Michael A. Cremo
Historian of Archaeology, Bhaktivedanta Institute

Presented at the European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting 2000, in Lisbon, Portugal


Carlos Ribeiro was director of the Geological Survey of Portugal and a member of the Portuguese Academy of Sciences. In the years 1860-63, Ribeiro surveyed discoveries of stone tools found at various sites in Portugal, and was surprised to find that some of the sites were of Tertiary age. Ribeiro proceeded to make his own collections of implements from Tertiary formations in Portugal. He  presented his discoveries in 1871 to the Portuguese Academy of Sciences at Lisbon and in 1872 to the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology at Brussels. Some scientists accepted  the human manufacture of the object and their Tertiary provenance, others did not. Ribeiro presented more specimens at the meeting of the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology in Lisbon in 1880. A special commission was appointed to judge them. As part of their investigation, the commission took a field trip to the Miocene formations at  Monte Redondo, at Otta, and there one of the commissioners discovered an implement in situ. For many decades,  Ribeiro's discoveries had influential supporters in archeology. But the discovery of Java Pithecanthropus erectus in Pleistocene formations in Java ended any serious consideration of Tertiary toolmakers among European archeologists. The discoveries of Ribeiro, and other evidences for Tertiary man uncovered by European archeologists and geologists, are today attributed (if they are discussed at all) to the  inevitable mistakes of untutored members of a young discipline. Another possible explanation is that some of  the discoveries were genuine, and were filtered out of the normal discourse of a community of archeologists that had adopted, perhaps prematurely, an evolutionary paradigm that placed the origins of stone toolmaking in the Pleistocene. But as the time line of human toolmaking begins to once more reach back into the Tertiary, perhaps we should withhold final judgement on Ribeiro's discoveries. A piece of the archeological puzzle that does not fit  the consensus picture at a particular moment  may find a place as the nature of the whole picture changes.

Key words: Carlos Ribeiro, evolution, Pithecanthropus, Portugal, Tertiary man.


The first hint of Carlos Ribeiro’s work came to my attention quite accidentally. While I was going through the writings of the nineteenth-century American geologist J. D. Whitney (1880), who reported evidence for Tertiary human beings in California,1 I encountered a sentence or two about Ribeiro having discovered flint implements in Miocene formations near Lisbon.2 Later, I found Ribeiro’s name again, this time in the 1957 edition of Fossil Men by Boule and Vallois, who rather curtly dismissed his work. I was, however, led by Boule and Vallois to the 1883 edition of Le Préhistorique, by Gabriel de Mortillet, who gave a favorable report of Ribeiro’s discoveries. From de Mortillet’s bibliographic references, I went to Ribeiro’s original reports. Using all of this material, I wrote about Ribeiro’s discoveries and their reception in my book Forbidden Archeology (Cremo and Thompson 1993). When I learned last year that the European Association of Archeologists annual meeting for the year 2000 was going to be held in Lisbon, I proposed this paper on Ribeiro’s work for the section on history of archeology. In my research, I visited the Museu Geológico in Lisbon, where I studied a collection of Ribeiro’s artifacts. The artifacts were stored out of sight, below the display cases featuring more conventionally acceptable artifacts from the Portuguese Stone Ages.3 After spending a week examining and photographing the artifacts, I went to the library of the Institute of Geology and Mines at Alfragide to study Ribeiro’s personal papers,4 and later I went to visit some of the sites where Ribeiro collected his specimens.5 These investigations demonstrated how contemporary archeology treats reports of facts that no longer conform to accepted views. Keep in mind that for most current students of archeology, Ribeiro and his discoveries simply do not exist. You have to go back to textbooks printed over 40 years ago to find even a mention of him. Did Ribeiro’s work really deserve to be so thoroughly forgotten? I think not.


In 1857, Ribeiro was named to head the Geological Commission of Portugal, and he would also be elected to the Portuguese Academy of Sciences. During the years 1860–63, he began conducting studies of stone implements found in Portugal. Ribeiro learned that flints bearing signs of human work had been found in Tertiary beds between Carregado and Alemquer, two small towns in the basin of the Tagus River, about 35–40 kilometers northeast of Lisbon. Ribeiro began his own investigations, and in many localities found “flakes of worked flint and quartzite in the interior of the beds.” Ribeiro (1873a:97) said: “I was greatly surprised when I forcefully extracted, with my own hand, worked flints, from deep inside beds  of limestone which had been inclined at angles of 30–50 degrees from the horizontal.”6 Ribeiro found himself in a dilemma. The geology of the region indicated the limestone beds were of Tertiary age, but Ribeiro (1873a:97) felt he must submit to the then prevalent idea that humans were not older than the Quaternary.7

Ribeiro therefore assigned Quaternary ages to the implement-bearing strata (Ribeiro 1866, Ribeiro and Delgado 1867). Upon seeing the maps and accompanying reports, geologists in other countries were perplexed. The French geologist E. de Verneuil wrote to Ribeiro on May 27, 1867, asking him to send an explanatory note, which was read at the June 17 meeting of the Geological Society of France and later published in the bulletin of the Society (Ribeiro 1867). On July 16, de Verneuil wrote once more to Ribeiro, again objecting to his placing the Portuguese formations in the Quaternary. “I am still a little astonished at the depth of your Quaternary formations and at the following circumstances that you mentioned: 1. The Quaternary comprises 400 meters; 2. The formations are raised, with the stratification sometimes inclined at angles approaching the vertical; 3. They contain masses of hard limestone resembling the limestones of the Secondary. 4. Finally, and most curiously, they contain implements made by the hands of humans from flint and quartrzite. These implements are found at the base of the formations, which means that after they were made they were covered by a deposit 400 meters deep.” (Ribeiro 1871:53-54, n. 1) Given these facts, de Verneuil thought the formations must be Tertiary. But Ribeiro resisted the suggestion.

In 1867, the Abbé Louis Bourgeois, a reputable investigator, reported finding stone implements in Tertiary beds in France, and some authorities supported him (de Mortillet 1883:85). Under the twin influences of de Verneuil’s criticism and the discoveries of Bourgeois, Ribeiro overcame his doubts and began reporting that implements of human manufacture had been found in Miocene formations in Portugal (Ribeiro 1871, 1873a:98).

From the standpoint of modern geology, Ribeiro’s assessment of the age of the formations in the Tagus River valley near Lisbon is correct. Ivan Chicha (1970, p. 50) said about this region: “The Oligocene beds, prevalently of freshwater continental origin . . . are overlain by beds . . . which are placed in the oldest Miocene—Aquitanian.” According to Chicha, these Aquitanian beds are surmounted by limestones and claystones that ascend to the Tortonian stage of the Late Miocene. Another study (Antunes et al. 1980, p. 138) showed that Tagus Basin limestones, such as those in which Ribeiro found stone tools, occur in the Middle and Early Miocene. Finally, the current official geological maps of Portugal show the formations at Ribeiro’s key sites to be Early to Middle Miocene (Zbyszweski and Ferreira 1966:9-11). In the area around Lisbon, some of the later Miocene beds are of marine origin. According to Ribeiro, implements of flint and quartzite are absent from these marine beds. They are found only in the lacustrine Miocene formations (Ribeiro 1871:57).

