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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Tim Jones

Thanks for posting this excellent article - I submitted it for the 11th February Four Stone Hearth.

Jesús Sanchis

Very interesting post. Rather than a venus, what I see in the picture is a human tooth! Anyway, there might be a lot of possible interpretations for this object. One interesting aspect to bear in mind is this: (taken from the article about the Tan-Tan venus, link above)

"There is no evidence that the overall form of the object was modified by human action. (...) The form of the object is attributable to the natural bedding of the initial sandstone and to weathering".

It seems that the evidence for this being a sculpture is very poor. But who knows? The whole thing would change if some more findings were made. For the moment, it can only be seen as a remote possibility.

Robert G. Bednarik

This blog, like most blogs, is so replete with errors of fact that I don't know where to start. I did not discover the stone from Tan-Tan, and I never called it a Venus. I have gone to much trouble to explain that it is a natural formation, but has certain specific anthropic modifications and was coated with haematite in the past.

Concerning the timeline, Ochre is found in profusion in the Acheulian in three continents, and up to 800 ka old. The second 'Venus' is from Berekhat Ram which is in Israel, not Syria, and the date is a guess. The oldest beads we have, several hundred of them, are from the Acheulian of Europe and Africa, and are several hundred thousand years old, from ostrich eggshell, fossil casts and teeth. The oldest engravings we have are about 300 ka, from such places as Bilzingsleben and Sainte Anne. The oldest dated paintings are 32 ka in radicarbon years, which might be 37 or 38 ka in sidereal years, based on the distortion by the Campanian Ignimbrite event.

Concerning the origins of language, which this blog is about, please do consider that all boffins agree that colonisation by seafaring proves language. Well, the first seagoing expeditions occurred up to a million years ago, in Indonesia. Go to Google and type in 'Pleistocene seafaring'. Very simple answer.

Discussing the Tan-Tan stone without having studied the paper in CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY (2003) is like blind people discussing colour: pointless.

Robert G. Bednarik
BLOGGER: Hmm. The Science article I was referring to says < between 300,000 and 500,000 years old, it resembles a human figure with stubby arms and legs. Robert Bednarik, an independent archaeologist based in Caulf ield South,Australia, insists that an ancient human
deliberately modified the stone to make it look more like a person.>>

Robert G. Bednarik

Dear Blogger,
The Science article wasn't written by me, it is second-hand and as unreliable as most material in Science (remember cold fusion?). Always go back to the original scientific source, never rely on journalists.

Now go back to what I said: "The second 'Venus' is from Berekhat Ram which is in Israel, not Syria, and the date is a guess". (Compare your "Benekhat".) How does your response relate to what I said? Perhaps this would work better if we took it one sentence at a time?

John Feliks

"Concerning the origins of language, which this blog is about, please do consider that all boffins agree that colonisation by seafaring proves language. Well, the first seagoing expeditions occurred up to a million years ago, in Indonesia. Go to Google and type in 'Pleistocene seafaring'. Very simple answer." -Robert Bednarik

Is everyone convinced? Is the "origins of language" discussion now over as Robert seems to suggest? I don't think so. If Robert appears to be a good source of unbiased factual information the reader needs, of course, to be aware that what he says is in the context of his own agenda, an agenda which is sometimes adhered to at all costs including sacrificing scientific objectivity or even blocking important data from publication if necessary. And if Robert is so bothered by those who wish to openly discuss important topics such as human language on blogs and likes the idea of discussing things "one sentence at a time," let's try it here and see if it is possible to separate apparent profundity from propaganda.

"All boffins agree that colonization by seafaring proves language" -Robert Bednarik

