7 more things that are older than (Ken Ham’s) Adam

Ken Ham and other young-Earth creationists tell us the universe is 6,000 years old.

The universe says different.

Here are a few more things recently in the news that are older than Ken Ham’s universe.

1. Thirty-four 7,500-year-old cheese strainers unearthed in the Kuyavia region of Poland. Cheese-strainers is just a guess — they’ve got holes in them, and researchers found evidence of milk-fat residues in the holes. But “They could well have been flame covers, chafing dishes, honey strainers or used for beer-making, to strain out chaff.”

Upheaval Dome in Utah is either an ancient meteor impact site, about 170 million years old. Or else it’s where Noah’s anchor scraped the bottom during the flood 4,400 years ago. Teach the controversy.

2. The 50,000-year-old leather-working tools found in a cave in France. The big news there is not that these tools are 44,000 years older than the YEC universe. The big news there is that these are Neanderthal tools and that they’re more sophisticated than anything we had 50,000 years ago.

3. Gobleki Tepe. At 11,000 years old, or so, the monoliths in Turkey are older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids. Scientists think they’re religious in nature, but aren’t really sure because scientists don’t listen to Coast to Coast AM and therefore dismiss Zecharia Sitchin as a crank.

4. The rodent-like Rugosodon eurasiaticus lived 160 million years ago. They were multituberculates — a category of early mammals that died out about 35 million years ago. Extinction is sad, but 125 million years is a pretty good run.

5. This one’s kind of borderline: Residue-encrusted pottery fragments show that ancient humans used mustard as a spice. The fragments were found at three sites in Denmark and Germany. The youngest of those sites dates back 5,750 years, but the oldest dates back about 6,100 years. So humans were cooking with mustard a century before Ken Ham’s Eden.

6. A scorpion-like fossil recently found in South Africa is evidence of the earliest-yet discovered land creature living on what was then Gondwanaland, 350 million years ago.

7. Upheaval Dome in Cayonlands National Park, Utah. It’s about 170 million years old. Joel Duff went there and took some amazing pictures (even better than the one above, from Wikipedia). Duff describes the site:

This crater is not what you might expect. There is a large mound in the center. The idea here is that this is a very very old crater. One that was caused by a meteorite impact after the thick sandstone layers were laid down but then this entire area was covered by additional rock which has since eroded revealing this former scar on the earth.


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  • skyblue

    I’m reminded of this classic article from The Onion:

    Sumerians Look On In Confusion as God Creates World

    “..the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.”

  • Vermic

    Residue-encrusted pottery fragments show that ancient humans used mustard as a spice. The fragments were found at three sites in Denmark and Germany.

    Served alongside some form of primitive knackwurst, no doubt.

  • Panda Rosa

    There’s got to be a joke somewhere about 7500 year old cheese graters, I just can’t think of it. Especially if they’re older than Eden.

  • Vermic

    I’m confused. Why would anyone make a tool to strain 7,500-year-old cheese?

  • skyblue

    Makes total sense-cheeses that age for a long time (i.e. Parmesan) are often served grated!

  • arcseconds

    I kind of like the borderline status of the mustard-seed one, actually.

    If I put my brain in neutral, I can see how someone might just fail to parse statements about time periods longer than 6,000 years. From the perspective of a human lifespan, 6,000 is a comprehensible number (about 100 human lifespans. We can cope easily with a community of 100 people, so to imagine your relationship to this time period you can just imagine 100 of your ancestors forming such a community, extended in time rather than space. I’m not explaining that very well, but hopefully you can see where I’m going with this).

    One or two orders of magnitude above that, it just starts getting silly. Many people, not just YECers, just lump long lengths of time into “a really really long time ago”, which sets the stage to not seeing much difference between things happening a few thousand years ago and a few million.

    6,000 years ago is the horizon of the YEC position. They’re happy to think about that time period. They could agree that mustard could be being used at that time.

