The mystery of ancient man

by Steve Cardno

First, it was sufficient for Noah and his helpers to be able to build a huge ocean-going vessel. The Ark measured approximately 135 metres (450 feet) long, 23 metres (75 feet) wide and 13 metres (45 feet) tall (Genesis 6:15). We know that these proportions were ideal for stability.2 This colossal task would have required advanced knowledge in engineering, not to mention timber-working techniques (see also  Q&A: Noah’s Ark).

Evolutionary historians believe that each culture devised the same style of building independently.

Second, we can get some indication from the level of technology in those civilizations which sprang up rapidly after the Flood. Noah and his family would have tried to carry with them as much know-how as they could, to survive, and restart civilization in the ‘new world’ for which they were headed.

The Bible records that soon after the Flood, mankind built a huge city. This was in the fertile river valley of Mesopotamia, around present-day Iraq. Even evolutionists can’t ignore the evidence here, and generally refer to this area as the ‘cradle of civilization’. Which it was—but only for the post-Flood world.

The tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9) was probably a ziggurat, or the first type of pyramid, like others still standing in the area (around present-day Babylon). Similar styles of pyramids are found in ancient civilizations all around the world. Evolutionary historians believe that each culture devised the same style of building independently. But it seems more sensible to suggest that they are similar because they all came from the same origin—Babel.

As with any group of people in society today, those that existed at the time of the Tower of Babel would have had a diverse range of skills. Some were builders, some artists, and others farmers. However, when God divided the groups by language, the broad pool of knowledge was divided also. The original groups that became, for example, the civilizations of the Egyptians and Mayans obviously included people skilled in civil engineering, building, and so on, as evidenced by the rapid establishment of their cultures. Other groups would have lacked such knowledge.

Ineuw, wikimedia commons PyramidOfTheMoonTeotihuacan
The Pyramid of the Moon is one of the largest pyramids in modern-day San Juan Teotihuacán, Mexico.

Imagine if you and your extended family were suddenly forced to migrate rapidly into an unpopulated wilderness. Even though you come from a society with great technology, it is likely that your family group would not carry all of the necessary knowledge with you to, for example, be able to find ore-bodies, and smelt and work metals. So you might choose to use stone tools to survive.

Cave men

After the Flood, some groups chose to shelter in caves. In harsher climates, these would have provided more protection than artificial dwellings. However, this does not make their inhabitants ‘primitive’ or unintelligent. Some people today choose an alternate lifestyle away from cities, in surroundings that could be considered ‘primitive’, without being any less intelligent than others.

The typical ‘cave-man’ is portrayed as a hairy, dim-witted, brutish creature. However, many cave paintings reveal a skill equivalent to that of some of the greatest artists of modern times.

Recently, surprised scientists have even found ‘stone-age’ musical instruments, revealing a high level of understanding and musical ability.3

It is easy to see how many skills would be lost if people were broken into isolated small groups today. For example, one such group may have farmers and architects, but no mechanics, geologists, or blacksmiths. That group would know of the mechanic’s skill but not how to apply it. Similarly after Babel, those groups fortunate enough to carry the broadest range of skills would be able to transplant their previous culture rapidly. It would look as if it had sprung up ‘overnight’.

There seems to be no evidence showing how the knowledge to build pyramids was developed. Note the following two quotes by evolutionist researchers:

‘There is no evidence whatever of any technological breakthrough in the methods of quarrying or cutting stone which might account for the onset of pyramid building. All the tools and techniques used by the pyramid builders were in existence well before their time.’4

Than217, wikimedia commons AbuSimbelTemple
The huge statues of the pharaoh Ramesses II at the entrance to the great temple at Abu Simbel.

‘The archaeological evidence suggested that rather than developing slowly and painfully, as is normal with human societies, the civilization of Ancient Egypt, like that of the Olmecs, emerged all at once and fully formed. Indeed, the period of transition from primitive to advanced society appears to have been so short that it makes no kind of historical sense.