In identifying a stone object as an implement, three questions must be answered: (1) is the specimen really of human manufacture? (2) has the age of the stratum in which it was discovered been properly determined? (3) was the implement incorporated into the stratum at the time the stratum was laid down, or was the implement introduced at a later date? As far as Ribeiro was concerned, he was convinced that he had satisfactorily answered all three questions. The toollike flint objects he studied were of human manufacture, they were found in strata mostly of Miocene age, and many appeared to be in primary position, although some of his specimens were found on the surface.

In 1871, Ribeiro exhibited to the members of the Portuguese Academy of Science at Lisbon a collection of flint and quartzite implements, including those gathered from the Tertiary formations of the Tagus valley, and published a study on them (Ribeiro 1871). The implements described in this study show not only striking platforms, bulbs of percussion, and worked edges, but also signs of use. For example, the implement shown in figure 7 has edges that show use marks, to the extent that they appear polished (Ribeiro 1871:12). About the large flint implement shown in figure 10(a), Ribeiro (1871:13) said, “A great part of the surface appears to have been worn by rubbing. One sees on one side a cavity, about 5 centimeters wide. Its surface, smooth and glossy from wear, appears to indicate that hard substances, such as roots and seeds, were ground upon it.” The object came from a sand pit on the Quinta-do-Cesar, a farming estate at Carregado. Regarding a flint object found in one of the beds comprising the hill at Murganheira, Ribeiro (1871:14) said, “This specimen terminates in a point, and from the wear at this place, it appears to have served as a tool.” According to Ribeiro (1871:17), “Figure 32 shows a flint flake, six millimeters thick and of greyish color, shading to chestnut brown. It is worked on its two edges, and is notched at the top. It appears to be a tool designed for making grooves with the point, which extends from the top of the notch, and which has been worn with use.” The implement came from beds of coarse red Tertiary sandstone between Alemquer and Otta. Ribeiro (1871:28) said, “Figure 95 is of brownish-yellow quartzite, with a maximum thickness of three centimeters. One side, unworked, shows but a single face. The other side, as shown in the drawing, presents three faces, two of which are naturally fractured and while the third is intentionally worked. The edge a-b is sharp and shows marks made by extensive use in cutting.” It came from a sandy Pliocene bed near Melides. Other implements in the study, including those in figures 37, 39, 54, 80, and 86 , also showed signs of use.

In 1872, at the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology meeting in Brussels, Ribeiro gave a anothre report on his discoveries and displayed more specimens, mostly pointed flakes. Bourgeois found one flint that he thought displayed signs of human work, but unfortunately it had not been found in situ. He therefore suspended judgement (de Mortillet 1883:95). A. W. Franks,  Conservator of National Antiquities and Ethnography at the British Museum, stated that some of the specimens did appear to be the product of intentional work, but he reserved judgement on the age of the strata in which they had been found (Ribeiro 1873a:99).

To settle this question, Ribeiro himself (1873b:100)  addressed the Congress on “the exact geological situation of the beds in which he had found worked flint flakes, the authenticity of which has been recognized by Mr. Franks and other members of the Congress.” Ribeiro reported that one of the flints had been found in the reddish-yellow Pliocene sandstone on the left bank of the Tagus, to the south of Lisbon (Ribeiro 1873b:101). “Concerning the other flints which Mr. Franks has declared bear evident traces of human workmanship,” said Ribeiro (1873b:102), “they were found in Miocene strata.” He explained that on the way north from Lisbon to Caldas da Rainha, between the towns of Otta and Cercal, one comes to the steep hill of Espinhaço de Cão. According to Ribeiro (1873b:102), it was in the lacrustine Miocene sandstone beds of this hill, which lie under marine Miocene strata, that he found “flints worked by the hand of man before they were buried in the deposits.” This would indicate the presence of human beings in Portugal at least 10 million years ago and perhaps as much as 25 million years ago.
Ribeiro’s Miocene flints made an impressive debut at Brussels, but remained controversial. At the Paris Exposition of 1878, Ribeiro displayed 95 specimens of Tertiary flint tools in the gallery of anthropological science. De Mortillet visited Ribeiro’s exhibit and, in the course of examining the specimens carefully, decided that 22 had indubitable signs of human work. De Mortillet, along with his friend and colleague Emile Cartailhac, enthusiastically brought other archeologists to see Ribeiro's specimens, and they were all of the same opinion—a good many of the flints were definitely made by humans. Cartailhac then photographed the specimens, and de Mortillet later presented the pictures in his Musée Préhistorique (G. and A. de Mortillet 1881).

De Mortillet (1883:99) wrote: “The intentional work is very well established, not only by the general shape, which can be deceptive, but much more conclusively by the presence of clearly evident striking platforms and strongly developed bulbs of percussion.” Leland W. Patterson (1983), an expert in distinguishing artifacts from “naturefacts,” believes that the bulb of percussion is the most important sign of intentional work on a flint flake. The bulbs of percussion also sometimes had eraillures, small chips removed by the force of impact. In addition to the striking platform, bulb of percussion, and eraillure, some of Ribeiro’s specimens had several long, vertical flakes removed in parallel, something not likely to occur in the course of random battering by the forces of nature.

“There can be no doubt,” wrote de Mortillet (1883:99) about Ribeiro’s stone implements, adding, “In looking at the collection, one believes oneself to be seeing Mousterian tools, only somewhat coarser than usual.”  In de Mortillet (1883:98, 81) one can find an illustration of one of Ribeiro’s Miocene tools from Portugal and, for comparision, an illustration of a Mousterian tool of the same general type.  They share the typical features of intentional human work on stone:  the striking platform, bulb of percussion, eraillure, and parallel removal of flakes. De Mortillet (1883:99–100) further observed: “Many of the specimens, on the same side as the bulb of percussion, have hollows with traces and fragments of sandstone adhering to them, a fact which establishes their original position in the strata.”

Plate 3 in Musée Préhistorique (G. and A. de Mortillet 1881) featured illustrations and of Ribeiro’s Miocene and Pliocene discoveries. One of these depicts both sides of a flint flake recovered from a Tertiary formation at the base of Monte Redondo. This formation is said to belong to the Tortonian stage of the Late Miocene  (de Mortillet 1883:102). The Tortonian extends from 11.8 to 15 million years ago (Cicha 1970:97). The ventral surface of the flint flake shows “a large striking platform, bulb of percussion, and eraillure.” Sandstone, just like that found at the base of Monte Redondo, adhered to the dorsal surface.


At the 1880 meeting of the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology, which was held in Lisbon, Portugal, Ribeiro served as general secretary.8 Although very busy with all of the details of organizing the event, and somewhat ill, he delivered a report on his artifacts and displayed more specimens that were “extracted from Miocene beds” (Ribeiro 1884:86). In his report (“L’homme Tertiaire en Portugal”), Ribeiro (1884:88) stated: “The conditions in which the worked flints were found in the beds are as follows: (1) They were found as integral parts of the beds themselves. (2) They had sharp, well-preserved edges, showing that they had not been subject to transport for any great distance. (3) They had a patina similar in color to the rocks in the strata of which they formed a part.”