    But what wouldn’t work out so well would be if there were lots of disparate groups all over the world with cooking sites around 6,000 years old.

  • arcseconds

    I thought the claim that some words have been preserved for 15,000 year mentioned by the mustard seed article a bit dodgy, though, so I checked to see what the language log had to say about it.

    Lo, they are also sceptical, to say the least.


  • P J Evans

    Whey has to be drained off the curds.

  • J_Enigma32

    Neanderthals pose an interesting problem for YECs.

    For starters, we can prove they existed. We can prove that they were a subspecies of humanity. If you’re Eurasian, in particular, from Europe or the Middle East, anywhere from 1-5% of your genome is inherited from Neanderthals.

    At the same time, Neanderthals aren’t the only subspecies we’ve shared the planet with over the last, say, 600,000 years:

    H. s. neanderthalensis: 600,000 to 35,000 years ago. Extensive interbreeding; we can prove with DNA testing that Eurasians have Neanderthal genome in them, because we’ve mapped the genome. Within the next 10 to 15 years, we may have the technology to resurrect the Neanderthal species, using willing humans as surrogate parents.

    H. floresiensis: 94,000 to 13,000 years ago. Suffered from Insular Dwarfism, possibly survives in the stories of the Flores natives, who speak of a short hairy human (although orangutan also match the description). There’s nothing that isn’t controversial about them; from their existence as a separate species (some believe the skulls we had were just humans with microcephaly) to their name: scientists wanted to use “hobbits” to describe them but the Tolkein estate issued a cease and desist.

    H. s. idaltu:200,000 to 156,000 years ago. The earliest known anatomically correct modern human, hales from Humanity’s Cradle, modern Ethiopia. The skulls we have date back to about 194,000 years ago, so there’s a lot up in the air about idaltu. Their name means “first born” in Afar.

    H. rhodesiensis: 300,000 to 150,000 years ago. Another name for H. heidelbergensis, regarded as “Africa’s Neanderthal” and might – just might – be the ancestor of H. s. idaltu. H. rhodesiensis comes from “Rhodesia”, while H. heidelbergensis comes from Heidelberg, where the skulls were discovered.

    Denisova Hominid: ~41,000 years old. Most recent addition to the Homo family (not in the taxonomic sense) is the Denisova Hominid, discovered in the Altai Mountains. mtDNA is genetically distinctive of either H. s. sapiens or H. (s.) neanderthalensis. they made some really pretty tools and jewelry. Melanesians and Australian Aborigines have as much as 6% of their genome from the Denisova Hominid**.

    But the existence of these hominids pose a huge problem for YEC. You can’t dismiss them out of hand because there’s genetic evidence I can show you that says otherwise. And the Bible says nothing at all about other human species (because they didn’t exist when the Bible was written), so you can either claim they were demons (which isn’t far, because they look a lot like you or me), claim they’re not different (which a simple mtDNA test can disprove in most cases), or claim they didn’t exist (Satan was pretty damn good when he created those fossil casts, don’t you think?) Because if you acknowledge they exist, you open the door to a lot of other questions that they’re not ready to answer.

    Which is probably why they just sweep it under the rug and hope nobody asks any questions.

    ** For those interested in my crackpot ideas regarding languages, I’ve often pegged Basque as the ancestor of a Neanderthal language and Proto-Turkic as being a descendent of or being influenced by Denisova Hominids (since Turkic, Japonic, Korean, and other languages are “linked” under Altaic Languages, meaning they all stem from the same source – the Altai Mountains). Do I have evidence? Pfft. Nope. If I did, I wouldn’t be referring to them as my “crackpot ideas.”

  • J_Enigma32

    Anyone citing Altaic Languages with any seriousness would do well to follow my example above: head off any criticism by acknowledging it’s a crackpot idea.

