A long-standing debate rages still as to the origin of man, but currently accepted dates on the scientific side of things tell us that the earliest human ancestors, Australopithecus, appeared in Africa about four million years ago. Homo Habilis appeared two and a half million years ago, followed by Homo Erectus about one million years later; each made progressively more sophisticated stone tools. Homo Neanderthalensis emerged in Southern Europe around 300,000 years ago. He lived in caves, used fire and buried his dead. Anatomically modern man, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, appeared about 100,000 years later in Africa. The agricultural revolution took place between 12,000 – 7,000 BCE, followed by civilization as we know it. Man crossed the Bering land bridge about 18,000 years ago to settle mostly in Central and South America.
But some scientists beg to differ with the consensus and have, in fact, compiled considerable evidence backing up their claims. They have found apparently man-made objects and even human remains in impossibly ancient geologic layers. These objects are called Ooparts – Out Of Place Artifacts – and they force us to entertain the possibility that modern man or something like us may have walked the earth much, much earlier than we assume. Consider the following cases, only a handful of many controversial discoveries that have come to light.
Between 1951 and 1955 Thomas E. Lee, an anthropologist at the National Museum of Canada, discovered dozens of advanced stone tools, mostly projectile points, near the village of Sheguiandah, on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron. According to the strata of glacial till the tools were found in, they were anywhere from 65,000 – 125,000 years old. (Consensus science tells us man only arrived in North America around 18,000 years ago.) Over the next several years, other geologists visited the site and confirmed the dating of the strata, but the unconventional date for humans in Canada was not accepted by most scientists. Lee had trouble publishing his findings. Eventually, he and then-director of the National Museum, Dr. Jacques Rousseau, lost their jobs and the site was covered up and turned into a tourist area.
During the 1960’s, advanced stone tools were unearthed at Hueyatlaco, about 100 miles southeast of Mexico City. A team of geologists including Virginia Steen-McIntyre from the U.S. Geological Survey, studied the artifacts and dated them using various independent tests, to about 250,000 years BCE. This date was, again, unacceptable to most scientists. The publication of a paper about the discovery was held up for years. When it finally appeared in print in 1981, anthropologists rejected it and ridiculed Steen-McIntyre.
In 1970 Canadian archaeologist Alan Lyle Bryan discovered a thick fossil skullcap reminiscent of Homo Erectus languishing in a Brazilian museum. The skullcap had come from a cave Lagoa Santa region of Brazil and would indicate – if it were authentic – that man, in the form of Homo Erectus, came to the Americas much earlier than previously thought. Shortly after its re-discovery by Bryan, the skullcap disappeared from the museum!
Geologist Giuseppe Ragazzoni was searching for fossilized shells at Castenedolo, Italy in 1860, when he found a fossilized human cranium fused with coral in strata dating 3 – 4 million years ago. Twenty years later, more bones were found – the remains of four people in all, including parts of a skull, jaw, teeth, vertebrae and limb bones. There was no evidence of an intrusive burial, and Ragazzoni stated that the bones were, “. . . an irrefutable document for the existence of man . . . of a character fully human.” While some experts tried to discredit the findings, tests revealed that the bones had high concentrations of fluorine and uranium, suggesting they were very ancient.
In 1978 pioneer anthropologist Mary Leakey discovered the fossilized footprints of three walking hominids at Laetoli, in northern Tanzania. Fifty prints were excavated from volcanic ash rock dated to 3.6 – 3.8 million years ago. Leakey wrote, “. . . in Pliocene times, what I believe to be man’s direct ancestor walked fully upright with a bipedal, free-striding gait. The form of his foot was exactly the same as ours.” (The footprint of Australopithecus was quite different.) Professor Russell Tuttle, a physical anthropologist at the University of Chicago, said, “. . . the shapes of the prints are indistinguishable from those of striding, habitually barefoot humans,” and “. . . the tracks were made by a mystery hominid whose fossils have yet to be found.”
Closer to home, Mr. Stan Taylor found a short trail of fossilized footprints running beside and even inside three-toed dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River bed near Glen Rose, Texas in 1969. Further excavations under solid limestone revealed a total of fourteen human footprints in strata 100 million years old. A mention of the footprints at a 1989 science conference was apparently too much for two men, who subsequently destroyed the tracks with a crowbar! Fortunately, the drought of 1999 revealed further prints which are still visible today.
Back in 1938 Professor Wilbur Burroughs, head of geology at Berea College, Kentucky
reported finding fossil footprints in 250-million-year old sandstone. The tracks showed left and right feet with five toes and a distinct arch like those of modern human feet. Burroughs admitted that, “. . . the creatures that made the tracks have not as yet been identified.” They still have not.
In 1981 William E. Dubois of the Smithsonian Institute reported on an engraved copper coin found a year earlier in strata dated at 200,000 – 400,000 BPE in Lawn Ridge, Illinois. Human skulls, bones, stone spears and arrow heads, knives, mortars and pestles, stone dishes, grooved stone hammer-heads, an iron nail, a large white marble bead, and a stone axe were excavated from 38 – 55-million-year old gravel at Table Mountain during the California gold rush of the 1840’s and 1850’s.
Rounded rectangular metallic tubes were found in 1968 in a quarry at Saint Jean de Livet, France, buried in a 65 million year old chalk bed. The specimens were reportedly turned over to the University of Caen, but independent researchers have not been able to view them. A fine gold chain approximately 8 ½ inches in length fell from 260 – 320 million-year old coal as Mrs. S. W. Culp, publisher of The Morrisonville Times, was breaking a lump of coal in Illinois, in 1891. The chain was apparently given to a family member and cannot be traced.
South African miners have found hundreds of extremely hard metallic spheres, at least one of which has three parallel grooves running around it. Roelf Marx, curator of the museum at Klerksdorp, says, “. . . the spheres are a complete mystery. They look man-made, yet at the time in Earth’s history when they came to rest in this rock no intelligent life existed. They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen.” The spheres were found in a Pre-Cambrian mineral deposit 2.8 billion years old!
The most unbelievable Ooparts of all include fossils of shoe prints – yes, shoe prints! In Nevada in 1922, geologist John Reid found a rock with the clear outline of the rear half of a shoe, including visible stitching. The fossil was dated to 213 – 248 million years ago. Microscopic analysis of the thread in the fossilized stitching indicated that the fossil was of a man-made object! Scientists now consider this object “a freak of nature”. The fossil itself has disappeared. All that remains is a photograph. In 1968 William Meister split open a piece of shale to reveal what appeared to be the print of a sandal. The shale was dated to 505 – 590 million years ago. Crushed into the mud on top of the sandal impression was a small fossil trilobite – a shellfish that has been extinct for the last 280 million years. For the moment, there is no good explanation for the ridiculously ancient dates of these objects.
Vanishing evidence aside, some of these artifacts have surely been erroneously identified and dated. But if even one of them is correct, we must struggle to grasp their significance to the history of the human race. How do Ooparts fit in in the grand scheme of things?
For now, it’s anyone’s guess.
By Donna Marie West
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DK Publishing / Smithsonian Institution. EARTH. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., New York, N.Y., 2003