ORIGINS: a Homo erectus village and art

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 21:06:11

There are two traditional ways that Christians have responded to fossil man.
The approach taken by old earthers has generally had mankind evolve and then
sometime after anatomically modern man appeared, God placed the image of God
into him. This is normally believed to have occurred somewhere after 100,000
years. Ramm (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, (1987 reprint)
p.228-229) seems to reject a 500,000 year antiquity for man. Hugh Ross
similarly rejects such an antiquity for mankind (Hugh Ross,
"Chromosome Study Stuns Evolutionists," Facts & Faith, 9:3, 3rd
Qtr. 1995, p. 3).

The second view is to say that they are pre-flood men. But if they are, one
would not expect their villages to be preserved through the turbulence of the

So what is a Christian to do with data collected from Bilzingsleben, Germany?
Mania and Mania write:

"The archaeological horizon comprises an open occupation site from the
Middle Pleistocene and its age is about 300 000 to 350 000 years BP. It dates
from the Holstein Complex, which represents the Mindel/Riss interglacial. The
finds of ten human skull fragments and seven human molars have been shown to
belong to a late representative of Homo erectus. In the present context,
only a brief overview of the archaeological situation is provided, and readers
are referred to Mania and Vlcek for further information.
"The open air site was situated at the shore of a small lake in the
vicinity of the mouth of a brooklet. To date, an area of about 900 m^2 of this
living floor has been exposed. Discrete zones of find associations and
special sturctures could be shown to exist at this open air site. These
structures are the remains of three simple dwellings of oval or circular form,
each possessing a diameter of 3-4 m. Their outlines were recognised by
peripheral accumulations of large bones and stones. A hearth was located to
the south-east and in front of them, consisting of charcoal and stones bearing
traces of having been exposed to fire. To the south-east, beside each
dwelling, were two workshops, indicated by centrally placed anvils. More
workshops, manifested by the distribution of stone, bone and wood remains
bearing evidence of working, appeared in the large area in front of the
dwelling structures. Around it extended a zone of manufacturing activity
where blanks, half-finished pieces, finished tools and manufacturing debris of
stone, bone, antler and wood were found."~Dietrich Mania and Ursula Mania,
"Deliberate Engravings on Bone Artefacts of Homo Erectus," Rock Art Research
5:2(1988): 91-107, p. 91-92

This type of spatial organisation or structured use of space has traditionally
been ascribed only to modern men. To find it in Homo erectus is amazing. It
sounds like a description of any modern primitive settlement.

An inspection of the map in the article shows that the openings to the
dwellings face the south, which avoids the north wind roaring into the hut.

They continue:
"Almost in the centre of the area in front of the dwelling structures,
about 5-8 m away from them, a roughly circular floor differed from the
archaeological horizon by being free of waste material, half-finished pieces
and tools. It consisted of a pavement of small pebbles and bone debris and it
appears that the area was marked by this pavement in order to keep it clear
for special purposes. Its former function can only be clarified
satisfactorily following its complete excavation in the years to come." Ibid.
p. 92

This is the first and oldest paving that I am aware of. Neanderthals
occasionally paved their sites with stone, but until this, I had never run
into a case of H. erectus doing that. This remarkable construction fits well
with the reported carpentry skills of Homo erectus I mentioned a couple of
weeks ago. Mania and Mania conclude:

"There was an articially established environment, consisting of a home base
with dwelling structures, fire places, workshop areas and specific activity
zones."~Dietrich Mania and Ursula Mania, "Deliberate Engravings on Bone
Artefacts of Homo Erectus," Rock Art Research 5:2(1988): 91-107, p. 95

Only mankind creates a truly artificial environment of this type.

Even more amazing at this site are markings on bones which many believe are
intentional markings made by Homo erectus. Thes marks consist of parallel
lines carved into the bones. Similar marks found in Upper Paleolithic sites
have been interpreted as markings for a lunar calendar (see Marshack _The
Roots of Civilization_, 1972). Mania and Mania write:

"Of great interest are some bone artefacts whose surfaces are covered with
engraved lines which cannot be explained as incidental or use wear.. These
engraved lines are arranged in groups or in sequences of single lines. They
are the oldest intentional marks known to us at the present time.
Significantly, these artefacts always occurred in connection with the
workshops. Their prelimiinary description follows but it is emphasised that
microscopic stidies of these finds have not been completed yet."~Dietrich
Mania and Ursula Mania, "Deliberate Engravings on Bone Artefacts of Homo
Erectus," Rock Art Research 5:2(1988): 91-107, p. 93

One question which always arises when the intentionality of markings is
raised, concerns the shared meaning with other members of the group and
region. If there is no meaning shared among the group, then the marks are
mere doodling. But in the case of these Homo erectus markings, similiar
markings have been found at another Homo erectus site less than 500 km away,
Stranska Skala, Czechoslovakia. Bednarik writes:

"The last-mentioned find is of particular interest here: not only is the site
less than 500 km from Bilzingsleben, and has also produced remains of Homo
erectus, the engraved lines are very similar to those on Artefacts 1 and 4
from Bilzingsleben, and even occur on an elephant bone, as do at least two of
the four Bilzingsleben engravings."~R.G. Bednarik, "Comments", Rock Art
Research 5:2(1988): 91-107, p. 98

This would imply a shared meaning over that distance.

Other technical innovations found at Bilzingsleben include a large polished
ivory spear point. (Robert G. Bednarik, "Concept-mediated Marking in the Lower
Palaeolithic," Current Anthropology, 36:4(1995), pp. 605-634, p. 611) Working
in bone is considered a characteristic trait of Upper Paleolithic man.

These Homo erectus at Bilzingsleben also did not fit into the traditional
Acheulian culture. According to Roe their tools are much smaller than normal
erectus tools,

"A site that may prove similar in some ways dated to the succeeding
interglacial (Holstein), has recently been discovered at Bilzingsleben (German
Democratic Republic), where both tools of minute size and much heavier
implements were represented, along with H. erectus remains. Neither here nor
at Vertesszolos is there any sign of classic Acheulean artifacts such as
handaxes."~Derek Roe, "The Handaxe Makers" in Andrew Sherratt, Editor, The
Cambridge Encylopedia of Archaeology, (Crown Publishers, 1980), p. 77

Other evidences of Homo erectus art is mentioned by Marshack as long ago as

"Mania and Ulcek (1972) had recently excavated a large engraved rib from the
Acheulian site of Bilzingsleben, German Democratic Republic, ca. 300,000 B. C.
Valoch (1976) has termed the site one of the most important in Europe from
this period. The large bone, in relatively good condition, indicated a long
series of clearly intentional engraved 'decorative' or symbolic marks.
Microscopic examination showed that these were not accidental, random marks or
cutting or work marks. This rare piece of intentional Acheulian engraving is
totally different in mode and style from the engraved serpentine image from
this period excavated at Pech de L'Aze by Bordes and described by me in an
earlier paper. These Acheulian examples once again caution us that early
symbolic modes,whether they involve the use of color or engraving and carving,
cannot be subsumed under any prior theoretical concept as to their
meaning."~Alexander Marshack, "On Paleolithic Ochre and the Early Uses of
Color and Symbol," Current Anthropology, 22:2, April 1981, p. 188

For anyone who has read to this point and can read German, I have ordered an
extremely important article (written in German) about this site. I have need
a translation of a very important part of the article. I would be most
appreciative of the help.

Foundation,Fall and Flood