoax.6

In 1884 anthropologist Armand de Quatrefages wrote: ‘The objections made to the existence of man in the Pliocene and Miocene seem to habitually be more related to theoretical considerations than direct observation.’7 Alfred Wallace expressed dismay that evidence for anatomically modern humans existing in the Tertiary tended to be ‘attacked with all the weapons of doubt, accusation, and ridicule’.8 Of course, none of the hundreds of cases documented by Cremo and Thompson are necessarily valid. Most aroused controversy at the time. But the opposing arguments were not so overwhelming and conclusive as to justify the virtual absence of any serious consideration of this anomalous evidence in modern accounts of human evolution.

In the latter half of the 19th century, numerous scientists discovered incised and broken bones and shells indicating a human presence in the Pliocene, Miocene, and even earlier. Opponents suggested that the marks and breaks observed on the fossil bones were caused by the action of carnivores, sharks, or geological pressure, but supporters of the discoveries offered detailed counterarguments. Scientists also turned up large quantities of what they presumed to be stone tools and weapons. These discoveries were reported in well-established journals and were thoroughly discussed at scientific congresses, but today hardly anyone has heard of them. The current view is that the hominids of the Late and Middle Pliocene were very primitive australopithecines, who are generally regarded as incapable of making stone tools.

In 1881, a shell displaying a crude yet recognizably human face carved on its outer surface was found in the Late Pliocene Red Crag formation in England. It was dated at over 2 million years old, whereas according to standard views, humans capable of such artistry did not arrive in Europe until about 30 to 40 thousand years ago. In the early 20th century, geologist J. Reid Moir found rudimentary stone tools (eoliths) and more advanced stone tools (palaeoliths) in and beneath the Red Crag formation; they could be anything from 2 to 55 million years old. The finds won support from Henri Breuil, one of the most vocal critics of eoliths. In 1923 an international commission of scientists travelled to England to investigate Moir’s principal discoveries and pronounced them genuine.

From 1912 to 1914 Carlos Ameghino found a series of stone implements, including bolas (throwing balls), and signs of fire in Late Pliocene strata 3 to 5 million years old at Miramar, on the Argentine coast. He also found a stone arrowhead firmly embedded in the femur of a Pliocene species of Toxodon, an extinct mammal. In 1913 his coworker Lorenzo Parodi found a bola stone in a Pliocene cliff at Miramar. He left it in place and invited several scientists, including ethnographer Eric Boman, an ardent critic of the finds, to witness the implement’s extraction. A second stone ball was then found at the same location, followed by another implement 200 metres away. Confounded, Boman could only hint in his report that Parodi had planted the implements! In 1921 a fully human fossil jaw fragment was discovered in the same formation at Miramar.11 The prevailing belief today is that humans did not enter the Americas much earlier than about 25,000 years ago!

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, several discoveries of modern-looking human skeletal remains were made in Middle Pleistocene formations in Europe. These discoveries include those made at Galley Hill, Moulin Quingnon, Clichy, La Denise, and Ipswich. They could be attributed to recent intrusive burial or fraud, but there are reasons for thinking the skeletons might actually be of Middle Pleistocene age, i.e. older than the age of 200,000 years or so currently assigned to Homo sapiens. For instance, the 330,000-year-old skeleton found at Galley Hill, near London, in 1888, was discovered in undisturbed strata, and anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith concluded that ‘there was no possibility of denying the authenticity of the discovery without doing an injury to truth’12 – yet the standard opinion today is that it must have been buried recently.

In 1863, J. Boucher de Perthes discovered an anatomically modern human jaw in the Moulin Quingnon gravel pit at Abbeville, France. He removed it from a layer of black sand and gravel 5 m deep, which also contained stone implements of the Acheulean type, some 400,000 years old. A commission of British and French geologists and archaeologists came out in favour of the authenticity of the jaw, but 2 of the British members had reservations and eventually won most of the scientists to their side. Boucher de Perthes conducted further excavations at the site, under very strict controls and in the presence of trained scientific observers. He discovered many more anatomically modern human bones, bone fragments, and teeth, but they received almost no attention in the English-speaking world.

In 1880 geologist Giuseppe Ragazzoni excavated bones of a woman, a man, and 2 children from a Middle Pliocene formation (3 or 4 million years old) at Castenedolo in northern Italy.13 The woman’s cranial capacity was 1340 cc, well within the modern range. He carefully inspected the overlying layers of sediment and found them to be undisturbed, thereby ruling out recent burial. A skeleton of similar age was found by other researchers at Savona, Italy. In 1883, anatomist Giuseppe Sergi examined the human remains and the site, fully confirming Ragazzoni’s findings. He absolutely ruled out intrusive burial, noting that ‘clay from the upper surface layers, recognizable by its intense red color, would have been mixed in’.