The second point is especially important. Some geologists claimed that the flint implements had been introduced into Miocene beds by the floods and torrents that periodically washed over this terrain. According to this view, Quaternary flint implements may have entered into the interior of the Miocene beds through fissures and been cemented there, acquiring over a long period of time the coloration of the beds (de Quatrefages 1884:95). But if the flints had been subjected to such transport, then the sharp edges would most probably have been damaged, and this was not the case.

The Congress assigned a special commission of scientists the task of directly inspecting the implements and the sites from which they had been gathered. In addition to Ribeiro himself, the commission included G. Bellucci of the Italian Society for Anthropology and Geography; G. Capellini, from the Royal University of Bologna, Italy, and known for his discoveries of incised Pliocene whale bones; E. Cartailhac, of the French Ministry of Public Instruction; Sir John Evans, an English geologist; Gabriel de Mortillet, professor of prehistoric anthropology at the College of Anthropology, Paris; and Rudolph Virchow, a German anthropologist. The other members were the scientists Choffat, Cotteau, Villanova, and Cazalis de Fondouce.

On September 22, 1880, at six in the morning, the commission memmbers boarded a special train and proceeded north from Lisbon, getting off at Carregado. By other means, they proceeded further north to Otta, and two kilometers northeast from Otta arrived at the southern slopes of the hill called Monte Redondo. At that point, the scientists dispersed into various ravines in search of flints.9

Paul Choffat (1884a:63), secretary of the commission, later reported to the Congress: “Of the many flint flakes and apparent cores taken from the midst of the strata under the eyes of the commission members, one was judged as leaving no doubt about the intentional character of the work.” This was the specimen found in situ by Bellucci. Choffat then noted that Bellucci had found on the surface other flints with incontestable signs of work. Some thought they were Miocene implements that had been removed from the Miocene conglomerates by atmospheric agencies, while others thought that the implements were of a much more recent date.

De Mortillet (1883:102) gave an informative account of the excursion to Otta and Bellucci’s remarkable discovery: “The members of the Congress arrived at Otta, in the middle of a great freshwater formation. It was the bottom of an ancient lake, with sand and clay in the center, and sand and rocks on the edges. It is on the shores that intelligent beings would have left their tools, and it is on the shores of the lake that once bathed Monte Redondo that the search was made. It was crowned with success. The able investigator of Umbria, Mr. Bellucci, discovered in situ a flint bearing incontestable signs of intentional work. Before detaching it, he showed it to a number of his colleagues. The flint was strongly encased in the rock. He had to use a hammer to extract it. It is definitely of the same age as the deposit. Instead of lying flat on a surface onto which it could have been secondarily recemented at a much later date, it was found firmly in place on the under side of a ledge extending over a region removed by erosion. It is impossible to desire a more complete demonstration attesting to a flints position in its strata.”10 All that was needed was to determine the age of the strata. Study of the fauna and flora in the region around the Monte Redondo site showed that the formations present there can be assigned to the Tortonian stage of the Late Miocene period (de Mortillet 1883:102). “Therefore,” concluded de Mortillet “during the Tortonian epoch there existed in Portugal an intelligent being who chipped flint just like Quaternary humans” (1883:102). Some modern authorities consider the Otta conglomerates to be from the Burdigalian stage of the Early Miocene (Antunes et al. 1980:139).

Choffat (1884b, pp. 92–93) presented, in the form of answers to four questions, the conclusions of the commission members. The first two questions dealt with the flints themselves: “(1) Are there bulbs of percussion on the flints on exhibition and on those found during the excursion? The commission declares unanimously that there are bulbs of percussion, and some pieces have several. (2) Are bulbs of percussion proof of intentional work? There are different opinions. They may be summarized as follows: de Mortillet considers that just one bulb of percussion is sufficient proof of intentional work, while Evans believes that even several bulbs on one piece do not give certitude of intentional work but only a great probability of such.” Here it may once more be noted that modern authorities such as Leland W. Patterson (1983) consider one or more bulbs of percussion to be good indicators of intentional work.

The remaining two questions concerned the positions in which the flints were found: “(3) Are the worked flints found at Otta from the interior of the beds or the surface? There are diverse opinions. Mr. Cotteau believes all are from the surface, and that those found embedded within the strata came down through crevasses in the beds. Mr. Capellini, however, believes that pieces found on the surface were eroded from the interior of the beds. De Mortillet, Evans, and Cartailhac believe there are two time periods to which the flints may be referred, the first being the Tertiary, the other being the Old and New Stone Ages of the Quaternary. The flints of the two periods are easy to distinguish by their form and patina. (4) What is the age of the strata of the worked flints? After only a moments discussion the members declared they were in perfect accord with Ribeiro.” In other words, the strata were Miocene.

In the discussion that followed the presentation of Choffat’s report, Capellini said: “I believe these flints to be the product of intentional work. If you do not admit that, then you must also doubt the flints of the later Stone Ages” (Choffat 1884b:97–98). According to Capellini, Ribeiro’s Miocene specimens were almost identical to undoubted Quaternary flint implements.

The next speaker, Villanova, was very doubtful, even about the Bellucci find. He said that in order to remove all cause for suspicion one would have to discover an unmistakably genuine implement firmly embedded not in a Miocene conglomerate but in the middle of an undifferentiated Miocene formation and alongside characteristic fossils (Choffat 1884b:99). Of course, it would have been better if the flint had been found in an undifferentiated stratum. But the number of human artifacts found in undifferentiated strata directly alongside characteristic fossils is rather small. Furthermore, sometimes anomalous finds are made in undifferentiated strata alongside characteristic fossils, and then some other means will be found to discredit them. Indeed, as previously mentioned, in his report to the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology at Brussels in 1872, Ribeiro (1873a:97) did tell of finding flint implements “deep inside” apparently undifferentiated Miocene limestone beds.

Following Villanova, Cartailhac spoke. He said that if the question of the Miocene age of the implements were to be decided on the grounds of actual scientific evidence, the answer would have to be affirmative. Cartailhac believed that the coloration of many of the surface finds indicated they were eroded from Miocene beds, and he pointed out that some specimens had remnants of Miocene sediments adhering to them.

Cartailhac then asked the members to consider a particular specimen from Ribeiro’s collection, which he had previously studied at the anthropological exposition in Paris. He stated: “I have seen on it two bulbs of percussion, and possibly a third, and a point that seems to truly be the result of intentional work. It has on its surface not a coloration that could be removed by washing but rather a surface incrustation of Miocene sandstone tightly adhering to it. A chemist would not permit us to say that such a deposit could form and attach itself to a flint lying, for whatever amount of time, on a sandstone surface” (Choffat 1884b:100). In other words, the flint must have been lying within the Miocene bed itself, when it was formed. Cartailhac admitted that natural action might in rare occasions produce a bulb of percussion, but to have two on the same piece would be an absolute miracle. He believed that the many very good specimens discovered on the Miocene surface, where there was absolutely no trace of any other deposit, were really Miocene implements that had weathered out of the rock.

