Morocco Homo Sapiens—A Small Step Forward?

The Forbidden Archaeologist

Anomalous evidence is evidence that deviates from what is normally expected by the mainstream scientific community. My work involves documenting anomalous archaeological evidence for human antiquity. What I mean by anomalous evidence, in this context, is archaeological evidence showing that humans like us (anatomically modern humans) existed before the time most scientists accept for their first appearance. Such evidence consists of anatomically modern human bones, anatomically modern human footprints, and artifacts of the kind archaeologists normally attribute to anatomically modern humans. When my book, Forbidden Archeology, was published in 1993, the oldest bones of anatomically modern Homo sapiens (accepted by mainstream science) were from the Border Cave site in South Africa and were about 100,000 years old. So in my writings and lectures about my work, I would say I am demonstrating there is anomalous archaeological evidence showing that humans like us existed before 100,000 years ago.

Then in 2004, some anatomically modern human bones from the Omo site in Ethiopia were given an age of 195,000 years. So after that, in my writing and speaking, I had to say I am demonstrating there is anomalous archaeological evidence showing that humans like us existed before 200,000 years ago. That meant that some cases I had previously considered anomalous (human bones between 100,000 and 200,000 years old) were no longer anomalous. For example, in Forbidden Archeology (1993, pp. 396–398), I discussed an anatomically modern human femur found in 1899 in a railroad cut in Trenton, New Jersey. The Trenton femur was found in a formation 107,000 years old. At the time I was writing the book I considered it slightly anomalous, but in light the age of the Omo human bones (200,000 years), it was not anomalous in terms of the antiquity of our anatomically modern human species. However, it does remain anomalous in terms of a human presence in North America. Most scientists believe humans did not enter North America any earlier than 20,000 years ago.

Just recently, a discovery was announced that may cause me to once more revise my definition of what archaeological evidence for human antiquity is to be considered anomalous. The Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco was first discovered in 1960. It is a limestone cave filled with sediments. In 1961 miners found a humanlike skull there. Over the decades, archaeologists conducted excavations and found additional humanlike skulls and bones. Initially, archaeologists thought the bones were those of Neanderthals and were about 40,000 years old. The discoveries came to the attention of archaeologist Jean-Jacques Hublin in the 1980s. He wanted to do more work there but was not able to do so until 2004. Since then Hublin’s team, in addition to discovering more bones, has come to new conclusions about the species identification and age of the bones.

These conclusions were published in the scientific journal Nature in 2017, in two papers, one about the morphology of the bones and the other about their age. In the first paper (Nature 2017, vol. 546, pp. 289-292), Hublin and his coworkers said about the bones: “We identified a mosaic of features including facial, mandibular, and dental morphology that aligns the Jebel Irhoud material with early or recent anatomically modern humans.” They added that their evidence “makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the H. sapiens clade [group] in which key features of modern morphology were established.”

How old was Jebel Irhoud? Hublin’s dating team, led by Daniel Richter, stated in their article in Nature (2017, vol. 546, pp. 293-296): “Here we report the ages, determined by thermo-luminescence dating, of fire-heated flint artifacts obtained from new excavations at the Middle Stone Age site of Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, which are directly associated with newly discovered remains of H. sapiens. A weighted average age places these Middle Stone Age artifacts and fossils at 315 ± 34 thousand years ago. Support is obtained through the recalculated uranium series with electron spin resonance date of 286 ± 32 thousand years ago for a tooth from the Irhoud 3 hominin mandible. These ages are also consistent with the faunal and microfaunal assemblages and almost double the previous age estimates for the lower part of the deposits. The North African site of Jebel Irhoud contains one of the earliest, directly dated Middle Stone Age assemblages, and its associated human remains are the oldest reported for H. sapiens.”

