Re: Neanderthal Pappy used fire

Stephen Jones (
Tue, 30 Jun 1998 05:46:40 +0800


On Sat


GM>What may be one of Europe's oldest hearths has been found at a
>400,000-year-old Stone Age site in southeastern England by
>archaeologists from Liverpool University. The find consisted of an area
>of red, baked sediments, whose limited expanse suggests a controlled
>fire rather than a natural one. The burnt sediments have been removed
>intact as part of a one-cubic-meter block so laboratory tests can be
>undertaken to help identify the nature of the burning.
>. . .
>The site, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, was in a favorable spot
>near a source of water. According to Gowlett, it seems to have been
>used over centuries during a lull between the Ice Ages, when
>numerous large mammals, including bear and deer, undoubtedly
>hunted by early humans, were found in the area. Thousands of flint
>flakes have been discovered at the camp, the by-products of stone
>tool manufacturing, and many have been matched to the cores from
>which they were struck.
>Human control of fire is well documented at sites dating from >150,000
to 200,000 years ago, and remains of hearths between >300,000 and
400,000 years old have been found at a handful of sites >in France,
Hungary, and China. If confirmed, this latest find will >provide further
evidence that early humans had mastered the use of >fire, in this case
the ancestors of Neandertals in northern Europe.-->THERESA A.
MCGILL "Ancient European Hearth," Archaeology
>November/December, 1997, p. 19

Thanks for this. The first point is that this defeats your own view that
Adam was an australopithecine or Homo habilis:

"The only way to fit the scriptural account with the scientific observations
is to have Adam and Eve be Homo habilis or Australopithecus." (Morton
G.R., "A Theory for Creationists," 1996. http:

who lived 5.5 million years ago:

"I will make a suggestion that the place Genesis 2 is talking about is the
Mediterranean basin when it was emptied 5.5 million years ago." (Morton
G.R., "A Theory for Creationists,", 1996. http:

If fire was only mastered "400,000 years" ago, then clearly this conflicts
with the idea that australopithecine or Homo habilis/erectus had the
technology to build a three-decker Ark 5 million years before:

The second point to make is that if Neandertal man is a totally different
line from Homo sapiens, then he (Neandertal) cannot be human in any
Biblical sense. The evidence is mounting that Neandertal and Homo
sapiens, for all their similarities (which you emphasise), were also
profoundly different (which you ignore). Here is the latest:

"Crania of 'anatomically modern' Homo sapiens from the Holocene and
Upper Pleistocene epochs differ from those of other Homo taxa, including
Neanderthals, by only a few features. These include a globular braincase,
a vertical forehead, a diminutive browridge, a canine fossa and a
pronounced chin . Humans are also unique among mammals in lacking
facial projection: the face of the adult H. sapiens lies almost entirely
beneath the anterior cranial fossa, whereas the face in all other adult
mammals, including Neanderthals, projects to some extent in front of the
braincase. Here I use radiographs and computed tomography to show
that many of these unique human features stem partly From a single,
ontogenetically early reduction in the length of the sphenoid, the central
bone of the cranial base from which the face grows forward. Sphenoid
reduction, through its effects on facial projection and cranial shape, may
account for the apparently rapid evolution of modern human cranial form,
"Sphenoid shortening and the evolution of modern human cranial
shape," Nature, Vol 393, 14 May 1998, pp158-159. My emphasis)

GM>Now, the problem I see for those who would exclude Neanderthal
>from the Human family is this. The use of fire represents a very human
>set of cognitions.

This is question begging. You have assumed from the outset the very
thing you need to prove. If you define "human" as any animal that uses
fire, then of course, by your defintion, Neandertal was "human".

One could define "human" as being able to play chess. By that criterion
Big Blue would be human. Some would define human as being religious.
But Darwin thought his dog was religious! Therefore by that criterion,
dogs are human.

As has been stated many times (but which you here ignore), the ultimate
test of what is human, from a Christian perspective, is the ability to have a
relationship with God:

"...the image of God is intrinsic to man. Man would not be human without
it. The meaning of this concept will be explored in chapter 23. Let it be
said for the moment, however, that whatever it is that sets man apart from
the rest of the creation, he alone is capable of having a conscious
personal relationship with the Creator and of responding to him. Man can
know God and understand what the Creator desires of him. Man can
love, worship, and obey his Maker. In these responses man is most
completely fulfilling his Maker's intention for him, and thus being most fully
human, since humanity is defined in terms of the image of God." (Erickson
M.J., "Christian Theology," 1985, p472).

GM>The mental ability of those people was much more than most
>Christians want to believe.

Putting it this way makes it seem that the only reason that "Christians"
downplay Neandertal's "mental ability" is because they "don't want to
believe" it. But it could equally be argued that the reason evolutionists
play up Neandertal's "mental ability"is that they "want to believe" it!

