Problems with Lucy and Skull 1470

Problems with Lucy and Skull 1470

David A. Plaisted


The Lucy skeleton is supposed to be an intermediate between ape and man. There has been a lot of discussion of Lucy's knee joint by creationists and much misunderstanding. The best I can now determine is that there were 2 knee joints, one found nearby and one far away. The one found far away was found two to three kilometers away from the skull and 60-70 meters deeper in the strata. Dr. Johansen does not claim that the knee joint belonged to Lucy. Instead, it was part of another fossil he found some time earlier. He does put them together logically, though, claiming that they were of the same species. This whole issue is discussed at length in the FAQ. Lucy is an example of Australopithecus afarensis, and other examples of this species have been found since then.

Dr. Charles Oxnard completed the most sophisticated computer analysis of australopithecine fossils ever undertaken, and concluded that the australopithecines have nothing to do with the ancestry of man whatsoever, and are simply an extinct form of ape (Fossils, Teeth and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution, University of Washington Press, 1987).

Stern and Sussman write in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (60:279-313):

"In summary, the knee of the small Hadar hominid shares with other australopithecines a marked obliquity of the femoral shaft relative to the bicondylar plane, but in all other respects it falls either outside the range of modern human variation (Tardieu, 1979) or barely within it (our analysis). Since, aside from the degree of valgus, the knee of the small Hadar hominid possesses no modern trait to a pronounced degree, and since many of these traits may not serve to specify the precise nature of the bipedality that was practiced, we must agree with Tardieu that the overall structure of the knee is compatible with a significant degree of arboreal locomotion." (p.298)

The paper by Stern and Sussman also mentions that the hands and feet of Australopithecus afarensis are not at all like human hands and feet; rather, they have the long curved fingers and toes typical of arboreal primates. Notwithstanding, the St. Louis Zoo features a life-size statue of Lucy with perfectly formed human hands and feet.

Most evolutionists, including Johanson, insist that the footprints that Mary Leaky uncovered in "3 million year old" strata in Latoli were made by Australopithecus afarensis, though these prints are indistinguishable from those of modern man.

I am told that no australopithecine we know anything about could have made the Laetoli footprints, because even australopithecines which are much younger than the Laetoli footprints have clear apelike features. The only possible upright walker, A. afarensis, is known to have had a chimp foot with an opposable toe. One of the world's leading authorities on australopithecines, British anatomist, Solly Lord Zuckerman has concluded (based on specimens aged much younger than Lucy) that australopithecines do not belong in the family of man. He wrote "I myself remain totally unpersuaded. Almost always when I have tried to check the anatomical claims on which the status of Australopithecus is based, I have ended in failure." (Beyond the Ivory Tower, 1977, p. 77)

One of Zuckerman's associates in the field of anatomy Dr. Chas. Oxnard (USC) writes "Although most studies emphasize the similarity of the australopithecines to modern man, and suggest, therefore that these creatures were bipedal tool-makers at least one form of which (A. africanus--"Homo habilis," "Homo africanus") was almost directly ancestral to man, a series of multivariate statistical studies of various postcranial fragments suggests other conclusions." He further concludes, "Finally, the quite independent information from the fossil finds of more recent years seems to indicate absolutely that these australopithecines of half to 2 million years and from sites such as Olduvai and Sterkfontein are not on a human pathway." In Oxnard's opinion, australopithecines were neither like humans or apes but more like Pongo, the orangutan...even more "distant" from man, than a gorilla... "to the extent that resemblances exist with living forms they tend to be with the orangutan" (U. of Chicago Magazine, Winter, 1974, pp. 11-12).

Skull 1470 discovered by Leakey is supposed to be an ancestor to man, too. Did you know that Leakey and others obtained 41 potassium-argon dates for this skull, all of which they rejected because the date obtained was not "right"? Finally Leakey used an argument based on the size of pigs teeth found in the strata to get the date for skull 1470 that he thought was correct.

The following information was sent to me by a reader of this web site:

The ER-1470 skull was found in l972 (in fragments) a little below a geological strata known as KBS tuff. This tuff had been dated a few years earlier at 2.6 million years so Richard Leakey assigned the skull an age of 2.9 million years. This aroused a storm of controversy as the skull had an enormous brain capacity of perhaps 825 cubic centimeters and several surprisingly modern features. After nearly a decade of debate--often acrimonious--a committee of neutral experts was assembled and used a variety of sophisticated tests which included faunal comparisons (especially fossilized teeth of both Lake Turkana and Ethiopian Afar pigs). They re-dated the tuff at 1.9 million years. (The skull fragments themselves have never been dated.) Leakey then estimated the skull's age at 2 million years. He regarded it as an example of Homo Habilis. Unfortunately the skull is too advanced for this species or this age. A new generation of scholars tends to call ER-1470 Homo Ergaster and this new species is seen as a bridge from Homo Habilis to Homo Erectus, our alleged immediate ancestor. But in some ways ER-1470 is too modern even for these species. The maturation and gender of the original owner of the skull is unknown. If ER-1470 was a female, the cranial capacity of an adult male of this species would approach 1,000 c.c, right to the edge of modern humanity. If ER-1470 was an adult male, then the small brow ridges, thin cranium and other modern features would assume greater importance and approach modern man. Thus, no matter how you slice it, ER-1470 is a problem for all concerned. It would seem that this one fossil, therefore, could be a major focus for creationist science.

Another person sent me this information:

For those who would like a much longer and more detailed description of this significant human skull, see Marvin L. Lubenow's excellent book "Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils," published 1992 by Baker Book House.

Not only is it informative about the skull itself, it has quite a few pages (in the appendix) about the dating of this fossil. He gives a play-by-play description of a number of sequential radiogenic datings, each giving different numbers, and tells how the question was finally settled by means of the fossil of a pig, some distance away.

The whole book is interesting reading, and very informative. The appendix tells a lot about the inaccuracy of radiogenic dating, and it does so by quoting these various actual measurements on the KBS Tuff of this particular skull.

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