Beaded ornaments challenge ‘progressive creationists’


Fishing and coastal communities have used seashells as currency in very recent history, and the use of seashells as ornaments, necklaces, etc., continues today by people who cannot be labelled anything other than ‘modern’.
The secular dating of seashells with boreholes to tens of thousands of years ago confronts ‘progressive creationists’ who accept such long-age dating (such as Hugh Ross) with the problem of having to stretch the biblical chronogenealogies well beyond breaking point. (I.e., in order to push the time of the first human beings, Adam and Eve (the ancestors of all humans) before the people who left behind the seashells.) For a fuller explanation/refutation, see Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s book Refuting Compromise.

A team of international archaeologists recently announced that they had discovered twelve ‘82,000’-year-old beaded ornaments covered in red ochre from a limestone cave in Morocco.1 The ornaments were perforated mollusk shells, stained in red ochre, and likely worn as necklaces or bracelets. This claim places ‘modern’ human spiritual, symbolic, and artistic expression 40,000 to 50,000 years before most scientists believe humanity fully developed cultural modernity. An emerging trend of claimed older and older artifacts reflecting human spiritual expression poses serious questions for the human origins model of progressive creationist organization Reasons to Believe (RTB).

Corroboration of earlier discoveries

These ‘82,000’-year-old artifacts of human jewelry do not stand alone in their claimed antiquity. Archaeological sites in Algeria and Israel have revealed perforated mollusk shells that were likely utilized as necklaces or bracelets as well.2 The Algeria discovery was dated to ‘90,000’ years ago and the Israel artifacts ‘100,000’ years ago. In addition, the Blombus cave in South Africa yielded perforated shells dated at ‘75,000’ years ago. Therefore, these artifacts of ‘ancient’ human jewelry have been independently discovered in multiple locations.

Over the years, as new scientific discoveries have been published, RTB has continually changed its story about when God created the first humans:

  • 10,000 to 25,000 years ago,3 then revised to
  • 10,000 to 35,000 years ago,4 and subsequently stretched out to
  • 10,000 to 60,000 years ago.5

The present teaching of RTB is that mankind was supernaturally created between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.6

The evolutionary dates claimed for the jewelry from Morocco, Israel, Algeria, and South Africa clearly contradict the past teaching of RTB. But RTB seems to be able to modify its story about human origins with a flexibility and creativity which matches that of evolutionary anthropologists. The latest beaded ornaments just fit into the upper limits of RTB’s current story about human origins. However, with the evolutionary claims about fully-human spiritual expression trending ever older, how much further can progressive creationists stretch their model to accommodate these worldly timelines?

Tough questions on the horizon

Here are a few critical questions for RTB concerning their supposed biblically consistent teaching on human origins:

  • What will you do when human artifacts reflecting spiritual expression are discovered that predate the 100,000 year old mark?
  • What will you do when artifacts demonstrating human spiritual expression are discovered with Homo erectus, archaic sapiens, and Neandertals?
  • Will you try to stretch the Genesis chronogeneaologies even further? You have already added 94,000 years of missing generations into just 2,000 years of genealogies. Will you, for example, extend the range of Adam and Eve’s supernatural creation to between 10,000 to 150,000 years ago? Or 10,000 to 200,000 years ago?
  • Will you significantly increase the lower limit of your range?
  • Or would it be better to claim that non-human bipedal primates (’hominids’) can also express fully human spiritual, symbolic, and artistic expression and still be distinct from Adam, Eve, and their descendants?

Challenging the ‘big bang’ of the RTB human origins model

Although RTB technically allows for the supernatural creation of human beings up to 100,000 years ago, it proposes that the most likely date for humanity’s special creation was about 50,000 years ago. An older article on their website even proposes the 50,000 year mark as the extreme upper limit. Founder and president, Hugh Ross, in his latest book Creation as Science, points to the 50,000 year old mark as the most credible date due to the so-called technological and cultural ‘big bang’ in the human fossil record.

However, the latest artifacts are the fourth discovery of human ornamentation tens of thousands of years earlier than the 40,000 to 50,000 year mark which he has previously said is the approximate date of God’s creation of Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans).

Deconstructing ‘82,000-year-old’ human jewelry in the young-earth creation model

According to a straightforward interpretation of the Book of Genesis, God specially created mankind about 6,000 years ago. Since the beginning, mankind has possessed a fully developed spiritual, technological, and cultural capacity.

This latest discovery is further evidence, consistent with the first few chapters of Genesis in which early man displayed a highly advanced spiritual capacity and rapidly developed music, metal working, and agriculture. The key is to understand the subjective nature of the secular ‘date’ of these ornaments, which means that the quoted number can be rejected as invalid because it flatly contradicts the biblical timeline. These artifacts were made by humans descended from those who dispersed from the Tower of Babel after Noah’s Flood, and are no older than about 4,500 years ago.


As always, the difference between young-earth and ‘progressive’ creationists comes down to Scriptural authority. Young-earth creationists view the historical record of Genesis as reliable and authoritative, and begin with the Scriptural timeline when interpreting the anthropological evidence. Virtually all academics once worked on that basis, which is why, prior to the advent of uniformitarian geology and Darwinian evolution, the accepted date for humanity’s origin was around 4,500 BC. This date remained solid for thousands of years.

On the other hand, progressive creationists seem to view the historical record of Genesis as a general guide, but incomplete. The pronouncements of secular science, not Scripture, are taken as the authority when interpreting the anthropological evidence. In other words, their story of human origins is dependent on the latest discovery of secular science, which is why RTB has to continually change its proposed range of dates for humanity’s origin.

Remember, scientific discoveries change from day to day, but the Word of God never changes, because it is the truth.

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Published: 17 August 2007


  1. Bardsley, F., 82,000 year old jewelry found, Oxford Mail, www.oxfordmail.net/display.var.1445722.0.82_000
    , 04 June 2007. Return to Text.
  2. Schmid, R., Ancient shells may be oldest jewelry, Livescience, www.livescience.com/history/060622_ancient
    , 22 June 2006. Return to Text.
  3. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe web page, Genesis One, Dinosaurs, and Cave Men, 20 May 1989. Return to Text.
  4. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe web page, Facts & Faith Volume 3, No. 1 Spring 1989. Return to Text.
  5. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe web page, Genesis One, Dinosaurs, and Cave Men, 26 June 2002. Return to Text.
  6. Ross, H., Creation as Science, Navpress, pp. 151–2, 2006. Return to Text.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Compromise
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $12.00
Soft cover
15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati
US $4.00