However, many influential scientists were committed to the fairly recent evolution of the modern human type from primitive apelike creatures, and they opposed such discoveries on theoretical grounds. Sergi protested: ‘By means of a despotic scientific prejudice, ... every discovery of human remains in the Pliocene has been discredited.’ Archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister provides a good example of such prejudice. In 1921 he stated that if the Castenedolo bones really belonged to the stratum in which they were found, this would imply ‘an extraordinarily long standstill for evolution’ and would create ‘many insoluble problems’. He therefore concluded, ‘It is much more likely that there is something amiss with the observations.’

Scientists have used chemical and radiometric tests to deny a Pliocene age to the Castenedolo bones. In 1980 it was reported that the bones had a nitrogen content similar to bones from Late Pleistocene and Holocene sites. However, the degree of nitrogen preservation in bone can vary widely from site to site, making such comparisons unreliable as age indicators. The bones were found in clay, a substance known to preserve nitrogen-containing bone proteins. The bones were also found to have a fluorine content relatively high for recent bones, and an unexpectedly high uranium concentration, consistent with great age. A carbon-14 test yielded an age of 958 years for some of the bones, but the bones had lain in a museum for nearly 90 years and could have become contaminated with recent carbon, giving a falsely young age.

During the days of the California Gold Rush, starting in the 1850s, miners discovered many anatomically modern human bones and advanced stone implements in mine shafts sunk deeply into deposits of gold-bearing gravels capped by thick lava flows.14 The gravels beneath the lava are from 9 to 55 million years old. In 1880 J.D. Whitney, the state geologist of California, published a lengthy review of advanced stone tools found in California gold mines. All the evidence gathered by Whitney indicated that the objects could not have entered from other levels; the implements, including spear points, stone mortars, and pestles, were found deep in mine shafts, beneath thick, undisturbed layers of lava. Whitney concluded that humans like those of the present had existed in very ancient times in North America. To this W.H. Homes of the Smithsonian Institution replied: ‘Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.’ In other words, if the facts do not agree with the favoured theory, then such facts, even an ‘imposing array’ of them, must be thrown out of the window.

In 1866, in Calaveras County, in the same Sierra Nevada mountains of California, a mine owner found a highly fossilized human skull in a pre-Pliocene layer of gravel 40 m below the surface.15 Opinions on its authenticity varied, but some scientists said that careful examination showed it was incrusted with sand and gravel from the site and its cavities were filled with the same material. As mentioned above, large numbers of stone implements were found in nearby deposits of similar age. And additional human skeletal remains were uncovered in the same region, dating from 9 to 55 million years old. Sir Arthur Keith stated that the Calaveras skull ‘cannot be passed over. It is the bogey which haunts the student of early man ... taxing the powers of belief of every expert almost to breaking point.’

Forbidden Archeology contains other reports of anatomically modern humans being found in early Tertiary and even pre-Tertiary (e.g. Cretaceous and Carboniferous) strata. These reports are more difficult to assess because far fewer details are available.

Cremo and Thompson demonstrate that present-day palaeoanthropologists apply double standards to fossil evidence. If a find conforms to standard theory, it is readily accepted, whereas anomalous evidence is subjected to such rigorous scrutiny that no find is likely to be admitted. If scientists applied equal standards to both anomalous and nonanomalous fossils, both would be either accepted or rejected.

Not all the evidence for human origins found in current textbooks meets high standards. For instance, most African hominid fossils, including those of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), were discovered on the surface and were assigned specific dates because of their loose association with certain exposed strata. Likewise, none of the Java man discoveries, ranging from the original ones made by Dubois in the 1890s to those of the late 20th century, were made in controlled excavations, photographed in situ, etc. Although they were surface finds, they have been assigned an age of 800,000 or more years, on the assumption that the bones eroded from Middle Pleistocene formations. The finds were made by unsupervised paid native collectors, who later brought them or sent them to scientists for study. By contrast, nearly all the discoveries of anomalously old human bones occurred in situ, in well-defined strata. In this respect, these discoveries, largely forgotten, are superior to many now fully accepted.

