A Better Model for the Stone Age
By A.J.M. Osgood
The accepted model of man's origin and development is evolutionary. It assumes a long period of time for man's development from a primitive origin to a civilized state. Textbooks assume this model. Our popular literature is full of pictures of developing man and cave man, allowing the artist to exercise his imagination fully. The modern media bombards us with the idea of man's evolutionary origin, and constant assumptions of long ages of time for man's presence on this earth backed by questionable dating methods.
Indeed, most writers on this particular subject assume that the case is closed, that the essential framework of man's development in what is known as the stone age is a 'fait accompli' which has no right to be questioned, and all that is now needed is to fill in the details of the exact timing and the steps involved.
Such assumptions, however, are questioned here. The framework will here be reasoned to be faulty and a different model will be advanced to explain all the artifacts available to archaeologists, yet this better model does not require the huge amounts of time the evolutionary chronology demands, and will satisfy every reasonable argument for a reasonable history of mankind. Its basic framework is the historical framework of the Bible, particularly in its earlier chapters. Its basic assumption is that the Bible is reasonable history, and so the biblical model should, therefore, be able to explain the history of mankind.
The evolutionary model
The stone age is here defined as that period of human history prior to the end of the Chalcolithic period in the Middle East.
The evolutionary chronology begins at approximately 2,000,000 years B.C., a date with which the majority would agree, although some dissent could be registered. This begins the Paleolithic period, which can be subdivided into Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic:-Lower Paleolithic 2,000,000 - 80,000 B.C.
Middle Paleolithic 80,000 - 30,000 B.C.
Upper Paleolithic 30,000 - 10,000 B.C.
Next comes the Mesolithic for which varying terms are used, namely, Epipaleolithic, Mesolithic and Protoneolithic. The broad category of the Mesolithic occupies the time between 10,000 and 8,000 B.C. Approximately 8,000 B.C. is the date given for the Neolithic period which extends up to approximately 5,000 B.C. In the Levant, the Neolithic has been divided into four periods, labelled 1 to 4. At 5,000 B.C., and extending onwards until 3,000 B.C. we come to the Chalcolithic or the copper stone age, with its sub-divisions varying according to the regions.These details can all be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Table summarizing 'Stone Age' evolutionary chronology in the middle east.
Figure 1. Table summarizing 'Stone Age' evolutionary chronology in the middle east.
The stone age chronology is clearly evolutionary, and occupying a period of approximately 2,000,000 years, telescopes down as we get closer to the present. It begins, by definition, where our supposed ancestors finally developed into Homo Erectus. Homo Erectus occupies a large portion of the Lower Paleolithic until the theoretical development of Homo Sapiens or modern man, from which time cultural evolution is prominent.These supposed time cultures have to be defined and this is done by means of artifacts. The following indicates how:
- Paleolithic. Usually defined on the basis of stone implements alone.
- Mesolithic. Defined in terms of stone implements and some evidence of building, usually with either rock or clay materials.
- Neolithic. Defined in terms of
- stone tools,
- some bone tools,
- early pottery development,
- evidence of early farming communities, and
- evidence of buildings and town structures.
- Chalcolithic. Defined in terms of stone and metal tools, bone tools and other artifacts, pottery, town and village communities and farming communities, but particularly the introduction of metal (mostly copper) used in weapons and other implements.
- the assumption of a developmental history of mankind anatomically and culturally; in other words, an evolutionary framework as a first base assumption; and
- the acceptance of various dating techniques for absolute values in dating human habitation.Let us now look at the second of these two assumptions, the dating methods.
Dating TechniquesThe scientific method can only work in the present, for it only has its artifacts in the present with which to experiment and to investigate. Reasonable scientific conclusions can be reached about those artifacts in the framework in which we find them, whether these be tools or cities or fossils. However, as we extrapolate the observations into the past we immediately step out of the scientific method and into the area of historical assumption. This is not science but mere reasoned conclusions, however acceptable they may be to one's reason.
It follows naturally that if the scientific method cannot work in the past and conclusions about the past must rest on assumptions, then there is not today a dating method that can be scientifically substantiated as being correct, for every method will have built into it an assumption. Now when we come to the practical application of this theory we discover in fact that this holds true. Let us look at the methods available.
There are many methods now available for dating. We will mention the more obvious, all of which are used to obtain an absolute date (we are not here referring to the primary chronological arrangement or relative dating). The discussion will not be concerned with a lengthy treatise on the subject matter as this can be found in a number of other places.
Fossil dating.This is largely irrelevant in this context as it is used for much greater periods of time. However, it is used to some extent in the Lower Paleolithic strata as here defined. Fossil dating assumes that the fossil can be dated by the rock in which it is found, and dating of the rock in which it is found assumes that it can be dated by the fossil which is found in it. This is, of course, circular reasoning and is frankly invalid.
Radiometric dating.Radiometric methods assume that we can estimate the amount of radio active substance with which we began the time clock, a doubtful proposition, since that was a past event. It usually assumes a constant decay rate whereas of recent years some doubt has crept into this assumption, and in most cases it assumes no outside interference that has altered the system.
Carbon-14 dating.Carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating in particular assumes that the influx and outflow of carbon-14 atoms into and out of the biosphere is in equilibrium. This simply is not so, and that alone invalidates the method. Massive variations have been found. Furthermore, all the assumptions that are made for the other radiometric methods essentially apply here, and these make all radiometric dating methods doubtful as scientific tests.
Dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating.This method is assumed by many to be able to 'correct' the carbon-14 clock from its drift of measurements. However, it assumes a number of things. Firstly, it begins its estimation with a carbon-14 date!1 This introduces circular reasoning again. It assumes also that a tree grows a single ring every year. This is simply not always the case, for some trees have been found to put on multiple rings each year, while other trees have been known to put on no rings in a particular year or for several years, particularly in dry times. It also assumes that conditions over small areas are the same as far as climate and soil conditions are concerned, but most gardeners can tell you that the growth potential for any tree can vary across very small distances in any one place. This is rarely taken into account in dendrochronology. Dendrochronology, in fact, is so shot through with assumptions that it is surprising that anyone dared to present it as a scientific test.1
The written word including coins.This assumes that the author is reliable or that the details are not inaccurately copied and can be verified.
What then can we say of dating the past? Simply this - the past, as far as its historical narrative is concerned, must begin with some form of assumption and that assumption will be determined by the particular bias or world view held. A person's bias totally includes his religious view, which shapes his thinking about the universe in which he lives and in which his ancestors lived, so that we see that history is built upon three things:-
- artifacts that have come down from the past,
- assumptions to extrapolate those facts into the past, and
- personal bias held by every historical interpreter.
Discussion of the supposed ape-like ancestors of man will not be dealt with here. They have been very adequately discussed by Bowden.2
The problem with the evolutionary chronology of the ancient world presented above is the following:
- There is a rival claim to the history of the ancient world found within the pages of Scripture, and
- That particular rival view of history forms the historical framework of a legal claim which affects the hope of the world, the faith of nations and the eternal well-being of the human race.
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