After Cartailhac finished his remarks, Bellucci gave his own account of his discovery of the implement in the Miocene conglomerate at Otta (Choffat 1884b:101–102). Before extracting it, he had shown it to many members of the commission, who saw that it was firmly integrated into the stratum. It had been so firmly fixed in the Miocene sandstone conglomerate that he needed to use Cartailhac’s iron pick to break the sandstone. Bellucci stated that the inner surface of the implement, the one adhering to the conglomerate, had not only the same reddish color as the conglomerate but also incrustations of tiny grains of quartzite that could not be detached even by vigorous washing.

Bellucci further pointed out that the elements composing the intact conglomerate corresponded perfectly with those found loose on the surface. This led Bellucci to conclude that the loose stones found on the surface at Otta were the result of weathering of the conglomerate. This indicated that flint implements found on the surface might also have come recently from the conglomerate, which was of Miocene age (Choffat 1884b:103).

As for the signs of intentional work on the piece found in situ, Bellucci noted: “This piece was detached from the surface of a flint core, and it not only has a magnificent bulb of percussion, but also one of its surfaces presents marks showing that another flake had been previously detached, in the same direction, when the implement had been still part of the flint nucleus” (Choffat 1884b:104). Successive parallel flake removal from a core, is recognized today by experts in lithic technology as one of the surest signs of intentional work. Patterson  stated: “Humans will often strike multiple flakes in series from a single core, usually resulting in the production of some flakes with multiple facets on the dorsal face. In contrast, the removal of a few flakes from cores by random natural forces would not be expected to occur often by serial removals. . . . It is characteristic in human lithic manufacturing processes to use the same striking platform for multiple flake removals” (Patterson et al. 1987:98).

Altogether, there seems little reason why Ribeiro’s discoveries should not be receiving some serious attention, even today. Here we have a professional geologist, the head of Portugal’s Geological Commission, making discoveries of flint implements in Miocene strata. The implements resembled accepted types, and they displayed characteristics that modern experts in lithic technology accept as signs of human manufacture. To resolve controversial questions, a congress of Europe’s leading archeologists and anthropologists deputed a committee to conduct a firsthand investigation of one of the sites of Ribeiro’s discoveries. There a scientist discovered in situ an implement in a Miocene bed, a fact witnessed by several other members of the committee. Of course, objections were raised but upon reviewing them, it does not appear to me that they justify rejection of Bellucci’s find in particular or Ribeiro’s finds in general.


Ribeiro died in 1882. In 1889, his colleague Joaquim Fillipe Nery Delgado conducted some new explorations at Monte Redondo, along with Berkeley Cotter of the Geological Commission of Portugal. Delgado recovered some artifacts, which he displayed at the 10th International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archeology. The collection was divided into two groups. The specimens in the first group were recovered from four excavations into the Tertiary sandstone and from vertical Tertiary sandstone surfaces exposed in ravines and cliffs cut into the base of Monte Redondo. The second group included flints that were found loose on the surface of the ground, having weathered out from the Tertiary formations.11 None of the flints in the first group, from the excavations or the exposures, showed signs of human work.

Delgado (1889:530) therefore declared he had not been able to duplicate Ribeiro’s discoveries of worked flints in solid rock. Delgado said, “I have no desire to raise any doubts about the authenticity of his discoveries; nevertheless, the spirit of scientific truthfulness compels me to make my statement” (1889, p. 530).
But Delgado did see signs of human work on the flints found loose on the ground (1889:530). He said that many of these “are incontestably Tertiary and have been naturally separated from the underlying beds solely by the action of atmospheric agencies” (1889:529). He believed that others found lying on the surface were from the Late Pleistocene, perhaps left by the humans responsible for the kitchen midden at Mugem (1889:531).

In the discussion that followed Delgado’s talk, de Mortillet said he did not think Delgado’s failure to find work flints in his four excavations was all that significant. He pointed out that even in places very rich in artifacts, such as Chelles and St. Acheul in France, one could go through many cubic meters of sediment without finding any flints showing signs of work (Delgado 1889:532).

In 1905, in a memorial volume dedicated to Ribeiro, Delgado further distanced himself from the conclusions of his departed colleague. He wrote (1905:33-34): “The question of Tertiary man still remains to be decided. If the discovery made ten years ago by Dubois in the [latest] Pliocene of Trinil, on the island of Java, appears to show the way to a solution for this problem, then it is no less certain that the idea of the existence of a being ancestral to man in the Tertiary has also lost much ground.” Delgado appears to be saying that Pithecanthropus erectus, a precursor to modern humans, ruled out the existence of humans like us in the Tertiary, anywhere in the world. He also appears to be saying that Pithecanthropus made it unlikely that similar precursors to modern humans would be found in the European Tertiary. Southeast Asia, apparently, would be the place to look.

This interpretation of his statement is supported by what he said next. Delgado (1905:34) mentioned his 1889 excavations at Monte Redondo, stating that they failed to yield specimens like those that Ribeiro claimed to have found in the Teritiary rock. He did not, however, mention that he had found weathered out from the Miocene formations many worked flints, which, previously, he himself had claimed to be of Tertiary age (Delgado 1889:529). He then quoted Gaudry as saying, in a 1903 publication, that he despaired of finding any remains of predecessors to Chellean man in the Pliocene of France, because all reports annoucing evidence for Tertiary man in Europe had proved incorrect (Delgado 1905).

Delgado concluded (1905:34): “Even though the discovery of Tertiary man, or rather an intelligent precursor to man in the Tertiary epoch, has not been confirmed, the name of our compatriot will not fail to be mentioned in textbooks of prehistory, because the discovery of the flints of Otta, to which his name is inextricably connected, will always remain among the most valuable arguments in favor of this hypothesis.” But Ribeiro’s name did not remain in the textbooks. And the flints of Otta also disappeared from them, or were given far more recent ages.

In 1942, Henri Breuil and G. Zbyszewski of the Geological Service of Portugal restudied the artifacts collected by Ribeiro. They determined that some of them did not actually display any signs of intentional human work. And, not accepting the Tertiary age of the rest,  they reclassified them as corresponding to accepted Pleistocene and Holocene industries, such as the Clactonian, Tayencian, Levalloisian, Mousterian, Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neo-Eneolithic (Zbyszewski and Ferreira 1966:85-86, Breuil and Zbyszewski 1942).