    I mean, the ideal for Altaic Languages is a very appealing one. If you look at the map of how those languages are distributed, they seem to come from the same and they all seem to gather around the Altai Mountains (below is a really pretty map of the proposed Altaic Languages; it covers the Samoyedic Languages, the Turkic Languages, the Finno-Ugric Languages, the Mongolic Languages, the Japonic Languages and the Koreanic Languages; it’s in German, though).


    But at the same time, I think it’s coupled with a drive to try and cram everything back to one language source, where we can look at the world and definitively say “all language began there”. The further you hitch them together and the more neatly you can cram them in that box, the happier some people are. Languages are messy, though; you can’t do that; humans are naturally wired for language, it’s in our biology. Languages probably evolved spontaneously across the globe, not really interconnected, and then spread out from there, with certain features preserved while others were lost or forgotten – but there’s no one progenitor language, and I get the feeling that Altaic and the greater Nostrartic Languages are attempts to do just that.

  • P J Evans

    surely you mean Basque is the descendant of a Neandertal language?

  • dr ngo

    Got to put in a plug for Philippine archaeology – oldest human inhabitants now dated to 67,000 BP, surpassing previous “best” of 47,000 BP. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/philippines/7924538/Archaeologists-unearth-67000-year-old-human-bone-in-Philippines.html

  • arcseconds

    One of the language log comments says that proto-indo-european (and the other reconstructed ‘proto’ languages) are hypotheses themselves, and need to be empirically confirmed before they can be used as a launching point for further linguistic reconstruction (proto-proto languages?). And of course we’re not likely to ever find an inscription in PIE, or a native speaker, so we’re probably unable to do this.

    I don’t think that’s quite right. You don’t need to empirically confirm hypotheses directly before you use them in further theory construction. Inferred entities can be used to infer further entities so long as you’re sufficiently sure of the interactions: physics is full of this sort of stuff.

    The problem is not so much that we don’t have examples of PIE, but that PIE is fundamentally quite uncertain in various respects. One thing I read pointed out that we should probably understand the phonemes as we write them as variables. That is to say, we don’t really know how the phoneme we write as ‘s’ would really be pronounced (was it voiced? maybe it was more of a ‘sh’… or even an ‘f’ (I’m just making this bit up, I don’t really know what kind of variation is suspected)). But however it was pronounced, it was probably pronounced more-or-less the same way (within the bounds of the usual variation in pronunciation of phonemes) the same way whenever it appeared.

    (This point is made very clear with the three ‘unknown lanryngeal’ phonemes, where the usual transcription doesn’t even guess at the pronunciation.)

    So the problem with going further back than the usual accepted proto-languages is that you’re using very uncertain data. Further reconstruction is probably just amplifying noise.

    (The authors of the paper in question are doing something a little different than that, to be fair, but I think the overall point still holds)

  • arcseconds

    Hmm… my last comment doesn’t really have that much to do with your one. Oh well.

    Regarding the Altaic hypothesis, I don’t really know a huge amount about it, but I can see some of the attraction. Japanese, Korean and Turkic languages are all left-branching, for a start. I can’t remember the other tempting connections that can be made, but there are a few.

    On the other hand, humans have a huge propensity to fall for seductive theories…

  • Laurent Weppe

    No: he means that Basques will one day build a time machine, come back in time, and build an anachronistic navarese empire in the distant past.

  • J_Enigma32


    Give me a time machine I’ll fix my typo by making it real.

  • David S.

    Language is in our biology, and evidence is that it was fully there before we left Africa, which would make me conclude that it did not evolve spontaneously across the globe. We must have had language before we left Africa, and thus all our language should trace back to languages once spoken in Africa. There’s pretty much nothing known linguistically about that time period, whether so human language evolved from proto-language in one tribe and spread or evolved in several tribes simultaneously, but I’m confident every language spoken outside Africa is the descendant of one spoken by a group of Africans crossing the Sinai at some point, baring some amazingly persuasive proto-Tolkein.

  • reynard61

    Maybe it came from…(wait for it!) The Garden of Edam.

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your waiter!

