Re: Man in China 2.4 million years ago?

Gordon Simons (
Thu, 12 Nov 1998 10:05:09 -0500 (EST)

Glenn recently wrote:

> The following was on the web today. It is the
> discovery of stone tools dating to 2.4 million
> years ago in China. There were no human remains
> found with the tools. Such claims have been made
> for other sites around the old world but generally
> held in doubt. Old stone tools have been reported
> from Riwat Pakistan dated to 2 million years ago.
> (Richard G. Klein, The Human Career,
> (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989),
> p. 206-207)

> If man was this widespread at that time, it would
> require a much older human (toolmaking) history.
> The oldest stone tools in the world are 2.5-2.6
> million years old from Africa.

While I am prepared to believe this interesting
report, and even suspect it is true, I can think of
a number of reasons why this report could be flawed.
To mention two:

1. As with much of science these days, archaeological
and palaeontological research depends on grant money.
It has been my observation that this reality has done
much to encourage less than objective science. This
problem is worse in some areas of science than others.
In view of their subjective natures, the areas of
archaeology and palaeontology are especially vulnerable.

(In this regard, I have frequently heard my
palaeontologist cousin, and his primate-biologist wife,
making critical comments along these lines -- usually
in specific contexts. I generally believe them. Much
that glitters is not gold.)

2. What constitute "stone tools" are in the eyes of
the beholder -- at least in part. Some years ago,
the archaeological community was presented with an
unseemly family quarrel in which one of the
Leakey's (the elder) was claiming that something in
the Los Angeles area represented "stone tools" (as I
recall) -- thereby proving that a more ancient
habitation by man in the New World than accepted
at the time -- with public/published disputations
coming from his wife and son. The scientific
community has largely sided with mother and son.