Here is one example of such reclassification. Ribeiro (1871:14) described an implement of light brown flint. He said it was one of several extracted (retirès) from the series of beds forming the hill called Murganheira. Ribeiro (1866:34) said these beds belonged to group one (groupe inférieur) of his classification (1866:2). He originally considered the beds of the groupe inférieur as earliest Quaternary, but later classified them as belonging to the Lower Miocene (Ribeiro 1871:47-48), in line with the modern attribution. The implement from the Miocene beds at Murganheira has worked edges, two of them joining to form a point. The point shows signs of use. On the tool itself is written “15.IV.1869 1.5 km N da Bemposta,” indicating the artifact was found on April 15, 1869, 1.5 kilometers north of Bemposta, a locality just south of the Murganheira hill. On the new label prepared by the Geological Service of Portugal during the period of reclassification, the artifact is identified as an Upper Paleolithic flint implement found by Ribeiro at Murganheira, near Alemquer. Apparently, there was no disputing the artifactual nature of the object, but its age was apparently assigned on the basis of its form rather than its provenance.

Some time after this reclassification of Ribeiro’s collection, the artifacts were removed from display at the Museo Geológico in Lisbon. Ribeiro and his artifacts entered into an oblivion from which they have yet to emerge.


The history Carlos Ribeiro’s discoveries demonstrates the complex interpretative interplay between geology and archeology and evolutionary theories. During the early 1860s, the prevailing archeological view that human artifacts were confined to the Quaternary caused Ribeiro to classify Tertiary formations containing them  as Quaternary. When opposition to this geological classification arose from geologists, Ribeiro at first resisted their suggestions that the terrains were certainly Tertiary. When a short time later archeologists began to seriously consider evidence for human artifacts in the Tertiary, Ribeiro changed his mind. He agreed that the Portuguese formations were Tertiary, and now took the archeological remains found in them as evidence for Tertiary humans. Prominent archeologists and geologists agreed with him, and his work remained a topic of active discussion.

There were two possibilities as to the archeological significance of Ribeiro’s work: it provided either evidence for humans like us in the Tertiary, or evidence for a human precursor. De Mortillet, for example, favored the latter interpretation, whereas de Quatrefages and others favored the former.12
In any case, at this time, even though most European archaeologists were working within an evolutionary framework, the time dimension of the evolutionary process had not been settled, mainly because of the lack of skeletal evidence in appropriate geological contexts. The looseness of the evolutionary framework therefore allowed archaeologists to contemplate the existence of Tertiary humans.

That changed in the very last decade of the nineteenth century. With the discovery of Pithecanthropus erectus, Darwinists began to solidify an evolutionary progression that led from Pithecanthropus, at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary, to anatomically modern humans in the Late Pleistocene. This left no room for Tertiary humans anywhere in the world, and put the spotlight on Southeast Asia as the place to look for Tertiary precursors to Pithecanthropus. Ribeiro’s discoveries lost their relevance and gradually disappeared from the discourse of human origins.13

A century later, things have changed somewhat. Africa is now generally recognized as the place where hominids first arose. For some time, the earliest tools were thought to date back only to the Early Pleistocene. But in recent years archeologists are once more pushing the onset of stone toolmaking well into the Tertiary. Oldowan tools have been found in the Pliocene at Gona, Ethiopia (Semaw et al. 1997). The large number of tools, described as surprisingly sophisticated, are about 2.5-2.6 million years old. Therefore, we should expect to find stone tools going back even further into the Tertiary.

Conventional candidates for the Tertiary tool makers include earliest Homo or one of the australopithecines (Steele 1999, p. 25). But there are other possibilities. Footprints described as anatomically modern occur in Pliocene volcanic ash 3.7 million years old at Laetoli, Tanzania (M. Leakey 1979).14 There is even evidence putting toolmakers close to the Iberian peninsula, in Morocco, in the late Tertiary (Onoratini et al. 1990). At the Ben Souda quarry near Fez, stone tools type were found in place in the Saissian formation, which had for long been considered Pliocene. Onoratini et al. said: “The typological characters are clear enough so as to allow one to propose that this industry should be attributed culturally to the middle Acheulean. This constitutes sufficient reason to anthropically date a formation that could not be dated by any other method.” Noting the similarity of the Ben Souda tools to the Acheulean tools from a Middle Pleistocene formation at Cuvette de Sidi Abderrahman in the area of Casablanca, Onoratini et al. (1990, p. 330) decided to characterize the part of the Saissian formation containing the tools at Ben Souda as also being Middle Pleistocene. Another possibility that deserves to be considered is that there are tools of Acheulean type in the Tertiary of Morocco.
It may be noted that anatomically modern human skeletal remains have been found in the Tertiary (Pliocene) of Italy at Castenedolo15 (Ragazzoni 1880, Sergi 1884, Cremo and Thompson 1993: 422-432) and Savona (de Mortillet 1883:70, Issel 1868, Cremo and Thompson 1993: 433-435). There may therefore be some reason, once more, to consider the possibility of Tertiary industries in Portugal.

Such a possibility is not much in favor today, as can be seen in a recent critical survey for evidence for the earliest human occupation of Europe (Roebroeks and Van Kolfschoten 1995).16 The basic thrust of the book, which is a collection of papers presented at a conference on the earliest occupation of Europe held at Tautavel, France, in 1993, is to endorse a short chronology, with solid evidence for first occupation occurring in the Middle Pleistocene at around 500,000 years. Other discoveries favoring a long chronology, perhaps extending into the earliest Pleistocene (1.8 to 2 million years) are, however, mentioned, although the consensus among the authors of the Tautavel papers is that such evidence is highly questionable. Two kinds of doubts are raised against the evidence for the long chronology: doubts about the age of the sites and doubts about the intentional manufacture of the artifacts found there. The sites and the artifacts are nevertheless mentioned, and are not entirely dismissed. The editors, and authors of individual chapters, simply say, in many cases, that better confirmation of the age of the site and the intentional manufacture of the artifacts are required.

Given this liberal approach, Ribeiro’s artifacts should have been mentioned in the chapter on the Iberian peninsula (Raposo and Santonja 1995). In that chapter, the authors give the impression that the oldest reported stone tool industries in Portugal are Early Pleistocene pebble industries documented by Breuil and Zbyszewski (1942-1945). Raposo and Santonja (1995, p.13) called into question the dating of the pebble tool sites, concluding that they “do not document beyond doubt any Early Pleistocene human occupation.” But the main point is this: although the industries reported by Breuil and Zbyszewski were not accepted, they were at least acknowledged. The same is true of other controversial sites indicating a possible Early Pleistocene occupation elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula. Raposo and Santonja did not accept them, but they acknowledged their existence, thus offering current archeologists the option of conducting further research to more firmly establish either the dates of the sites or the artefactual nature of the stone objects found there. Ribeiro’s discoveries deserve similar treatment.

One possible objection is that although there is some reason to believe in a possible early Pleistocene occupation of Europe, or even a very late Pliocene occupation, there is none to support a Miocene habitation. But there is a body of evidence that can provide a context in which the Miocene discoveries of Ribeiro might make some sense. Miocene flint tools are reported from Puy de Boudieu, near Aurillac in the department of Cantal in the Massif Central region of France (Verworn 1905). Today,  many archeologists will assume that the discoverer, Max Verworn of the University of Göttingen, was deceived as to either the geological context or the artifactual nature of the implements. But Verworn’s reports show that he gave extensive attention to both problems. He was not an eolithphile, but a skeptical investigator who employed a rigorous method of analysis.

