Crooked Dealer at Sima de los Huesos

Homo heidelbergensis Cranium 5

A fossil from Sima de los Huesos.

While other groups of young-Earth creationists may hold differing opinions, the Institute for Creation Research insists that Neanderthals were humans too. This is all very well, but for reasons that are not at all clear they take this position to the extreme, minimising, misreporting, or denying any genetic and morphological evidence of differences between modern humans and their former contemporaries, and trampling over the more nuanced scientific view that Neanderthals were very closely related to us yet also a distinct group. Today Brian Thomas writes “Human Remains in Spain: Neandertal or Not?“, going so far that he ties himself up in knots.

A paper in Science – “Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los Huesos” (pdf), published on the 20th of June – investigated the accretion model of Neanderthal origins. The cliffs notes on this idea seems to be that the notable Neanderthal-specific features appeared at different times in a stepwise fashion, with those associated with the jaw for example developing before those related to the brain. The skeletons at the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain, being around 430,000 years old according to this paper, lie in the middle of this transition and so provide a test case (who said you couldn’t test things in “historical science”?). The authors looked at the bones of 17 individuals and did indeed find Neanderthal faces with more archaic brains. They write: Continue reading

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The Schöningen Spears

The lignite mine in Google mapsThere seems to be an interesting side effect of the distaste that young Earth creationists seem to have for “historical science”: they’re no good at it. Believe it or not, there are some events in history that the Bible says absolutely nothing about, and creationists seem to be unable to build a coherent picture from the available evidence. Take this latest Brian Thomas article, Eight Spears found in German Coal Mine, as an example.

First, though, there are a few things that need to be noted. The obvious conclusion that would be drawn from such a title in a young Earth creationist publication is that the story is of the “petrified hammer” variety. Not so. I can’t get explicit confirmation from anything I’ve read, but it seems that while it’s literally true to say that the Schöningen Spears were indeed ‘found in a German coal mine‘ they weren’t actually in the lignite being extracted. Instead the spears themselves are dated to ~300,000 years ago, and are believed to have been wielded by Homo heidelbergensis.

Researchers discovered eight well-manufactured throwing spears in an Ice Age coal deposit near Schöningen, Germany. They are calling these the oldest human tools. What can forensic science reveal about the people who made them?

As I said I don’t think the spears were actually found in the deposit, but it’s a fairly moot point as that aspect isn’t relevant to the rest of the article.

Who’s “calling these the oldest human tools”? I’m struggling to find anyone but Brian doing so – they’re calling the spears the oldest hunting weapons, which is quite a difference. Continue reading