Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Age of the Earth and the Evidence of Human Occupation

Alice C. Linsley

Students often ask questions that pertain to things they have heard about the Bible or read in the Bible. Over the years I have collected commonly asked questions and provided answers from the perspective of Biblical Anthropology.

In this article, I want to focus on three questions: the age of the Earth, the time that humans have been on Earth, and how we are to understand the biblical figure of Adam.

1. How old is the Earth?

Many churches cling to Young Earth Creationism which imagines the Earth as being about 6,000 years old. I am a member of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists who are Christians. I don't know of a single person in the ASA who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. All the scientific data indicates that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years.

The Bible also points to this reality. The longest period of history in the Bible is found between Genesis 1 and Genesis 12. This is also the most misunderstood section of Genesis. If the earth is 4.5 billion years, and the oldest human fossils are about 3.8 million years, we have a gap of millions of years between the first created humans and the Neolithic rulers listed in Genesis 4 and 5.

The Biblical material is self-explanatory. Eve, if taken as the first created female, was not the mother of Cain, the first ruler named in the Bible. If we read the text carefully, we find this: the woman gave birth to her first born son and declared kan-itti. In his excellent commentary on Genesis, E.A. Speiser notes that kan-itti shows close affinity to the Akkadian itti, as in itti šarrim, meaning "with the king." Akkadian was the language of the kingdom of the Kushite ruler Nimrod (Gen. 10).

Among the Oromo of Ethiopia and Somalia, itti is attached to names. Examples include Kaartuumitti, Finfinneetti and Dimashqitti. That itti is associated with Nilotic and Egyptian rulers is evident also in the name Nefertitti. Once we place the Biblical material in its proper cultural context, we understand that Cain's mother is declaring that she has gotten a king or ruler with God's help. This is the second Messianic reference in the Bible. The English word king is derived from the same root as Kain (Cain in English Bibles). Kain has many linguistic equivalents, including Qayan and Kahn, as in Genghis Kahn. All the words mean the same thing: king.

In the Bible, Kain stands as the archetype of the earthly ruler. In his epistle, Jude warns those who might abandon Christ that God punishes those who are against Him. Jude uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These are the three sacred offices among Abraham’s people, and by the time Jude wrote his epistle (c. 68 A.D.) Cain was well established as the archetype of the earthly ruler.

The flawed paradigm of Young Earth interpretation

In the Young Earth Creationist scheme, humans first appeared on the surface of the Earth about 4,000 years ago. This interpretation is based on a flawed understanding of the Genesis King Lists, which Bishop James Ussher used to calculate human existence from the time of Adam to Abraham. Ussher assumed that the "begats" in Genesis 4 and 5 represent the first people on earth. However, the Bible provides significant data to help us place these ancient rulers in the Neolithic period (4500-2800 BC). Fully human fossils predate this time period by many thousands of years.

Modern humans had already widely dispersed across the Earth before 80,000 years ago, long before the time of Noah (B.C. 2490-2415). Noah was a Proto-Saharan ruler whose reign coincided with the Old Kingdom, a time of great cultural and technological achievement in Egypt. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence. They ruled over Nilo-Saharan territories and their reigns coincided with the 7th and 8th Dynasties in Egypt.

First Intermediate Period
2475-2445 BC: 7th - 8th Dynasties Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth and Kush
2445–2160 BC: 9th -10th Dynasties Nimrod, Arpachshad, Salah, Eber and Peleg and Joktan

Middle Kingdom
2160-2000 BC: 11th Dynasty Nahor, Terah and Abraham
2000-1788 BC: 12th Dynasty Jacob, Esau, Joseph

The ancestors of modern humans (archaic humans) were mainly in Africa, which appears to be the point of origin of all humans.

2. How long have humans been on Earth?

Let us consider some of the evidence of human existence long before 4,000 years ago:

Mary Leakey and her team found these 3 million year human foot prints at Laetoli in Tanzania. Mary Leakey’s 1979 discoveries in Tanzania added to the evidence that humans walked the earth millions of years ago. Laetoli is about 25 miles south of Olduvai Gorge where Leakey discovered footprints of a man, woman and child created about 3.8 million years ago and preserved under falling ash from the nearby Sadiman volcano. The raised arch and rounded heel of the footprints showed that whoever left these footprints walked as humans today.

Human footprints dating to 1.5 million years have been found in Kenya. The report on the anatomy of these footprints states that these archaic humans walked like modern humans.

500,000 year old engraved sea shell with cross markings. This was found in Java, along with a polished shell that had been used as a cutting or scrapping tool.

This shell fossil is as old as the oldest stone tools found at the Kathu tool making complex in South Africa that date to 500,000 years. Here are samples of the extraordinarily large assemblage of hand-axes found at the Kathu site.

In 2012, a set of 44,000 year tools almost identical to tools used by the modern San people were recovered at Border Cave, a rock shelter in the Lebombo Mountains of South Africa.

This 77,000 year old red ocher stone with cross markings was found in the Blombos Cave of South Africa.