Concerning the provenance, Verworn  (1905:16) noted that the worked flints were found in isolated small groups in layers of sediment, apart from unworked flints. This suggests that the worked flints were not picked out of large masses of broken flint. The worked flints showed little or no signs of transport, indicating they had not moved much since they were deposited, whereas unworked stones from the surrounding areas showed signs of transport and rolling (Verworn 1905:16). The flint implements were found in layers of fluviatile sands, stones, and eroded chalk, along with fossils of a typical Miocene fauna, including Dinotherium giganteum, Mastodon longirostris, Rhinocerus schleiermacheri, and Hipparion gracile. The implement-bearing layers were covered with basalt flows (Verworn 1905: 17). Considering the objection that Miocene fossils from lower layers had been mixed into upper layers with Pleistocene implements, Verworn pointed out that no Pleistocene animal fossils were to be found in the same layers as the Miocene fossils and the flint implements. He also observed that the layers bearing the flint implements of the type he collected were always found in the lowest part of the sequence overlying the Oligocene basement formation (Verworn 1905:19-20). Paleolithic and Neolithic implements of the standard type are found only in the upper terraces, above the sequence of Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic layers (Verworn 1905:17).

Concerning the artifactual nature of the implements, Verworn (1905, 24-25) considered the various causes of natural flaking, including frost, heat, movement by water, rock falls, glaciers, and so forth, and found they could not account for the objects he found at Aurillac. He believed that even the presence of bulbs of percussion, striking platforms, and apparently intentional flaking were not enough to establish the artifactual nature of a flint object. Retouching of a working edge was a good sign of intentional work, but he recommended very careful study of the individual flake removals on the edge, including their depth, size, similarity of planes of impact, and arrangement in regular rows. But even this was not enough, for him. He especially recommended looking for use marks. Verworn expected that implements used for scraping wood, bones, or skin would display characteristic use marks. He conducted experimental research to help in identifying such marks on working edges of flint implements. (Verworn 1905:25-26).

Summarizing his methodology, Verworn (1905:29) said, “Suppose I find in an interglacial stone bed a flint that bears a clear bulb of percussion, but no other symptoms of intentional work. In that case, I would be doubtful as to whether whether or not I had before me an object of human manufacture. But suppose I find there a flint which on one side shows all the typical signs of percussion, and which on the other side shows the negative impressions of two, three, four or more flakes removed by blows in the same direction. Furthermore, let us suppose one edge of the piece shows numerous successive small parallel flakes removed, all running in the same direction, and all, without exception, are located on the same side of the edge. Let us suppose that all the other edges are sharp, without a trace of impact or rolling. Then I can say with complete certainty—it is an implement of human manufacture.” (Verworn 1905, p. 29). Verworn found about 200 specimens satisfying these criteria, and some of these also showed use marks on the working edges.

Similar discoveries come from various places around the world. They include stone tools from the Miocene of Burma (Noetling 1894), stone tools and artistically carved animal bone from the Miocene of Turkey (Calvert 1874), incised and carved animal bones from the Miocene of Europe (Garrigou and Filhol 1868, von Dücker 1873), stone tools from the Miocene of Europe (Bourgeois 1873), stone tools and human skeletal remains from the Miocene of California (Whitney 1880), and a human skeleton from the Miocene of France (de Mortillet 1883:72). For an extensive review of such evidence from all periods of the Tertiary, from all parts of the world, see Cremo and Thompson (1993).

Much of this evidence, like Ribeiro’s evidence, disappeared from active consideration by archeologists because of their commitment to a human evolutionary progression anchored on Pithecanthropus erectus (Cremo, forthcoming). For example, the influential anthropologist William H. Holmes (1899:24), of the Smithsonian Institution, rejected the California gold mine discoveries reported by J. D. Whitney by saying: “Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” Holmes (1899:470) specifically appealed the the Java man discovery, suggesting that Whitney’s evidence should be rejected because “it implies a human race older by at least one half than Pithecanthropus erectus of Dubois, which may be regarded as an incipient form of human only.”

Not all of the evidence for Tertiary Homo  comes from the nineteenth century. K. N. Prasad (1982:101) of the Geological Survey of India described “a crude unifacial hand-axe pebble tool recovered from the late Miocene-Pliocene (9-10 m.y. BP) at Haritalyangar, Himachal Pradesh, India.” He added (1982, p. 102), “The implement was recovered in situ, during remeasuring of the geological succession to assess the thickness of the beds. Care was taken to confirm the exact provenance of the material, in order to rule out the possibility of its derivation from younger horizons.” Describing the tool it self, he said (1982:102): “The quartz artefact, heart-shaped (90mm x 70mm) was obviously fabricated from a rolled pebble, the dorsal side of which shows rough flaking. . . . On the ventral side much of the marginal cortex is present at the distal end. Crude flaking has been attempted for fashioning a cutting edge. Marginal flaking at the lateral edge on the ventral side is visible.” Prasad concluded (1982:103): “It is not impossible that fashioning tools commenced even as early as the later Miocene and evolved in a time-stratigraphic period embracing the Astian-Villafranchian.”


The discoveries of Ribeiro, and other evidences for Tertiary man uncovered by European archeologists and geologists, are today attributed (if they are discussed at all) to the  inevitable mistakes of untutored members of a young discipline. Another possible explanation is that some of  the discoveries were genuine, and were filtered out of the normal discourse of a community of archeologists that had adopted, perhaps prematurely, an evolutionary paradigm that placed the origins of stone toolmaking in the Pleistocene. But as the time line of human toolmaking begins to once more reach back into the Tertiary, perhaps we should withhold final judgement on Ribeiro's discoveries. A piece of the archeological puzzle that does not fit  the consensus picture at a particular moment  may find a place as the nature of the whole picture changes.

As an historian of archaeology, I believe that the discoveries of Ribeiro remain worthy of being considered in discussions of the earliest human occupation of Europe. I am pleased that the Museo Geológico in Lisbon is once more considering exhibiting the artifacts.19 I also encourage new investigations at Monte Redondo and other sites identified by Ribeiro. Ribeiro himself made an appeal, which remains relevant today (1871:57): “If in spite of all the considerations we have put forward, one still hesitates to accept the Miocene man in Portugal, we invite geologists to explore the escarpments formed by the beds of group (a) [Upper Miocene] in the region of Lisbon, and the beds of group (b’) [Lower Miocene] along the routes from Carregado to Caldas and from Villa-Nova-da-Rainha to Rio Maior. It is there they will find the authentic facts and conclusive proofs, which serve to demonstrate the contemporaneity of our species and the Tertiary formations of our land.”