  • Maniraptor

    “Within the next 10 to 15 years, we may have the technology to resurrect the Neanderthal species, using willing humans as surrogate parents.” Ahahahahaha nope. We haven’t even been able to resurrect things that died out a few decades ago. Maybe in that time we’ll manage to create a gastric-brooding frog embryo that survives long enough to become a tadpole, but even that’s looking pretty shaky. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/15/resurrecting-the-extinct-frog-with-a-stomach-for-a-womb/ And even if you managed to somehow create something with entirely Neandertal DNA that was actually healthy, which would only come after a whole lot of miscarriages and stillbirths and babies that die young, cloning a species at least as intelligent and social as us into a world without anybody to raise and socialize them as Neandertal means that at best, you’ll have created a funny-looking modern human.

    Also Korean and Japanese/Ryukyuan/etc. being Altaic is not exactly a consensus position. But on both those fronts your crackpot theories have a lot of other crackpot theories for companionship.

    (I often wonder what the Basque think of everyone assuming that they’re so very bizarre and primitive. From what I understand most genetic analyses of Europe start with an assumption that the Basque are an accurate representation of the Paleolithic population, which probably isn’t true. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/02/the-basques-may-not-be-who-we-think-they-are/ )

  • Maniraptor

    Language Log is always the best place to look for this kind of thing. (And for what it’s worth, Pullum is like that in real life too.)

  • Maniraptor

    There’s a reasonably good case to be made for Korean and Japanese being similar, or at least one having a substrate closely related to the other. (Similar grammar, at least in terms of what forms exist and how particles work, and some evidence of Japonic ancestry in the language of a now-extinct Korean kingdom iirc. Vocabulary is pretty tricky considering the strong Chinese influence on both, but in my limited experience they’re pretty different for things that aren’t obviously loanwords and the phonology’s fairly different.)

    Anything beyond that you get into very-difficult-to-support territory afaict. (There’s also Ainu, but I have yet to see any connection for Ainu that doesn’t at least whiff of crackpottery; seems likely that they were isolated long enough that whatever linguistic ancestry they had is muddled now.)

  • The_L1985

    A lot of YECs claim that the fossils are miscategorized, and are all either fully human (i.e. H.sapiens) or fully ape. They can’t stand the idea that humans aren’t special in some way.

  • arcseconds

    Just like with human beings, there’s a big difference between attractive and good :-)

  • Turcano

    Although it’s commonly argued that Basque is a Neolithic language, calling it a Neanderthal language is a bit of a stretch no matter how you look at it.

  • arcseconds

    Perhaps it’s more that they can’t stand the idea of things transgressing categories — that is to say, they’re uncomfortable with the idea of creatures somewhere between apes and humans (when do they get souls?).

    More generally, fundamentalists seem to have a lot of rigid categories that make them comfortable. They don’t like it much when people transgress masculine and feminine categories, either, or, in some cases (more so in the past, fortunately) black and white.

  • walden

    Blessed are the cheesemakers

  • Maniraptor

    A fair point – I guess that, just as with humans, I stop finding linguistic theories attractive beyond a certain threshold of total bullshit ;)

  • skyblue

    The hilarious consequence of this is when creationists can’t even agree with each other on which fossils are fully human and which are fully ape. This is a rather nice demonstration of the idea of transitional forms, albeit completely unintended by the creationists themselves!

    (Talk Origins has a nice discussion of this phenomenon with a chart with the creationists classifications here.)

  • Panda Rosa

    Neanderthals are all very fine and good, but would you want your sister to marry one? Maybe if he played for the Chicago Bears…
    Besides, no need to resurrect them, no doubt someone’s daughter is dating one riight now, “Daddy, I want you to meet Spike, he’s got this killer motorcycle, he’s in this band called Dead Poodles, and he’s just the sweetest thing!”

  • redsixwing

    I’m enjoying both your crackpot linguistics and your non-crackpot hominid history. Thanks. :)

  • Jim Roberts

    There’s such a thing as non-primitive knackwurst? I admit, I prefer my sausage primordial in its complexity.