So Hublin and his team say that a species very much like anatomically modern Homo sapiens existed about 300,000 years ago. This newly reported conclusion has not yet become generally accepted by the mainstream community of scientists, but I suspect that soon I will have to start saying in my writings and talks that I am documenting archaeological evidence showing that humans like us existed more than 300,000 years ago. And there are many such discoveries that go much further back in time than 300,000 years. Here are a few such cases from Africa.

In 1914, the German scientist Hans Reck published a report about an anatomically modern human skeleton he excavated at Olduvai Gorge in Africa. I discuss this case in detail in Forbidden Archeology (1993, pp. 628–649). Reck found the skeleton solidly embedded in Upper Bed II of Olduvai Gorge. He said he had to use hammers and chisels to get the bones out. Upper Bed II is about 1.2 million years old. In 1974, a German scientist named Rainer Protsch published a radiocarbon age of 16,920 years for a fragment of bone he claimed was from Reck’s skeleton. But this is doubtful. First of all, Reck’s skeleton, except for the skull, was lost during World War II. So it is not clear that the bone fragment dated by Protsch actually belonged to the skeleton. And second, Protsch was removed from his position at Frankfurt University after an academic investigation showed he had falsified many radiocarbon dates and did not really know how to use the equipment.

In 2015, archaeologists led by Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo found a finger bone at Olduvai Gorge. This specimen was assigned the designation OH 86. The report about its discovery was published in Nature Communications (2015, vol. 6, no. 7987). The OH 86 finger bone was found in a formation 1.8 million years old. The archaeologists made detailed measurements of this finger bone and compared these measurements with the measurements of sets of the same finger bone from different species of apes and monkeys, hominins (Australopithecus, Homo habilis), and anatomically modern Homo sapiens. The researchers found that the measurements of the OH 86 finger bone matched the measurements of the bones of the anatomically modern human group and were different from the other groups. The researchers concluded: “Collectively, these results lead to the conclusion that OH 86 represents a hominin species… whose closest form affinities are to modern H. sapiens. However, the geological age of OH 86 obviously precludes its assignment to H. sapiens.” In other words, these researchers were saying OH 86 is just like a modern Homo sapiens finger bone, but we cannot call it Homo sapiens because it is 1.8 million years old, and we all know Homo sapiens did not exist 1.8 million years ago! Wrong. I think the OH 86 finger bone provides evidence that humans like us did exist 1.8 million years ago.

In 1979, Mary Leakey reported finding footprints at Laetoli, Tanzania. In her original report (“Footprints in the Ashes of Time”), published in National Geographic (1979, vol. 155, pp. 446–457), Leakey said the form of the foot was “exactly the same as ours.” Dr. Louise Robbins, a footprint expert, said in the same report: “They looked so human, so modern.” The footprints were found in solidified volcanic ash, 3.6 million years old. Of course, being an evolutionist, Mary Leakey did not believe that humans like us made the footprints. She proposed they were made by some kind of apeman who happened to have feet exactly like modern human feet. But the foot bones of the hominins who lived at that time (the australopithecines) show they had a foot structure different from that of modern humans. Their foot was apelike, with long toes and a long first toe that could move out to the side like a human thumb. So what did Mary Leakey find? I think she found evidence that humans like us were present in Africa 3.6 million years ago.

All in all, I take the Morocco Homo sapiens finds, with their date of 315,000 years, as a small step in the right direction. Since 1993, one could say, very roughly speaking, that the age of anatomically modern humans, accepted by the mainstream scientific community, has been increasing by 100,000 years every 10 years or so. If the trend continues, then by the year 2093, a century after Forbidden Archeology was published, the generally accepted age of anatomically modern humans would be about one million years. But there would still be a long way to go before they arrived at the true age of our species.

 

CAPTION: Jean-Jacques Hublin at Jebel Irhoud (Morocco), pointing to the crushed human skull (Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA Leipzig)

 

Michael A. Cremo is the author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic, Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of Human Race. He has also written Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. (Visit HumanDevolution.com).

By Michael A. Cremo • www.MCremo.com