The fact is that *among anthropologists" Neandertal's mental ability is a
matter of dispute:

"The proximity of Africa raises one of the great mysteries of the
Neandertals," Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, told
me...there's no evidence of the Neandertals-or their modern
contemporaries-having made it across the strait....Weren't they curious?
Maybe that was one of those inscrutable differences between them and
us. We are compelled by curiosity, the need to explore, and an obsession
for change. Perhaps the thought of moving on never occurred to them.
Maybe they simply accepted the present, without a past or future
tense..." (Gore R., "Neandertals", National Geographic, Vol. 189, No. 1,
January 1996, pp31,34-35)

"Neanderthals, as I've suggested, and probably other archaic sapiens,
did have an awareness of death and therefore undoubtedly a highly
developed reflective consciousness. But was it of the same luminosity as
we experience today? Probably not. The emergence of fully modern
language and fully modern consciousness were no doubt linked, each
feeding the other. Modern humans became modern when they spoke like
us and experienced the self as we do. We surely see evidence of this in
the art of Europe and Africa from 35,000 years onward and in the
elaborate ritual that accompanied burial in the Upper Paleolithic." (Leakey
R., "The Origin of Humankind," 1994, p156)

"However the hyoid argument works out, however, when you put the
skull-base evidence together with what the archaeological record
suggests about the capacities of the Neanderthals and their precursors,
it's hard to avoid the conclusion that articulate language, as we recognize
it today, is the sole province of fully modern humans." (Tattersall I., "The
Fossil Trail,", 1995, p212)

GM>The use of fire requires much planning. Barnouw writes:
>">"Planning of this sort requires a language. Primitive though they may
>have appeared, with their heavy brow ridges, low skulls, and large
>chinless jaws, these men had relatively large brains, which were often
>within the range of modern humans. It seems likely that their brains had
>become sufficiently developed for language to be possible." ~ Victor
>Barnouw, An Introduction to Anthropology: Physical Antrhopology and
>Archaeology, Vol. 1, (Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1982) p.

See above. That Neandertals had a language of some sort, is probable.
That they had a rich symbolic, syntactic language like ours is improbable

BTW your source is dated "1982" Glenn. That's *16 years ago!* Anthropology
is such a fast-moving science, that something that old is unreliable:

"It is a blessing that he never had to lecture on human evolution. New
and significant prehuman fossils have been unearthed with such
unrelenting frequency in recent years that the fate of any lecture notes
can only be described with the watchword of a fundamentally irrational
economy- planned obsolescence. Each year, when the topic comes up in
my courses, I simply open my old folder and dump the contents into the
nearest circular file. And here we go again..." (Gould S.J., "Bushes and
Ladders in Human Evolution," in "Ever Since Darwin", 1991 reprint, p56)

GM>Gowlett remarks,
>"If the use of fire goes back to the Lower Pleistocene (over 1 million
>years), as seems likely, it can be argued that our ancestors had already
>achieved a basically human character: but this view will be hotly
>debated for some time to come." ~ John A. J. Gowlett, Ascent to
>Civilization, (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1993), p. 57

Also see above. If "fire" is defined as the mark of "a basically human
character" then its all decided in the definition. But as Gowlett says, this is
"hotly debated" even among secular anthropologists.

GM>The interesting thing about the Bury St. Edmund use of fire is >that it
was made by archaic inhabitants of Europe. These archaics >were the
great, great....great, grandpappys of Neanderthal. If >Neanderthal's
ancestor was mentally capable of the use of fire, why >in the world would
we exclude Neanderthal (who also used fire) >from being human?

See above. If you make "the use of fire" as diagnostic of "human" then
of course Neandertal was human. But if you make being able to have a
relationship with God, then Neandertal was not human.

In any event, if Neandertal was not even in the same line as Homo
sapiens, then he cannot bear the image of God, and so was not human
in any Biblical sense:

"Be that as it may, it is the ethico-religious fact about man which marks
him off most conspicuously from the animals. Only an age secular in spirit
could concentrate its interest in Homo on morphological structure seeking
to understand man's origin and nature by focusing solely on prehuman
and sub-human forms, then naming man for the brute, and finding his
imago at last among the beasts." (Henry C.F.H., "Science and Religion",
in Henry C.F.H., ed., "Contemporary Evangelical Thought: A Survey",
1968 reprint, p282)

GM>In other burning news, fire use has been documented at the sight
>of Kao Pah Nam, in Thailand.
>"Geoffrey Pope has been excavating deep in the northern Thailand
>forest, in caves in a heavily eroded limestone landscape, caves once
>used by early prehistoric inhabitants of the forest. One rockshelter at an
>outcrop named Kao Pah Nam had yielded animal bones, stone tools,
>and the remains of a crude, basalt boulder-ringed hearth....Kao Pah
>Nam is estimated to be about 700,000 years old, a date confirmed by
>radiometric and paleomagnetic studies at other sites, where volcanic
>basalt flows can be dated with some accuracy." ~ Brian M. Fagan, The
>Journey From Eden, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), p. 120

Thanks for this too. But it's got nothing to do with Neandertals, who was
confined to Europe and the Middle East. If you want to claim humanity
for every hominid, where doers it end? Even the atheist Russell saw the
problem of this infinite regress:

"Would the Piltdown Man have written Shakespeare's poetry if there had
been anybody to convict him of poaching? A resolute egalitarian who
answers these questions in the affirmative will find himself forced to regard
apes as the equals of human beings. An why stop with apes? I do not
see how he is to resist an argument in favour of Votes for Oysters. An
adherent of evolution should maintain that not only the doctrine of the
equality of all men, but also that of the rights of man, must be condemned
as unbiological since it makes too emphatic a distinction between men
and other animals." (Russell B., "History of Western Philosophy," 1961,


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."
--- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)