‘Technological skills that should have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to evolve were brought into use almost overnight—and with no apparent antecedents whatever. (emphasis added)’5

Some of those groups which found themselves forced to use stone technology would have gained other knowledge in time, while we see cultures today which are still quite content to use stone tools. They are, however, fully human and intelligent. There is also evidence that cultures can lose technology. In ancient Egypt, the early pyramids were the best, with the quality declining until they were no longer built. As one secular researcher observed:

‘The pyramid age had come to an end, having lasted for a little more than a century. Pyramids were still being erected for about a thousand years, but they rapidly became smaller and shoddier, and it is quite clear that with the third Giza pyramid the zest had gone out of pyramid building forever.’6

Massive buildings and ingenious solutions

On a windswept plateau, 3,900 metres (13,000 feet) high near the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca in South America lies the ancient city of Tiahuanaco. It was a majestic ruin even when the ancient Incas arrived there. Sixteenth century Spanish treasure-hunters didn’t believe the local Indian tradition that Tiahuanaco sprang up very rapidly, after a great Flood, built by unknown giants. Today the remains of immense statues and stones lie strewn over the landscape.

A Reader’s Digest author commented, ‘… the best engineers of today still ask themselves whether they could cut and move huge masses of rock such as those used to build the city. The giant blocks look almost as though a die were used to cut them—a task achieved with none of the resources of modern technology’7 and ‘… the architects who designed and built them were men of genius.’8

Many of the structures from the ancient world have stood for thousands of years in relatively good condition—would our 20th century buildings still be standing in thousands of years?

In the ancient city of Sacsahuamán, near the city of Cuzco, Peru, there is a magnificent wall built by the Incas, deliberately using irregularly shaped blocks of stone. Some of the blocks weigh as much as 100 tonnes and are so accurately fitted together that still today it is not possible to insert a piece of paper in the joints between the blocks.

Diego Delso, wikimedia commons Stonehenge
Stonehenge — its massively heavy, precisely positioned slabs defied explanation for those thinking of the builders as ‘less evolved’. It has recently been demonstrated that greased planks, ropes, and ingenuity applied by fully intelligent people would do the job.

[Ed. note 22 January 2009: Since publishing this article, we have had reason to doubt the reliability of the reference on which this next paragraph is based. This does not negate the ingenuity and craftsmanship required to move blocks of up to 100 or so tonnes and fit them together precisely.]

Even more incredible, however, is a larger stone block in the area. The size of a five-storey house and weighing an estimated 20,000 tonnes, the builders of Sacsahuamán could, and somehow did, move this block! The feat of moving such a staggering weight has never been attempted, let alone duplicated, with modern machinery. Even the largest crane in the world today is capable of lifting only about 3,000 tonnes.9

No wonder New Age authors who accept evolution believe that ancient man must have had help from some technologically advanced race!10

Consider two examples of ancient man’s ingenuity in building the pyramids.

The pyramids required an absolutely level base for their foundations. This was achieved by using an ingenious spirit level. The Egyptians first cut channels into the underlying rock and filled them with water. Then, they inserted rods into the channels and marked off the water line, thereby establishing a true level. And read what one author says regarding one burial chamber construction:

‘The ceiling consists of nine blocks with a total weight of 400 tonnes. To minimize the danger of the great weight of the masonry above bringing down the ceiling, five superimposed open spaces were provided above the chamber to spread the load; these constitute a masterpiece of engineering.’11

Levelling? Loads? Building for stresses? Accounting for these types of things reveals a high level of knowledge beforehand. Architects and civil engineers spend years at university learning these kinds of advanced skills. The ancient world displays numerous other examples of man’s ingenuity.

Archaeologists studying ancient civilizations often report being ‘amazed’ or ‘surprised’ at the level of man’s skill in the distant past. Actually they’re surprised only because their evolutionary beliefs lead them to expect to find evidence of ‘primitive’ men, not intelligent ones.

Amazing history

Ruins of an ancient Mayan astronomical observatory
Ruins of an ancient Mayan astronomical observatory. Note the similarity to one of today’s observatories.