  • J_Enigma32

    You also see the same thing when you argue about abortion with these people.”Life begins at conception!” No, that’s a demonstrable lie. There’s a continued line of life that goes back 3.5 billion years on Earth – *that’s* when life likely began. But because that utterly defies their internal categorization, and their stumble and falter.

  • J_Enigma32

    Oh, c’mon now. If I just admitted it was a Cro-Magnon language, my theory wouldn’t be crackpot ;-)

    If you’re gonna go crackpot, go big or go home, right?

  • J_Enigma32

    I’m reminded of that old cartoon: “You’re not a bear. You’re a funny looking man in a fur coat who needs a shave.” Cloning and raising a Neanderthal in modern society would lead to similar arguments, I’m sure. After all, we have very little idea what Neanderthal society was like. They’d have their own biology that would make them stand out from humans – I’ve seen some people who suggest that Neanderthals would be hyper-expressive and very, very good at reading body language – but it raise an interesting specter of a question: is it the socialization that makes the species or the species that makes the socialization, and what, if any, impact does that have? Chimpanzees are our closed living relatives now and they resist a lot of socializing tendencies due to their nature. Would Neanderthals be the same way?

    Basque is a language isolate; in addition to being a language isolate, it’s infuriatingly difficult to place in a family; some of the more reliable theories I’ve heard include a pre-IE European Language (that is, a language spoken by the Magdalenian Culture; this has the Haplogroup R1b to back it up), that it’s an Caucasian language (this one has Haplogroup R1b3 backing it up, without any linguistic evidence at all, mind you), and that it developed there along side Aquitianians and Iberians, who have been asserted spoke a different language.

    I know that Basque scholars have questioned the idea that Basque was spoken throughout the whole of Europe (that is, was *the* European language), but I haven’t heard much else. If you think about it, wouldn’t it be kinda cool to say “Yes, I speak a language that’s not spoken on Earth anymore, that’s likely older than any other spoken language on the planet?”

    Of course, I can only speak for myself, and I’m not a native Basque speaker.

  • J_Enigma32

    Well, Japan’s a series of islands. So the early humans who settled in Japan had to come from somewhere, and not likely in a series of waves, but riding a series of waves, requiring boats (unless the low sea connected Japan to Korea, in which case disregard this comment). While it’s possible they came through Korea (probably the most likely course of action), there could always have been island hopping from Kamchatka. That latter might be how the Ainu arrived on the island, actually (warning: new unsubstantiated crackpot idea): in fact, maybe the Ainu language and people are more closely related to the Aluet-Eskimo, Tungusic, and the Chukotko-Kamchatkan.

  • Guest

    Couldn’t they be the nephilim or the sons of the nephilim? It says in the bible ‘there were giants on earth in those days’. Not a yec myself, but that seems like the obvious way out.

  • J_Enigma32


    Give that 198 centimeters/1.9 meters (around 6 foot, give or take; my conversion is entirely haphazard) is as all as they get, you’d have to argue pretty strenuously they were giants, and then explain why there are modern humans alive today who are taller than “the giants” of old.

    I mean, for them it’s probably a way out. But that’s because they have no problem making stuff up even in the face of what might as well be iron clad evidence.

  • Maniraptor

    Surely all language isolates are difficult to place in a family? That’s kind of a prerequisite. The only thing that’s special about Basque is that it’s in western Europe.

    Not sure what you mean by “older than any other spoken language on the planet”. Unless you’re a time traveler, we all speak modern languages. Basque is definitely not unchanged from its ancient roots. Some languages or dialects do seem to preserve more features than others, but every language changes with use over time. If the language isn’t changing, it’s probably dead.

  • Maniraptor

    Yeah, that’s not a new theory re: the Ainu and their language. Also, the speakers of Japanese/Japonic languages were demonstrably not the first settlers of Japan, and they definitely moved up from the south because the Ainu were already there in the north.

