The esteemed Paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, as I’ve noted many times, left his work in Africa and came to America fully expecting to find evidence of prehistoric humans just as he’d found much evidence for in East Africa. When Leakey got to America he went to the Calico Hills in California and died soon after without finding any fossil remains of archaic hominids. However, a rich haul of artifacts were discovered at the Calico Hills site and, in fact, the number of stone artifacts is rather astounding. But mainstream geologists simply pass it off saying these “artifacts” are “geofacts,” that is, products of nature that only resemble hominid made artifacts. Of course this is a great matter of debate!
The large number of stone artifacts found at the Calico Hills site numbers in the thousands but Calico Hills does NOT stand alone! Large numbers of stone artifacts can also be found in Libya laying on top of the ground! In fact, these stone artifacts literally carpet the ground in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere.
Researchers who have worked in southern Libya take surveys from hundreds of plots 1 to 2 meters square. Tens of thousands of artifacts are found in these plots! In fact, they estimate that as many as 250,000 stone artifacts can be found per square Kilometer! And this is only what is found on the surface! Now that is rather astounding isn’t it? Consider that the population of ancient human ancestors was nowhere near our present population of almost 7 billion. In fact, when we look back at ancient human ancestors we are lucky if the population even numbered in the millions! My point is this. If ancient populations were relatively low then how do we explain these amazing amount of artifacts strewn across the Libyan southern desert (and Egypt et al as well)? This would suggest that our ancient ancestors spent most of their time making stone tools don’t you think? That would leave little time for hunting and gathering so I wonder when they found time to eat, hunt, fish, or perform other activities necessary for their survival?
Other parts of Africa have been examined as well such as the Nubian Desert which has an average of 12 MILLION artifacts per square Kilometer! Now that is even MORE astounding!! Considering Africa is about 30 million square Kilometers in area that would mean that Africa must be filled with trillions of stone artifacts! Now that makes my head swim!
Don’t think Africa is special or alone in this! Consider the Thames in England too. It’s said that cart loads of prehistoric hand axes were hauled out! I guess early man had nothing to do but make stone tools all day long.
Dr John Hawks an esteemed Paleoanthropologist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison came to the conclusion that a population size of 500k to 1 million is not out of the realm of possibility for the MSA (Middle Stone Age). The Middle Stone Age was between 280 kya to 50 kya or maybe 25 kya depending on who you ask. Early Homo sapiens would fit nicely into this period as it is believed they appeared about 200 kya. Late Homo erectus would also fit into this time frame as it’s believed this species went “extinct” around 70 kya. But, Homo erectus wasn’t using Oldowan stone tools at that time! They were using Acheulian stone tools. At the site in Libya what we see could be classified as Oldowan stone tools, mostly.
Looking at the ESA (Early Stone Age) that gives us a time frame between 3.3 mya to 300 kya, thereabouts. Now we’re talking! The ESA is also known as the Lower Paleolithic and it is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It is also the time frame in which we find the earliest stone tools production and use by ancient human ancestors and it includes the use of Oldowan stone tools.
Although there may be some evidence that Australopithecus (4.5 mya to 2 mya) MAY have used stone tools let’s get on firmer ground and turn to the TOOL MAN Homo habilis. We know H. habilis produced and used Oldowan stone tools and that appears to be mostly what we find in southern Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere! But not so fast there amigo! Some researchers believe Homo habilis produced little to no stone tools at all but instead used stones found on the ground as tools.
Homo habilis is believed by some Paleoanthropologists to belong to the Australopithecines species. I, along with others, do not! H habilis was the first member of the Homo genus and he isn’t named “tool man” or “handyman” for nothing. TOOL MAN lived roughly between 2.1 mya and 1.5 mya. That puts him in the Gelasian and Early Calabrian stages of the Pleistocene. According to Hawks hominid populations may have numbered 500,000 to 1 million during the Middle Stone Age but prior to that time hominid populations were likely far LESS in number. So let’s be generous and estimate the population of H. habilis to have been somewhere around 1/3 the size of the MSA which means the population for H. habilis would have been around MAYBE 167,000 to 334,000. Further, many researchers believe the average life span during this time was around 20 years and we need to account for that too. Can you imagine being deemed an old man or old woman at age 20?