The truly astonishing feats of the ancient world, requiring a high degree of intelligence, knowledge and skill, were not only in architecture and civil engineering. The ancient Mayans were meticulous time keepers. Without computers or sophisticated measuring equipment they knew the length of the solar year to be 365.2420 days long. Only recently have astronomers calculated it to be 365.2422 days long.

The Mayans worked out that 405 full moons occurred in a period of 11,960 days; modern research shows it to be 11,959.888 days. They calculated the synodic period of Venus at 584 days; current science shows it to be 583.92 days [the synodic period is the phase cycle as observed on Earth—the time between successive appearances of a given phase, e.g., crescent. The Mayans of course were not familiar with Galileo’s explanation that the phases of Venus could be explained by its orbit around the Sun (224.7 Earth days)—called the siderial period, i.e. relative to the stellar background]. These minute margins of error, confirmed only with the use of modern technology, reveal an amazing degree of accuracy on the part of these ancient cultures.

Interestingly, considering the Mayans’ obsession with accurate timekeeping, the Mayan calendar apparently began from a creation date about 3114 BC. The Mayans also excelled at mathematics, using a positional system, similar to today’s, that was less clumsy than that used by the Romans in Europe.

Ancient ingenuity

Facing an extremely difficult (even by today’s standards) task, the civilizations that erected the giant statues on Easter Island, and the colossal figures of the Pharaoh Ramesses in Egypt, used human ingenuity in construction. An Incan wall of irregular stone blocks, fitted together so precisely that even after centuries of earthquakes it is not possible to fit a piece of paper between the joints. The stone block weighs an estimated 100 tonnes! [More pictures available in  Creation magazine.]

Did you know?

• In 1900, off the island of Antikythera, Greek divers discovered the wreck of an ancient ship sunk about 65 BC. Recovered from the wreck was a device with an extremely complex system of precision mechanical metal gears and engraved scale calibrations. Thought to be some kind of navigation computational device, it reveals the inventors to be extremely intelligent.

• The ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus valley, believed to be one of the earliest civilizations known, had a system of sanitation exceeding that of many European cities thousands of years later.

• The ruins of Roman temple columns at Baalbek in Lebanon stand on a single foundation stone (placed by an earlier civilization) weighing an estimated 2,000 tonnes.

• Carved from a single block of volcanic rock, the ‘gateway of the sun’ at Tiahuanaco weighs an estimated 100 tonnes. How it was transported and erected is a mystery.


The known history of mankind does not suggest evolution from a primitive ‘ape-man’ creature through to today’s intelligent human. Rather, the evidence from the past shows that people have always been intelligent, using their ingenuity to make the best out of the various situations in which they found themselves.

Published: 22 December 2010


  1. Technological and scientific progress this millennium has been prominent where the Bible was honoured. The widespread rebelliousness of the pre-Flood world would have likely hindered such blessings. Return to text.
  2. Hong, S.W. et al.Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a Seaway, J. Creation8(1):26–36, 1994. All the co-authors are on the staff of the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, Taijon. Return to text.
  3. Hamer, M., Haunting tunes from ghostly players, New Scientist 151(2048):12, 21 September 1996. Return to text.
  4. Mendelssohn, K., A Scientist Looks at the Pyramids, American Scientist 59(2):210-220, March–April 1971. . Return to text.
  5. Hancock, G., Fingerprints of the Gods, pp. 135–136, New York Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1995. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 4, p. 212. Return to text.
  7. Waisbard, S., in The World’s Last Mysteries (2nd edition), Reader’s Digest, p. 138, 1978. Return to text.
  8. Ref. 7, p. 135. Return to text.
  9. Noorbergen, R., Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries of Advanced Technology in Ancient Civilizations, Norcom Pub. Co, TN, 1977, cited in Donald Chittick, The Puzzle of Ancient Man, Creation Compass, 1997. Return to text.
  10. An alien super-race is not only unnecessary, it is contradicted by evidence. A number of false starts and collapses in pyramid-building show fallible, though intelligent humans. Return to text.
  11. Christopher Angell, reference 7, p. 192. Return to text.

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