  • Gregory Peterson

    I remember a Christianity Today feature of Adam and Eve. The cover portrait of Adam was distinctly Neanderthalish.

    Oh, here’s a high quality scan of the cover. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2011/08/imitation-flattery-or-journalistic-ripoff/

  • Panda Rosa

    I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. Life in general began about 3.5 billion years ago, but the other kind is individual life (in this case human), which is often considered to begin at conception, though the issue is up for debate. Let’s stick to the Young-Earth vs Evolved Earth thing for now.

  • Launcifer

    Was that a plug for Cheeses of Nazareth?

  • dpolicar

    Life in general began about 3.5 billion years ago, but the other kind is individual life (in this case human), which is often considered to begin at conception

    But these aren’t different kinds of life.

    An individual human life is a life by virtue of the same properties that an individual cow life is a life, or an individual paramecium life… properties like reproduction, energy production, resource consumption, and so forth. What exactly the relevant properties are is up for debate, but I know of no serious proposal that includes humans but not cows, for example. And a fetus is most definitely alive by those standards.

    So is my pancreas. And mold. And unfertilized eggs. And sperm cells. We don’t really care that much about life. Life is all around us, often in very problematic ways, and we eliminate it in ton lots.

    But you’re right, of course, that when people talk about “life” in this context they mean it metaphorically… “life begins at conception” is best understood as something like, as you suggest, “individual (in this case human) life begins at conception.”

    So, if “individual human life” is what we actually care about, we can ask when a living thing first becomes human.

    One answer might be when it first possesses human DNA, in which case human life began once a long time ago and has been propagated forward generation to generation ever since. It grows and splits and reforms, it currently exists in seven billion individual bodies, but they all trace their heritage back to a single organism. As it happens, both studying the physical world and interpreting the book of Genesis lead us to that conclusion.

    So when someone says “life begins at conception” they don’t literally mean that life begins at conception, and they don’t mean that human begins at conception, the mean that individual begins at conception.

    In other words, the actual claim, metaphor aside, is that a 2-day-old fertilized egg is not only human life, in the same sense that my pancreas is, but it is also individual human life, which my pancreas uncontroversially isn’t.

    Would you agree?

  • Michael Pullmann

    “But these aren’t different kinds of life.”
    No, but they are different definitions of it. And those definitions are important. When Marvin the Paranoid Android says “Don’t talk to me about life,” he doesn’t mean biological processes. And neither do pro-lifers. So if you’re going to argue with them, it’s good to know what they’re saying.

  • Panda Rosa

    That’s basically it. It’s the nomenclature that’s confusing, as “life” can refer to either.

  • dpolicar

    Yup. As I said later in the comment you’re replying to, they seem to be using it metaphorically to refer to individuality.

  • dpolicar

    It needn’t be confusing. Metaphors are fine, as long as we can unpack them when we need to. If we can agree that what “life” is metaphorically referring to in phrases like “pro-life” and “life begins at conception” is individuality, we can then ask: what are the markers of individuality? How do we recognize it when we encounter it?

    A 2-day-old fertilized egg doesn’t have its own mind, brain, thoughts, emotions, feelings, personality, or viable body. So if the metaphorical “life” we care about here is already present at 2 days old, it clearly isn’t any of that stuff.

    It does have its own genome, which is different from the mother’s. And some people believe it has its own soul. So it might be that stuff.

    Any other candidates?

  • Randall

    Give that 198 centimeters/1.9 meters (around 6 foot, give or take;

    Take considerable; 198 cm is 6’5″. Which is still not unreasonably tall; both my boss and one of my former employees are that height.

  • Congratulations; you’ve rediscovered the premise of the blessedly short-lived NBC Geico Cavemen TV series.

  • J_Enigma32

    Huh. Apparently there’s a rather large difference between 1.90 meters and 1.98 meters.

    My bad.