So let’s make this simple. For our purposes here let’s assume the following in regards to Homo habilis and what we find in southern Libya et al:
- Homo habilis was the first hominid species to produce and use Oldowan stone tools.
- H. habilis lived from 2.1 mya to around 1.5 mya which means this species lived for about 600.000 years IN Sub-Sahara Africa which is generally considered the area south of the Sahara Desert which is south of Libya since Libya is considered to be in North Africa not Sub-Sahara Africa.
- Let’s also assume that at any given time during those 600K years the population of H. habilis was an average of 200K breeding individuals whose lifespan was 20 years.
Now of course there is a slight PROBLEM in our assumptions above as there is NO EVIDENCE of Homo habilis having been in North Africa! However, there are sites in North Africa such as Ain Hanech in northern Algeria which has been dated between 1.8-1.2 mya. And at this site is an Oldowan layer. This and other sites in North Africa indicate hominids crossed into North Africa and some researchers believe early hominids crossed into North Africa during a flux in climate (climate change) but they came from East Africa which is, basically, the “homeland” of H. habilis. If this theory is so then that would mean that it was either H. habilis or early H. erectus in North Africa but for the sake of this post let’s assume it was H. habilis.
So if we divide 600,000 years by the 20 year average lifespan of H. habilis this means there would have been 30K individuals. Not a lot! Each individual would have had to have made hundreds or even thousands of stone artifacts during their lifetime and I highly DOUBT that was the case!! So what is going on here? Where did all of these apparent stone artifacts laying atop the ground come from?
Essentially what we are talking about here is TRILLIONS of stone artifacts requiring hundreds of thousands of years to produce. I bet you had no idea stone tool artifacts were so common did you?
The geologists have concluded that nature produces stones that resemble human-made stone tools called “geofacts.” The problem is that when it comes to Oldowan artifacts, which H. habilis would have used, there is little difference between artifacts and geofacts. In other words it is often difficult to tell if a piece is a geofact or an artifact when it comes to Oldowan style tools! So what am I saying?
The extraordinary amount of “artifacts” at the south Libyan site(s) are one of two things. They are either geofacts that resemble Oldowan stone tools OR if they are indeed artifacts we have a BIG GAP in our understanding of our ancient ancestors and their actual population numbers!
I highly doubt that our early ancestors sit around most of the day making stone tools with little time to sleep, hunt, gather other foods, or anything else. In fact, I think it most likely that H. habilis most often used a stone they found along the way as a tool. But, that doesn’t mean they took some time to actually make stone tools either because likely they did SOMETIMES but NOT all of the time.
Now there are some other things we might consider in all this additionally. If the stones in southern Libya are indeed artifacts then it appears to me that they were being mass produced and in my mind mass production takes an organized and large society or some sort of high technology! And there would be our BIG GAP in understanding. Then the question would arise just what this large and organized society was and why were they producing so many stone artifacts? And another question would be of course what sort of technology did they employ in mass production?
The stone “artifacts” found in southern Libya are on top of the ground so can you imagine how many must be buried? I must ask if there is some sort of natural process that we don’t realize or know about yet that produced these “artifacts”? Researchers in southern Libya have described the artifacts just laying on top of the ground as being in the TRILLIONS! Since the population numbers of our ancestors were small that would mean they had nothing to do but sit around day and night for 20 years over the course of 600,000 years chipping at stones making tools and frankly I think that is a bit far-fetched. If none of this is the case then the conclusion must be that our estimates of prehistoric population numbers is grossly lacking.
There is another possibility and that involves geology and climate. I HIGHLY DOUBT climate in ANY region at ANY time was/is a simple “backdrop”!! In fact, I think climate has always been a MAJOR factor when it comes to human population and development! And it still is TODAY! Geology like all other scientific disciplines is not completely set in stone. Theories change as new facts come to light and that makes everything tentative. So I must ask did something happen on this planet that we don’t yet know about or understand that produced these trillions of “artifacts”?
When I look at some of the stones from southern Libya I believe SOME are indeed artifacts made by ancient human ancestors. No let me qualify that! I mean A FEW but certainly not trillions!! I think most of the trillions are geofacts, frankly, made by some natural process that perhaps we don’t yet understand or don’t know about.