When Pre-humans Walked the Earth
A friend asked me recently if there were other people on earth when Adam and Eve were created? I replied that this is a controversial topic. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel and was forced to roam throughout the country. The Bible said he found a wife and built a city. Cain’s wife and inhabitants of the city have been interpreted by some to be pre-Adamite races of people.
Bible history is one history of civilization, that began about 10,000 years ago. The last ice age was withdrawing its tentacles of ice-sheets and glaciers from Europe, central Asia, and North America, and this allowed mankind to hunt and grow crops in a more livable and fertile landscape.
The Bible was focused on the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East, which was just one place where cities were built and kings ruled1. But civilizations sprang up in other parts of the world too. Agriculture emerged in the Fertile Crescent in 8000 BC, in China in 6500 BC, and in central America in 3000 BC.
The people in these innovative civilizations were called Homo sapiens, meaning the wise people. But what came before 10,000 years ago? To answer this we have to ask anthropologists who are scientists that study human origins.
A recent article claims to have discovered a new man-like species in a cave called the Rising Star cave system in South Africa. These humanlike bones have been named Homo naledi.
The Rising Star cave is a complex of tunnels and chambers that is a treasure trove of man-like fossil bones. In many cases enough bones to define a skeleton.
One part of the cave complex is called Superman’s Crawl. One anthropologist had to lose 55 lbs to belly-crawl through this tunnel. But this tunnel wasn’t a problem for Homo naledi, because they were shorter and slimmer in size, although sturdy and strong.
Anthropologists focus on certain human-like features like walking upright (does the spinal cord enter the center of the skull or the back of the skull), teeth, prominent brows above the eyes, and brain size.
Homo naledi were man-like creatures that scurried underground, like ants, to bury their dead in the Rising Star cave system. Bones in graves were laid out in a fetal position, and in one case with a hammer-like tool lying close to a hand bone. Above the grave were primitive carvings – criss-crossing lines and squares – nicked into dolomite, a kind of very hard gypsum. It must have taken some work.
The surprise was the brain size. Despite other human-like features – the creature undoubtedly walked upright across the savannah – the brain cavity was only a third of the cavity size of modern man (Homo sapiens).
Brain sizes as small as this are not Homo sapiens — that’s why the separate name of Homo naledi. They are more ape-man in character, like Lucy, the famous skeleton discovered in 1974, who was classified as Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy stood just 3.5 feet tall as a fully-grown female, with a small brain about the size of a chimpanzee. She lived a bit over 3 million years ago. What is well established is that Lucy walked upright in what’s referred to as bipedal locomotion.
The other surprise was that the graves contained meaningful symbols, like the hand-tool that was buried with one naledi, and the carvings embedded above gravesites. Previously it had been believed that only Homo sapiens or their cousins the Neanderthals would have the brain capacity to do this.
The dates of the bones.
The dates of the bones of Homo naledi are 240,000 – 340,000 years old. There is some uncertainty in this which is often tightened up in later measurements. But we can still ask how this range of dates compares with dates of Homo sapien’s bones?
The oldest bone fragments of Homo sapiens were found in northwest Africa, near Morocco, and they were dated at 300,000 years. Although these are the oldest bones, the consensus is that Homo sapiens originated in southern Africa but spread quite widely across the continent.
Multiple individual Homo sapiens individuals have been uncovered in Qafzeh, Israel, and dated to 100,000 – 130,000 years ago. Bones co-located with ochre and tools imply intentional burial of Homo sapiens – the oldest ever found.
Anthropologists say a large migration of humans from Africa to the Middle East occurred about 55,000 years ago. Genetic studies have shown that all non-African people, including Europeans and Australian aborigines, were part of a landmark migration out of Africa 50,000 – 60,000 years ago. They eventually spread to all the livable places across the world.
Neanderthals existed widely across Europe and Asia at the same time as Homo sapiens, but died out by 40,000 years ago. Homo sapiens remain today as the only living human species. But all modern humans contain traces of Neanderthal DNA.
A question that has not been answered by anthropologists is why were Homo sapiens the only human species to survive?
Long ages of Homo sapiens versus short ages from Bible history.
How do these old dates for Homo sapiens compare with Biblical dates?
Homo naledi lived 240,000 – 340,000 years ago, but this species may be called subhuman, meaning a small brain in an individual who could walk upright.
Anthropologist’s dates of bones belonging to Homo sapiens go back 100,000 years. In a landmark migration, Homo sapiens, truly humanlike, came out of Africa 50,000 – 60,000 years ago, and eventually spread to all the livable places across the world.
But these dates are far older than biblical dates for Adam and Eve. Biblical history of humans began about 10,000 years ago, at the time of Adam and Eve, if one allows for gaps in the written record.
Some folks suggest that God intervened in the history of humankind to create Adam and Eve, who were made in God’s image. This could mean Adam and Eve were the first spiritual man and woman imbued with consciousness and a spirit so they could relate to and even talk with God.
For comparison, very old dates for the earth (4.5 billion years) and the universe (13.7 billion years) have been well-established by serious scientists.
I’m grateful to Don Minton who provided the newspaper story of Homo naledi.
1. Cyril Aydon, The Story of Man, Carol and Graf publishers, 2007.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Is it possible to reconcile scientific origins of Homo sapiens with the Genesis record in the Bible?
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.
[Genesis, Chapter 4].