Give Me Shelter:

A Forbidden Archaeology Report from Michael A. Cremo



On March 1, 2000 the New Scientist web site carried a report on a discovery of evidence for a hominid habitation site at Chichibu, Japan. At a hillside at Chichibu, north of Tokyo, Japanese archaeologists reported finding the remains of what the report called "the world's oldest artificial structure." The evidence for the structure took the form of ten post holes drilled into solid rock. The ten holes were arranged in two roughly pentagonal shapes, indicating that poles inserted into the holes formed the superstructures of two huts. Stone tools were also found at the site, which was given an age of 500,000 years.

The making of artificial shelters is something usually considered characteristic of anatomically modern humans. But because anatomically modern humans are thought not to have existed 500,000 years ago (the oldest skeletal evidence for humans of our type goes back about 100,000 years), archaeologists attributed the huts to the apeman Homo erectus. Chris Stringer, of the human origins group at the Natural History Museum in London, England, said, "it is the first good evidence from 500,000 years ago of a hut structure made by these people [i.e., Homo erectus]."

Other archaeologists shared Stringer's sense of surprise that Homo erectus could have achieved this level of culture. "If you have post holes, this is a rather exceptional situation in terms of what we know about hominid archaeology," says John Rick, an anthropologist at Stanford University. "Half a million years ago, we don't have any concept of what our ancestors were capable of doing at all."

But this sense of surprise may be based on incomplete knowledge of the history of our human species. In my book Forbidden Archeology, I have documented evidence for an anatomically modern human presence in Asia at the time represented by the newly discovered Chichibu site in Japan. For example, in 1958 workers found human bones in the Liujiang cave in southern China. In 1985, two prominent Chinese scientists, Han Defen and Xu Chunhua, identified the bones as belonging to the anatomically modern human species Homo sapiens sapiens. On this basis, they assigned the bones a fairly recent date. But the human bones were found in the same layers as bones of fossil animals from the Middle Pleistocene period, which extends from 100,000 to 1 million years ago. From elsewhere in the world, there is abundant evidence that anatomically modern humans were present at 500,000 years ago and earlier. The anatomically modern human skeleton found by German scientist Hans Reck at Olduvai Gorge in 1913 was solidly embedded in Upper Bed II, which is over 1 million years old. An anatomically modern human skull was found at a depth of over 45 feet, in Buenos Aires, in layers also over 1 million years old. This discovery was reported by the Argentine geologist Florentino Ameghino in 1909. These are just two of the many cases that could be cited.

So it is not necessary for archeologists to elevate Homo erectus to human status when they find evidence for huts in Japan at 500,000 years. If we consider all the available evidence, the Chichibu discoveries are best interpreted as evidence for anatomically modern humans in Japan at 500,000 years ago.

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