This article is from
Creation 11(2):44–47, March 1989

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Fascinating French fossil find

Sea, land and lake creatures have been found buried together in one massive fossil deposit. Can evolutionists, or creationists, offer the most satisfactory explanation of what happened?


One of the richest fossil discoveries of the past 10 years is the huge deposit in the coal basin of Montceau-les-Mines near Autun in France. Racing to beat the strip-mining machines, amateur fossil-hunters collected 7,000 slabs and more than 100,000 nodules before the mine was filled in.

The Montceau fossils are regarded by evolutionary reasoning as being late Carboniferous, some 300 million years old. Only about 25 percent of the nodules have been opened so far, and nearly a quarter of these have well preserved fossil animals. Many are in excellent condition.

When different types of fossils are found together in the one location, the first thought of the evolutionist is that they lived together. So he tries to piece together a theoretical picture of the ‘environment’ in which they likely lived. The creationist is less likely to overlook the fact that finding various fossils together in the one place does not necessarily mean more than that they were buried together, which can happen in a massive flood. Such beautifully preserved specimens are overwhelming evidence for rapid burial and hardening to protect the features from decay.

So what is the evolutionary reconstruction of the environment, based upon the types of fossils found?

Animals ‘entombed abruptly’

Two paleontologists from the Museum of Natural History in Paris report in Scientific American that the evidence ‘tells a contradictory story’.1 They say this because some of the fossils are of marine (saltwater) creatures, some are definitely freshwater dwellers (e.g. amphibious), and some are definitely land creatures (e.g. spiders, scorpions, millipedes and certain insects and reptiles). This sort of ‘faunal mixing’ is understandable to the creationist/catastrophists, for creatures from widely separated regions may be brought together by transportation during ultra-massive flooding.

The authors try to resolve the dilemma by postulating an environment consisting of a river estuary (mouth) in which the ‘flow of fresh river water alternated with brackish tides’. Ironically, they give as a clue to this explanation the fact that a particular type of bivalve fossil mollusk in this deposit is usually found with its two shells linked at the hinge. This suggests rapid burial. They even acknowledge that it is ‘possible that living animals were entombed abruptly by the rapid deposition of sediment.’

This must have been a unique estuarine system, burying hundreds of thousands of creatures rapidly over the years. Where do we see such a thing in the process of formation today? Furthermore, to add to the evidence for catastrophic burial, the authors tell of fossil raindrops and ripple marks being found at the site. Common sense indicates that these short-lived structures must be buried quickly with further sediment to preserve their detail, or else they will not survive the next tide or rain, or even a short period of normal erosion.

The ‘river mouth/sea tide’ explanation has another problem, however. As the authors themselves say, ‘Most geologists think the sea at the end of the Carboniferous was far south of Montceau’. To explain the presence of marine animals in Montceau, they suggest a possibility that the lakes were salty. They do not, however, discuss what this does to their previous estuarine explanation. Also not all the lakes are allowed to be salty because some of the fossils are of a freshwater lake dwelling (lacustrine) variety.

Hoping for clues

Careful reading of this article reveals that, as always there has been no new discovery of any fossils at Montceau which show evidence of evolution in progress. A large number of insect nymphal forms have been discovered some showing wings developing (this is simply like a ‘freezing frame’ in the normal process of wing development in a particular insect; had the insect lived to adulthood, it would have had fully formed wings). Yet the author say that, ‘It is hoped that these nymphal forms, currently under investigation, will provide clues to the evolution of insect wings.’

Other fossils in the deposit, the onychophores, are said to have under-gone ‘Little morphological change in nearly 500 million years’. (Onychophores are slug-like creatures which have a ‘velvet’ appearance. They range in size from 1.5 to 15 centimetres (½ inch to six inches).)

The report, manually, is presented within a totally evolutionary framework. Most people have been conditioned to accept the assumptions of this framework uncritically, so when they read such an article, they will merely have their evolutionary prejudices reinforced.

But the facts presented in the article give no support to evolution (no transitional forms), and are much more consistent with rapid burial during massive continental flooding (Noah’s Flood?) than with the complex unsatisfactory theories put forward by the authors. Such clumsy constructions are of course necessary to try to account for the awkward creatures that are buried together in the one massive deposit, far away from where there was even supposed to be any sea at the time.

Many geological problems remain unsolved in the Creation/Flood model of earth history. However, articles like the one we have been discussing reinforce my conviction that if even a fraction of the massive amounts expended in research over the past 150 years (shackled within the traditional framework) had been applied to research acknowledging the basic revealed facts of earth history (Creation-Flood), we would be much further in understanding the details of what really happened.


  1. D. Heyler and C.M. Poplin, ‘The Fossils of Montceau-les-Mines’, Scientific American, September, 1988, p.70. Return to text.