1. Whitney was a prominent geologist, and his reports on the discoveries were published by the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology. The discoveries included anatomically modern human skeletal remains and stone artifacts, such as  mortars and pestles and obsidian spear points. They were found in gold mining tunnels that reached  Eocene river channels, sealed under hundreds of feet of Miocene and Pliocene basalt flows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at places such as Table Mountain in Tuolumne County, California. See Cremo and Thompson (1993: 370-393, 439-452) for a review and discussion.
2. Whitney (1880: 282) mentioned that in 1871 Carlos Ribeiro had published a report that “cut flints, evidently the work of human hands, have been found in abundance in the Pliocene and Miocene even, of Portugal.” Whitney criticized Charles Lyell for omitting this report in The Antiquity of Man, his comprehensive survey of evidence for human antiquity.
3. The Museu Geológico is located on the second floor of the 17th-century building in the historic center of Lisbon that also houses the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa (19 Rua da Academia das Ciências, Lisbon 1200 003). The director of the museum, Dr. Jose Manuel Brandão, showed me the collection of Ribeiro’s artifacts. They are stored according to the sites (the principal ones being Abrigada, Alemquer, Bemposta, Carregado, Encosta da Gorda, Espinhaço de Cão, Murganheira, and Otta) but are mixed with objects collected by others. Most of Ribeiro’s artifacts are, however, recognizable by his handwritten labels affixed to the artifacts, or written directly upon the artifacts. Others are attributed to him by old museum labels. I was able to match artifacts to twenty-one of the 128 drawings of artifacts shown in Ribeiro’s principal publication on them (Ribeiro 1871). Artifacts were matched to figures 13, 15, 16, 26, 27, 29, 36, 36b, 43, 45, 46, 55, 62, 63, 64, 73, 74, 77, 80, 82, 94. These twenty-one artifacts, along with some others, were photographed for me by Rita Jeney, a student of archeology from the Eötvös Loran Science University in Budapest. With the permission of Dr. Brandão, I separated these artifacts in the collection drawers, putting them in individual small boxes along with handwritten labels associating each with the corresponding figure and plate numbers in Ribeiro’s 1871. Assuming that all of the artifacts figured in Ribeiro’s 1871 were originally in the collection, it appears that most are now misplaced or otherwise missing.
4. The Instituto Geológico e Mineiro is located at Estrada de Portela, Apartado 7586, Zambujal, Alfragide, in the newer western suburbs of Lisbon. The library of the Museu Geológico was transferred there from central Lisbon a few years ago. The library contains collections of Ribeiro’s field notes. The notes are in small notebooks, written mostly in light pencil and sometimes in more legible ink. In my quick scanning of all the pages of the notebooks, I was disappointed not to find much in the way of exact descriptions of the circumstances of discovery of the stone artifacts collected by Ribeiro. The library has a collection of Ribeiro’s correspondence (Arquivo Historico, Armario 1, Prataleira 2, Maço 9, Correpondência de Carlos Ribeiro). The collection includes mostly copies of letters to Ribeiro, with only a few of his replies, most of which appear to be first drafts. The letters did not contain information that revealed anything more about Ribeiro’s discoveries than can be found in his publications.
5. The main guide to the localities I visited was Ribeiro’s 1866. The localities I found, with considerable help from Portuguese friends who served as drivers and translators, were: (1) A site at the base of an escarpment that runs along the north side of the road that goes from Carregado to Cadafaes (Ribeiro 1866:28). The site is about half the distance between Carregado and Cadafaes (now spelled Cadafais), and can be reached by a small dirt road going through some vineyards. (2) Quinta de Cesar (Ribeiro 1866:32) in Carregado. (3) The hill called Murganheira, east of Alemquer (Ribeiro 1866:34). (4) Encosta da Gorda (Ribeiro 1866:34), near the eastern side of the Murganheira hill. (5) The site on the right bank of the River Otta, where it passes the village of Otta (Ribeiro 1866:42). (6) Monte Redondo, about 2 kilometers northeast of Otta (Ribeiro 1866:45).
6. It appears that the implements were sometimes found in layers of sediment lying between the layers of limestone. For example, de Mortillet (1883:100) says that implements were found in layers of sandstone running between layers of limestone and clay.
7. Ribeiro’s dilemma is also reflected in other writings. In his annual report for the Geological Commission of Portugal (Ribeiro 1865:97), Ribeiro, as director, wrote about his investigations from the Serra de Monte Junto to the left bank of the Tagus River, northeast of Lisbon. He said that the work had resulted in important corrections for the official geological map of Portugal, soon to be engraved and printed. Formations that just three months ago had been classified as Tertiary were now to be recognized as Quaternary.
In his main report justifying his attribution of these formations to the Quaternary, Ribeiro (1866:59-62) acknowledged his doubts and reservations. He gave several geological reasons that indicated a Tertiary age for the region in question (Ribeiro 1886:60). The lacrustine deposits were concordant with marine Tertiary formations. The deposits were of great thickness, and in some places were greatly deformed. Furthermore, the normal kinds of Quaternary shells were absent from them. He then said, “It is therefore not very surprising that when we encountered worked flints in these formations, subjacent to the conglomerates of Carregado, we were greatly astonished. But because the authenticity of the discovery was incontestable, and because of the incontestablity of the human remains later encountered at other localities, where the sandy part of the deposit had been greatly eroded, we were forced to refer to the Quaternary all of the sandstone rock that constitutes the surface of the Otta depression, and along with that a great portion of the sandstone rock of the same kind that covers the left side of the Tagus valley” (Ribeiro 1866:60).
In this monograph on the implements he discovered, Ribeiro (1871:52) gave a similar account of his early astonishment: “At first we believed we had become subjected to an illusion. We tried to persuade ourselves that the chipped flints and quartzites presented no signs of human work. But that effort was contradicted by the clear evidence of such signs. As the number of specimens increased, and the conditions of their provenance became better understood, our conviction became stronger and stronger as to the true origin of the objects. Finally, it became necessary to announce the proofs, the inconstestable indications shown by the stone objects, which had been held by human hands before they were covered by the beds from which we extracted them.”
8. A most interesting collection of documents related to the Congrès International d’Anthropologie et d’Archéologie Préhistoriques of 1880 can be found in the historical archives of the library of the Institute of Geology and Mines in Alfragide, Lisbon (Armario 6, Prataleira 3, Maço 69, IXe Congresso de Antropologia e Arqeuologia, Lisboa 1880). The documents include numerous drafts of the conference schedules, lists of participants, lists of hotels and restaurants, etc., many apparently in Ribeiro’s handwriting. Also to be found are the stenographic copies of papers delivered at the Congress, letters of invitation, and other correspondence. In total, they provide an excellent picture of the whole process of organizing an international scientific conference in nineteenth-century Europe, from the first letters of invitation to the final details of publishing the proceedings. The Congress was held in the ornate main hall of the library in the building housing the Academia Real das Sciencas, located on the floor below the Museu Geológico. The hall, still there today, is worth a visit.
9. In July, 2000, I retraced the commission’s route. There is a road leading east from Otta to Aveiras de Cima. Just as this road leaves Otta, one turns onto a small dirt road leading north, and following it, one eventually comes to Monte Redondo. Monte Redondo and the surrounding area remain in a natural condition, undisturbed by any construction. The area has, however, been reforested with trees not native to Portugal. Although I suspect the landscape has changed somewhat, ravines on the southern slopes of Monte Redondo, like those described in the report of the conference expedition, are still visible. Their profiles resemble the one figured by de Mortillet (1883:101).