Dubois originally created Java man from a couple of teeth, an apelike skullcap, and a humanlike femur found 15 m away. However, it is now universally accepted that the femur does not differ significantly from that of a modern human and does not belong with the skullcap. But instead of concluding that modern-looking humans were living 800,000 yeas ago, it was assumed that the femur (and similar femurs later found in the same deposits) must have been mixed in from higher, more recent levels. Of course the same could equally apply to the skullcap, which would demolish the original Java man entirely. Yet some museum exhibits continue to portray both the skullcap and the original femur as belonging to a Middle Pleistocene Homo erectus individual.16

Paleoanthropological evidence is frequently subject to multiple, contradictory interpretations, and partisan considerations often determine which view prevails at any given time. As the case of the Java man femur shows, even some of the evidence that has been fitted into the orthodox theory of human evolution is potentially anomalous. In 1965 a fragment of a humerus (upper arm bone), 4 to 4.5 million years old, was found at Kanapoi, Kenya. Some experts stated that it was different from those of the australopithecines and almost exactly like that of a modern human, but others stated the exact opposite! Over the years, the OH 8 foot, found at Olduvai Gorge and dated at 1.7 million years, has been described as humanlike, apelike, intermediate between humans and ape, distinct from both human and ape, and orangutanlike. The Kanam jaw, 1.7 to 2.0 million years old, has been attributed to Australopithecus boisei, Homo habilis, Neanderthal-like humans, early Homo sapiens, and modern Homo sapiens.17

The Gombore humerus, 1.5 million years old, found in Ethiopia in 1977, has been attributed in the past to Australopithecus boisei, but is currently attributed to Homo ergaster. It is described as very like that of a modern human. The ER 813 talus (ankle bone), 1.5 to 1.9 million years old, is attributed to Homo ergaster, but has also been described as not significantly different from that of a modern bushman. The ER 1481 and 1472 femurs from Kenya, about 2 million years old, are currently attributed to Homo rudolfensis, but both have been described as resembling that of modern humans.18 The possibility that such fossils did in fact belong to anatomically modern humans is of course ruled out in advance on theoretical grounds.

Cremo and Thompson draw attention to the dubious and dishonest practice of morphological dating. This means that if an apelike hominid and a more humanlike hominid are found at 2 different sites in association with the same Middle Pleistocene fauna, for example, the site with the more humanlike hominid is given a later date than the other. The 2 fossil hominids are then cited in textbooks as evidence of an evolutionary progression! This practice substantially distorts the hominid fossil record.

An appendix to Forbidden Archeology is devoted to discoveries of artifacts suggestive of more developed cultural and technological achievements in geological formations dating back to the Precambrian. The evidence includes a nail found in Devonian sandstone, metallic tubes found in Cretaceous chalk, a gold thread found in Carboniferous stone, a small Carboniferous gold chain found in a lump of coal, a Carboniferous iron cup from a chunk of coal, a Cambrian ‘shoe print’, a metallic vase from Precambrian rock, and Precambrian grooved metallic spheres from South Africa. The reports emanate from both scientific and nonscientific sources, but most of the artifacts have not been preserved in museums and are impossible to locate. Although such evidence is often weak, it still deserves proper study and should not be dismissed on purely ideological grounds.

In 1937 a Wyoming woman discovered a 6-inch-long spoon in a large chunk of Pennsylvania soft coal. It was sent to the Smithsonian Institution, which replied that human artifacts could never be found in coal.19 And the Smithsonian is never wrong – is it?


  1. Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson, Forbidden Archeology, San Diego: CA: Bhaktivedanta Institute, 1993; abridged version: The Hidden History of the Human Race, Badger, CA: Govardhan Hill Publishing, 1994. See also: Michael A. Cremo, Forbidden Archeology’s Impact, Los Angeles, CA: Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing, 1998; Michael A. Cremo, Human Devolution: A Vedic alternative to Darwin’s theory, Los Angeles, CA: Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing, 2003.
  2. Forbidden Archeology, p. 150.
  3. Forbidden Archeology’s Impact, pp. 53, 93.
  4. Ibid., p. 257.
  5. Michael Brass, The Antiquity of Man, Baltimore, MD: AmErica House, 2002; see Richard Milton’s review,
  6. Forbidden Archeology, p. 19.
  7. Human Devolution, p. 19.
  8. Forbidden Archeology, p. 390.
  9. The Hidden History of the Human Race, p. 69.
  10. Forbidden Archeology, p. 72.
  11. Ibid., pp. 313-34.
  12. Arthur Keith, The Antiquity of Man, London: Williams and Norgate, 1925, p. 256.
  13. Forbidden Archeology, pp. 422-32.
  14. Ibid., pp. 368-93.
  15. Ibid., pp. 439-52.
  16. The Hidden History of the Human Race, pp. 155-62.
  17. Forbidden Archeology, pp. 656, 684-6, 705-6.
  18. Ibid., pp. 686-7, 691-3; The Antiquity of Man, p. 56.
  19. William R. Corliss (comp.), Archeological Anomalies: Small artifacts, Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, 2003, p. 113.