In 2008, a red ocher processing area was uncovered in the 100,000-year-old levels at Blombos Cave. Archaeologists also found two tool kits there. Counting devices have been found in this region also. They date between 43,000 and 80,000 years. 

There were tunnel mines 80,000 years ago in the Lebombo Mountains. This was the site of major mining operation. Stan Gooch reports:
"One of the largest sites evidenced the removal of a million kilos of ore. At another site half a million stone-digging tools were found, all showing considerable wear. All of the sites in fact produced thousands of tools and involved the removal of large quantities of ore; and while some were open quarries, others had true mining tunnels."
The world's oldest known mattress was unearthed in at the Sibudu Cave site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The mattress consists of layers of reeds and rushes. Archaeologists found that bedding had accumulated in the cave over a period of 39,000 years, with the oldest mats dating to 77,000 years ago.

70,000 year old python stone carved into the side of a mountain in Botswana. The stone has over 300 indentations made by humans to give it the shape of a python.

The cave where this was discovered is extremely secluded and difficult to access, so archaeologists did not discover it until the 1990's. There are two paintings on one wall of the cave.

Here are samples of 270 engraved eggshells that were excavated at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa. They date to 60,000 years.

The so-called "Dufuna boat"  is a 8000-year old dugout found in the Sahara, in the region of Lake Chad. 

Rock paintings of boats, fishing and cattle are found around the Sahara and date to the Late Holocene (African Humid Period) when the Sahara was wet and able to sustain large herds and larger human populations. 

Human burial sites

Archaic human burial sites have been found around the world that date between 9,000 years and millions of years.

Based on fossil evidence, of which there is a great deal, humans appeared over 3.6 million years ago. Archaic human bones dating to millions of years have been found in many parts of Africa. Most recently, the Rising Star Expedition recovered the fossil remains of humans from a burial pit in South Africa. The 1500 bones and bone fragments represent at least 15 individuals. The adults were about 5 feet tall. There are many more human bones yet to be brought up and examined. There are numerous sets of bones from multiple individuals of different ages and sexes. The expedition leaders report that the bones/bodies were deposited over “some period of time.”

The bones of the 15 individuals were recovered from a chamber accessible through a narrow chute about a hundred yards from the entrance of the Rising Star Cave (Dinaledi). The cavern has only fine sediment and no evidence of water transport of material from any outside source.

Parts of the skeletons resemble modern human anatomy while other skeletal remains resemble the australopiths, like Lucy. In other words, this burial pit contained the remains of people who ranged in appearance about as much as modern humans.

These individuals show a range of anatomical features and yet were buried in the same place. Some of the features are robust like modern humans and others exhibit the smaller structure of Lucy and the australopiths. This amazing find raises serious doubt about the Darwinian theory that apes and humans share a common ancestor.

The australopiths controlled fire and had butchering tools. They were ritually buried alongside the anatomically more modern humans, called Homo naledi.

This find is being presented as a "new branch" of homo, called Homo naledi. These researchers do not consider Lucy and her kin to be fully human, though there is much evidence to suggest so. They hang a great deal on the size of brain cavity, though this is not an indicator of complexity of thought. In this view, H. naledi is slightly more human than the A. australopithecine and slightly less human than modern humans. Again this is based on the size of the brain cavity. That of H. naledi is less than half that of the average modern human skull, but proportional to the rest of the body.

The cave burial of so many archaic humans suggests these people practiced ritual burial. No stone tools, clothing or other artifacts have been found in this burial site. There are many more bones awaiting further excavation.

In 2000, Paul Sereno discovered what appears to have been an ancient cemetery. His team later unearthed 10,000 year old skeletons at Gobero in Niger. These were buried on the edge of a paleolake on the northwestern rim of the Chad Basin. The Gobero site is the earliest known cemetery in the Sahara and the skeletons found there indicated that some were at least 6 feet tall. 

Gobero skeleton (G3B8) measures 6 feet 6 inches
Photo Mike Hettwer, courtesy Project Exploration

At the time of the Gobero population (9700-4400 years ago), humans populations were living in Africa, Europe, Asia, and on many islands from Madagascar to the Philippines. There is no evidence that any of these peoples were wiped out by a worldwide flood.

Burial in red ocher

H.B.S. Cooke discovered the body of a small boy buried with a seashell pendant and covered in red ocher. The body is dated between 46,000 and 80,000.

The "Fox Lady" of Doini Vestonice, Czechoslovakia, who was buried 23,000 years ago, was covered in red ocher.

A 20,000 year old burial site in Bavaria reveals a thirty-year-old man entirely surrounded by a pile of mammoth tusks and submerged in red ocher powder.

A man buried 45,000 years ago at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southern France, was packed in red ocher.

The "Red Lady" of Paviland in Wales was buried in red ocher about 20,000 years ago. Her skeletal remains and burial artifacts are encrusted with the red ore.