10. At the Tenth Congress in 1889, Villanova claimed that de Mortillet’s figure (1883:101) showing the position of Belluci’s discovery at Otta was inaccurate. Villanova  maintained that the artifact was not found in the interior of the bed, but on the surface (Delgado 1889:531). But the figure does not show the implement was found inside the bed. It is in fact shown on a surface, the under surface of a ledge, and thus appears to me accurate. De Mortillet was present at Otta when the discovery was made, and his account seems reliable.
11. Delgado said that the specimens in one group were marked with numbers in red circles and in the other group with numbers in blue circles. In the various collections of artifacts from Otta in the Museu Geológico, one can see many bearing the numbers with red and blue circles. It would be good to assemble them into a single subcollection.
12. De Mortillet stated: “If we see in the flint objects found at Thenay signs of intentional work, we can only conclude it was not the work of anatomically modern human beings but of another human species, probably representative of a genus of human precursors that fills the gap between humans and animals” (de Quatrefages 1884:81-82). De Mortillet called this precursor genus Anthropopitheque, existing in three species, the oldest, that of Thenay, being the link with the apes. Thenay is the site of the early Miocene discoveries reported by Bourgeois (1873). The other two species were the makers of the flint tools found by Ribeiro in Portugal and by Rames at Aurillac, in France (de Mortillet 1883:97). “For de Mortillet,” stated de Quatrefages (1884:82-83), “the existence of anthropopitheques in Tertiary times is a necessary consequence of Darwinist doctrines.”
13. In the Pithecanthropus erectus discovery, Dubois associated a femur with a skullcap. Considering the historical impact of Pithecanthropus on evidence  for Tertiary humans, it is noteworthy that modern researchers no longer consider the association genuine. When Day and Molleson (1973), carefully reexamined the femur, they found it not different from anatomically modern human femurs and distinct from all other erectus femurs.
14. Leakey herself (1979:453) said the prints were exactly like anatomically modern human footprints, a judgement shared by some physical anthropologists (Tuttle 1981:91, 1987:517). Tim White said, “Make no mistake about it. They are like modern human footprints” (Johanson and Edey 1981:250). Some have suggested that an australopithecine could have made the prints. But such proposals were not supported by a complete Australopithecus foot. White and Suwa (1987) attempted to put together such a foot (using bones from three different hominids of different genera), but the exercise was quite speculative. In 1995, Clarke and Tobias reported the discovery of a partial Australopithecus foot from Sterkfontein (Bower 1995), and in 1998 announced the discovery of a fairly complete australopithecine skeleton, to which the foot bones had originally been attached. The partial foot reported in 1995 featured a big toe that was long and divergent, like that of a chimpanzee. Like White and Suwa, Tobias and Clarke used bones from East African hominids to reconstruct a complete foot, which Tobias said matched the Laetoli prints (Bower 1995). However, physical anthropologist Michael Day asserted that the Sterkfontein foot could not have made the Laetoli footprints and questioned the accuracy of a reconstruction that made use of bones from different parts of Africa (Bower 1995). Stern and Susman (1983) proposed that an australopithecine foot with long toes curled under made the prints. But others (Tuttle 1985:132, White and Suwa 1987:495) pointed out that the prints showed no knuckle marks, and that surely, in the case of so many prints some would have shown the extended toes. Deloison (1997) claimed, in opposition to almost all previous reporting, that the Laetoli prints displayed distinctly primate (chimpanzoid) features. Others (Tuttle et al. 1998) replied that Deloison’s observations were “false interpretations based on artifactual taphonomic features, reliance on a partial sample of the . . . first generation casts of the Laetoli prints, and her not accounting for  the orientation of the prints on the trackway.”
15. According to Oakley (1980:40), the nitrogen content of the Castenedolo bones was to that of human bones from the Italian Late Pleistocene and Holocene. But nitrogen preservation varies from site to site, problematizing such comparisons. Oakley (1980:42) reported a high fluorine content for the bones. Low fluorine levels in local groundwater indicated a potentially great age for the bones, but Oakley explained this away by positing higher levels of groundwater fluorine in the recent past. The Castenedolo bones also had an unexpectedly high concentration of uranium, another indicator of great age. A radiocarbon date of less than one thousand years was obtained in 1969 (Barker et al. 1971), using a method not adequate to prevent falsely young dates from contamination with recent carbon. Ragazzoni’s original stratigraphic observations provide the most reliable age estimate.
16. I received my copy of The Earliest Occupation of Europe from Wil Roebroeks in Amsterdam, where he visited me for a conversation about Forbidden Archeology in October of 1997. I later gave a lecture to some of his students at the University of Leiden.
17. It is encouraging that Roebroeks and van Kolfschoten (1995:297) at least acknowledge in a very general way evidence of the kind reported by Ribeiro, although they do not mention him directly: “One century ago, Palaeolithic archeologists were involved in a fierce debate over the alleged existence of Tertiary humans in Europe. Eolithphiles, both on the continent and Europe, presented thousands of flints from Tertiary deposits, that in their opinion were human worked implements.” Regarding the material from the Iberian peninsula, they say (1995:305): “Iberian river terraces have yielded isolated pieces, whose human manufacture or precise age have been doubted by various researchers. . . . Claims for the existence of Early Pleistocene artefacts and human fossils come from localities in the Gaudix-Baza basin near Orca-Vente Micena, but further fieldwork is necessary to turn these claims into compelling evidence.” Again, the point is that these sites, although controversial and not accepted by the authors, are at least acknowledged.
18. Prasad attributed the tool to Ramapithecus, then accepted by some researchers as being the first hominid. Since then, Ramapithecus has been dropped from the hominid line.
19. A proposal by me for an exhibit of Ribeiro’s artifacts was approved by the organizers of the European Association of Archaeologists 2000 annual meeting in Lisbon, but after an initial expression of interest by the director of the Museu Geológico, the plan was dropped by him for unspecified reasons.


I am grateful to the trustees of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for their grants in support of my work and to Lori Erbs for her research assistance.


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Michael A. Cremo is a research associate in history and philosophy of science for the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the science studies branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. His work in the history of archeology is informed and inspired by his studies in the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. Among these writings are the Puranas, or histories, which speak of a human presence going back  many millions of years, contradicting the current evolutionary theories of human origins. His most recent publication is “Puranic Time and the Archeological Record,” originally presented as a paper at the World Archeological Congress 3, New Delhi, 1994, and included in the WAC3 proceedings volume Time and Archaeology, edited by Tim Murray, and published by Routledge (1999). Another paper, “The Later Discoveries of Boucher de Perthes at Moulin Quignon and Their Bearing on the Moulin Quignon Jaw Controversy,” has been selected for publication in the proceedings of the XXth International Congress of History of Science, held in Liège, Belgium, July 19-26, 1997. His most recent book is Forbidden Archeology’s Impact (1998). It documents the varied responses to his controversial book Forbidden Archeology (1993).

Address:  9701 Venice Blvd. #5, Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA. [email:]

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