Controversy over ‘early Paleolithic’ stone ‘tools’ in Canada continues
Published: 1 August 2001 (GMT+10)
This is the pre-publication version which was subsequently revised to appear in Journal of Creation 15(3):4–5.
Have you ever wondered about those stone ‘tools’ that evolutionists discover? Sure, some of them are obviously of human origin—even works of art. Others look more questionable. Last year I reported in TJ on a controversy over the discovery of what are claimed to be early Paleolithic stone tools in North America (Oard, 2000). These primitive stone ‘tools’ were unearthed near Calgary and Peace River, Alberta, Canada (Chlachula, 1996; Chlachula and Leslie, 1998). The ‘artefacts’ consist mainly of various chipped quartzite cobbles interpreted as choppers. These ‘tools’ are similar to ‘early Paleolithic tools’ commonly found in Europe and Africa, including the lower portion of the Olduvai Gorge, East Africa. The Alberta ‘tools’ have presented several nasty difficulties for evolutionists, which was reemphasized in a recent exchange of opinion on the subject in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (Driver, 2000; Chlachula and Leslie, 2000).
Evolutionists have devised an elaborate classification system for stone tools ranging from the most primitive early Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the youngest, exquisitely crafted tools. This classification is based on the idea of the evolutionary development of man over several million years. The first people to enter the United States, passing southeast through Alberta from Alaska and the Yukon Territory, were the Clovis people who manufactured sophisticated stone tools. This was supposed to have happened at 11,000 years B.P. in the geological time scale. The particular problems these Alberta ‘tools’ present is that the early Paleolithic supposedly occurred much earlier than 11,000 years ago, suggesting that the timing of man’s entry into the New World was perhaps more than 100,000 years ago. There is little evidence for the early Paleolithic in North America within the uniformitarian system, except for a few disputed sites. Thus, the Alberta ‘tools’ confuse not only the New World chronology, but also the Old World chronology. Another possibility is that the sophisticated Clovis people entered the New World along with what evolutionary theory would brand as primitive people. This scenario would muddy up the neat tool classification system. Or the ‘tools’ can simply be geofacts, products of nature and not man, and thus cast doubt on all those other early paleolithic ‘tools’ found elsewhere in the world. Regardless, the paleoanthropologists have problems.
In the recent exchange of opinion in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Jonathan Driver from the Archaeology Department of Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, British Columbia, makes a case that the Alberta ‘tools’ are geofacts. In the spirited exchange, some obscure information was divulged that makes me lean toward the opinion that practically all, if not all, of these ‘early Paleolithic stone tools’ are geofacts. Thus man never was so primitive over such a large area of the earth for a lengthy time.
Driver adds more information to the dispute by pointing out that nature can chip rocks similar to the markings found on ‘early Paleolithic tools.’ He lists several examples, including three artefact–looking stones eroded out from an ‘ancient tillite’ that was formed long before man was supposed to have come on the scene within the evolutionary time frame, and basalt cobbles flaked by percussion as a result of falling into a gorge on the Zambezi River. (A ‘tillite’ is supposedly consolidated glacial debris, mostly dated 200 million to 2 billion years old. I have previously made a case that these particular rocks are better explained as resulting from gigantic submarine landslides during the Genesis Flood— see my book Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? 1997)
Driver also rejects the belief that the experience of the analyst is important for distinguishing between artefacts and geofacts. Driver further states that supposed diagnostic criteria distinguishing between naturally- and humanly-flaked rocks have not been tested and are held by faith. However, he believes that the stone ‘tools’ from Olduvai Gorge, Africa, (similar to those in Alberta) supposedly a million years old or older, are really human artefacts because they were found in fine-grained sediments, which precludes natural abrasion by high energy water flow.
Chlachula and Leslie counter most of Driver’s points, sticking to their belief in early Paleolithic artefacts from Alberta. They also divulge further information, reinforcing my opinion. They plainly state that much circular reasoning occurs in distinguishing artefacts from geofacts. If the evidence fits the establishment view of the evolution of man, then the cobble or chip is considered an artefact, but if it does not fit, the rock is rejected. (Much of this probably goes on behind the scenes and is never published.) They state that there is a tendency:
‘ ... to question records, which may be genuine, by means of selectively applied and occasionally simplified arguments about the capacity of natural processes to generate them, because they simply differ from the established pattern of cultural manifestations.’
They also point out that if evidence for a high-energy environment is used as a criterion to judge between artefacts and geofacts, the number of paleolithic sites around the world would be greatly reduced. Chlachula and Leslie thus reject the criterion of distinguishing an artefact by a fine-grained sedimentary or low-energy environment, pointing out that one of their sites in Alberta is within fine-grained lacustrine clay. Turning their argument around, if their Alberta rocks are really geofacts, then those in Olduvai Gorge could also be geofacts according to Driver’s fine-grained criterion.
One point of the discussion seems fairly clear, namely that rocks chipped to look like primitive ‘tools’ can occur in high-energy water processes. This being the case, there is strong evidence for the catastrophic transport of the many millions of quartzite rocks strewn over large portions of southern and central Alberta, as well as surrounding areas, before the Ice Age. Based on 1) the transport of these exotic rocks from the Rocky Mountains 700 kilometers or more, 2) the sometimes large scale of the deposits, and 3) the abundant percussion marks, a regional catastrophic flow of water is implied (Klevberg and Oard, 1998). Those quartzites found in lacustrine clays could simply be reworked after this catastrophic process, probably by being picked up and dropped by floating ice or icebergs in a lake adjacent to an ice sheet. Likewise the stone ‘tools’ from Olduvai Gorge could have been fashioned by high–energy water flows and finally deposited within fine–grained sediments.
- Chlachula, J., Geology and Quaternary environments of the first preglacial palaeolithic sites found in Alberta, Canada. Quaternary Science Reviews 15:285–313, 1996.
- Chlachula, J. and Leslie, L., Preglacial archaeological evidence at Grimshaw, the Peace River area, Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 35:871–884, 1998.
- Chlachula, J. and Leslie, L., Preglacial archaeological evidence at Grimshaw, the Peace River area, Alberta: Reply. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 37:875–878, 2000.
- Driver, J.C., Preglacial archaeological evidence at Grimshaw, the Peace River area, Alberta: Discussion. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 37:871–874, 2000.
- Klevberg, P. and Oard, M.J., Paleohydrology of the Cypress Hills formation and Flaxville gravels; in: Walsh, R.E. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pp. 421–436, 1998.
- Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Creation Research Society Monograph No. 6, Creation Research Society, St. Joseph, Missouri, 1997.
- Oard, M.J., Did ‘Old World early Paleolithic’ people travel to North America? Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 14(3):3–5, 2000.