The use of red ochre in burial was widespread in prehistoric times. The red ore symbolized blood, the substance of life. The earliest humans regarded themselves as blood-beings. This is likely what stand behind the biblical expression "Life in in the blood." For Christians, the life-giving blood is that of Jesus Christ, shed on the Cross. He is a direct descendant of Adam, whose name is a reference to blood.

3. How are we to understand the biblical figure of Adam?

Adam is presented two ways in the Bible. As a historical person Adam is understood to be the progenitor (founding father) of Abraham's ancestral lines. These ancestors apparently had a distinctive red skin tone. They are in Haplogroup R1b and we have a great deal of scientific information about them.

The Biblical writers recognized that the people among them with red skin were of an ancestral line of extreme antiquity. Some of these people were rulers in Edom. These are listed in Genesis 36. Esau the Elder and Esau the Younger were among them. Esau is specifically described as being red in Genesis 26, and one of his descendants, King David, was likewise described as red or ruddy.

Jeff A. Benner, an expert on ancient Hebrew, explains:
We are all familiar with the name "Adam" as found in the book of Genesis, but what does it really mean? Let us begin by looking at its roots. This word/name is a child root derived from the parent דם meaning, "blood". By placing the letter א in front of the parent root, the child rootאדם is formed and is related in meaning to דם (blood).
By examing a few other words derived from the child root אדם we can see a common meaning in them all. The Hebrew word אדמה (adamah) is the feminine form of אדם meaning "ground" (see Genesis 2:7). The word/name אדום (Edom) means "red". Each of these words have the common meaning of "red". Dam is the "red" blood, adamah is the "red" ground, edom is the color "red" and adam is the "red" man. There is one other connection between "adam" and "adamah" as seen in Genesis 2:7 which states that "the adam" was formed out of the "adamah".
In the ancient Hebrew world, a person’s name was not simply an identifier but descriptive of one's character. As Adam was formed out of the ground, his name identifies his origins."

The ground in the area where the ancestors of Abraham lived has a reddish brown color. The words edom (Hebrew) and odum (Hausa), mean red-brown. Both words are derived from the root dam, a reference to the color of blood. Adam's color is that of the soil fro which the Creator made him.  He was formed from the red clay which washed down to the Upper Nile Valley from the Ethiopian highlands. These soils have a cambic B horizon. Chromic cambisols have a strong red brown color. This is the point of origin of the story of the forming of Adam from the earth.

The highest concentration of R1b in Africa is in the Lake Chad region, Noah's homeland
An estimated 70% of British men are in Haplogroup R1b .

Adam is also presented as a meta-historical figure in the writings of the Apostle Paul. The term "meta-historical" means outside of history, or beyond time, as with Plato's eternal Forms. Paul speaks of Adam, the first man, as a having correspondence to Jesus Christ, the second Adam, by whom the curse of death is overthrown. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, he writes, "So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." Here Paul is speaking of Adam analogically, not historically.

Likewise, in Romans 5:14, Paul speaks of Adam analogically, that is, as one who provides a pattern: "Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the One to come."

Related reading: Evidence of an Old Earth; Was Noah Mesopotamian or Proto-Saharan?; When the Sahara Was Wet; Genesis on Human Origins; Facebook Conversation About Creationism; Biblical Anthropologists Discuss Darwin; Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change; The Genesis King Lists; Fully Human From the Beginning


  1. This misguided and misleading article rests too much on the same old mistake that secular "scientists" make; that being the assumption that every ancient bipedal creature we discover must be an early human being or some sort of "protohuman."

    In the 4.5 billion or so years since the creation of this planet, thousands and thousands of species had come and gone before the "sixth day."

    It is is the self aggrandized egocentricity of mankind that causes us to assume that God only made humans in the shape we enjoy. Even the non-believers are stuck in that rut, and they don't even know why.

  2. Thomas, Apparently you did not understand the gist of this article. Anthropologically speaking, archaic humans and modern humans are not very different. Archaic humans, though anatomically somewhat different depending on their environment, were fully human, created as such from the beginning.

  3. Alice, some Christian scientists believe that the archaic humans were actually "animals." They see them as some type of animal species. What are your thoughts on this? If they are seen as human, does that support other theories, etc? Or, if they are an animal species-- was extinction a possibility? I do wonder why Christian scientists vary in their thoughts on this topic. I do believe that it all goes back to how Genesis 1-11 is interpreted for those Christian scientists. Parents like me want to raise Christian kids who are critical thinkers who can look at science as a tool to learn and explore. We cannot push off these "archaic humans" or "animals" in any disregard as evidence is clear to their existence.

  4. Christians who hold to the Darwinian theory of common ancestry insist that archaic fossils represent a stage of evolution from the common ancestors of apes and humans, but this cannot be supported by Genesis which speaks of humans as a special creation appearing fully human and suddenly on the surface of Earth. Genesis has no evolutionary framework. See this:

    The oldest hominid fossils suggest fully human attributes: erectness, human dentition, control of fire, butchering tools, etc. Here are some articles that you might find helpful:


Your comments are welcome. Please stay on topic and provide examples to support your point.