All I can say is that if they do, and by extension, assume that this is the case with Homo erectus, then 100% of the world's scientists and engineers have lost all sense of scientific objectivity and are willing to accept circumstantial evidence for seafaring as their central proof of early language. Although Robert is, without doubt, a genius (and I don't make this statement lightly, but only after reading a zillion of his papers), his statement here is quite meaningless as far as "proving language" goes. Of course, needing some way to explain the presence of hominids or their artifacts on various islands, Pleistocene seafaring makes sense, but the most important question in the case of Robert's statement on this blog is: How does anyone making claims to scientific rigor get from the idea that "seafaring proves language" to Pleistocene seafaring is a fact? As much as I like the idea, in reality there is no physical evidence whatsoever; and as scientists, we have to acknowledge this as it stands at the present moment. Consider these four value levels of what I would regard as proof of Pleistocene seafaring. This is not meant in any way to discredit the value of Robert's original work, but only the scientific value of his statement on this blog: 1.) THE CRITICAL PROOF REQUIRED: remains of ancient watercraft, say 800,000 to a million years old (as per Robert's claim). EVIDENCE: non-existent. (When you are making claims at this level, as Robert is, arguments that these ships or rafts just weren't preserved means absolutely nothing.) 2.) ACCEPTABLE PROOF: graphic or 3D sculptural depictions of Pleistocene watercraft which date to this general time period or even, OK, let's go easy, 500,000 years later. If you think even that is asking a lot as far as requiring real evidence in a scientific claim, how about just 50,000 years ago? EVIDENCE: non-existent. 3.) SUB-LEVEL NUMBER ONE ACCEPTABLE PROOF: graphic depictions of anything dated anywhere between one million and 50,000 years ago that may resemble a map to "any" island in Indonesia. EVIDENCE: non-existent. 4.) SUB-LEVEL NUMBER TWO ACCEPTABLE PROOF: Replicative archaeology by building modern rafts and testing sea crossings. Well, this is, in all fairness, superb work by Robert, but we still must ask, is this "proof" of Homo erectus seafaring? Of course not. And even though the idea is easy to accept if we have other reasons to believe in Homo erectus intelligence as I myself do, we should yet know that it cannot be regarded as proof, that is, if we are thinking objectively. So, as a reader, "please do consider" these things before discounting a blog as excellently produced as Babel's Dawn whatever the motivation behind someone's caustic remarks or etiquette in correcting error. FINAL THOUGHTS ON PLEISTOCENE SEAFARING AND LANGUAGE: Can genetics prove seafaring, or do remains of H. erectus or their artifacts on various islands prove seafaring? Of course not. It may suggest seafaring to a high degree, but it does not prove it, at least if what we require for proof is physical evidence somehow related to actual watercraft. Therefore, "Pleistocene seafaring...Very simple answer" (-Robert Bednarik), is a very inappropriate answer from someone who has traditionally promoted rigor in science; and last but not least, it really doesn't say anything at all regarding the origins of language anyway which is indeed what this blog is about...but it will take you to Robert's webpages where you can read about his excellent seafaring work; and I don't mean that facetiously. I have always been utterly fascinated by it. Go see. It is superb.


"This blog, like most blogs, is so replete with errors of fact that I don't know where to start... The oldest engravings we have are about 300 ka, from such places as Bilzingsleben and Sainte Anne." And later, "The Science article... [is] as unreliable as most material in Science." -Robert Bednarik

Bilzingsleben and its associated engravings are dated at 370,000 years BP (radiometric dating avg. 370,000; Uranium series chronology "more than" 350,000; Electron spin resonance dating, between 320,000-412,000, and some archaeologists are leaning toward the 400,000 year date). This makes the figure provided by Robert, according to the average dates published in the following sources, at least 70,000 years off.

DATING REFERENCES FOR BILZINGSLEBEN, 320,000-412,000 BP (avg. 370,000):

MANIA, D. and U. MANIA 2005. The natural and socio-cultural environment of
Homo erectus at Bilzingsleben, Germany. In C. Gamble and M. Porr (eds.), The Hominid Individual in Context: Archaeological investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic landscapes, locales and artifacts, 98-114. Routledge, New York.

MANIA, D. and U. MANIA 2003. Bilzingsleben - Homo erectus, his culture and his environment. The most important results of research. In J. M. Burdukiewicz and A.Ronen (eds.), Lower Palaeolithic small tools in Europe and The Levant. BAR S1115, pp. 29-48.

Mallik, R., N. Frank, A. Mangini u. G. A. Wagner 2001. Przise Th/U-Datierung archologisch relevanter Travertinfundstellen Thringens. In: G. A. Wagner und D. Mania (Hrsg.), Frhe Menschen in Mitteleuropa - Chronologie, Kultur, Umwelt. Aachen, 77-90.

SCHWARTZ H. P., R. GRUN, A G. LATHAM, D. MANIA and K. BRUNACKER 1988. The Bilzingsleben archaeological site: New dating evidence, Arhaeometry 30:

At the same time Robert is claiming to have solved everything regarding language origins, he has also been busy helping to hold back from publication the first unequivocal geometric and linguistic proof of Homo erectus language. It was presented by his request during his session, the Pleistocene Palaeoart of the World, at the XVth UISPP Congress in Lisbon, September 7, 2006, in a program called The Graphics of Bilzingsleben.

Perhaps it is time for the public to take back human heritage from the "boffins" and censors. And perhaps it is time to pay less attention to those journals or writers pre-committed to a single belief system at all costs and more to those who may know something about symbolism or how to interpret signs of human creativity in the archaeological record, which may actually mean any normal human being who has not already been thoroughly indoctrinated by pop science. Human ancestry belongs to everyone. It is not the sole possession of the world's boffins. Anyone who is still able to think objectively despite what they read in pop science journals (e.g., Journal of Human Evolution) needs to question the whole human story they have been taught for so long. Whatever one believes, surely one must know that you can't come to any genuinely informed decisions if you are not being given all the information. That's a fair statement, isn't it?

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