T4C: The Archaeological Evidence

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As we saw in the earlier section, our community’s original position acknowledged the old age of the earth, and many of our early scholars spoke of ‘pre-Adamic’ creations that account for the abundance of fossil evidence. This position is known as old earth creationism (OEC). Although there are variations to this model, it essentially posits an ancient creation (or creations) were superseded by the current one; hence the six days of creation recorded in Genesis. 135 years ago, Robert Roberts wrote,

“The only practical difficulty in the way of accepting the Mosaic narrative is the assumption that it teaches that the work of creation began 6,000 years ago. Close study will show that there is no real foundation for this assumption, and that all that the Bible teaches is that the earth was put in order and the Adamic race appeared on the scene 6,000 years ago. The pre-existence of the earth and of races upon it, is not only compatible with the Mosaic narrative, but is recognised in the opening chapter. . . ”[1]

To be clear, this is NOT suggesting he was endorsing evolution - but rather that he was endeavouring to reconcile the evidence available in his day. However, 130 years later, we have uncovered such a vast trove of richer evidence that we can add a whole new level of detail to this discussion.

In terms of timeframes for this, James Ussher proposed the date for creation of 4004 BC. This date differs little from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Jose ben Halafta (3761 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC). [2]2 So, for the purposes of our discussion in this chapter, we’ll work within this timeframe and assume God created Adam somewhere around about 4000 BC.

We know from Genesis 2:5 that God wanted man to “work the ground”, indicating agricultural activity and cultivation rather than merely gathering wild foods, and the point of putting Adam in the garden was so that he could “tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We also know that Adam’s son built a city (Genesis 4:17), and six generations later Tubal-cain was described as a forger of bronze and iron instruments, which would place him in the late bronze age (Genesis 4:22).

So, what else do we know about the world around this time period?

The Neolithic Age

The beginning of the Neolithic Age varies for different parts of the world. This is because the term refers to certain characteristics found in cultures rather than a specific chronological time period. Cultures are considered ‘Neolithic’ when they began to organise themselves into structured communities with agricultural capabilities, domesticated animals, and developed crafts such as pottery and weaving.

In the Near East, it began about 9,000 years ago, compared to roughly 7,000 years ago in Southeast Europe, 5,500 years ago in Central Europe, about 4,000 years ago in Northern Europe. In Asia, the Neolithic period started about 6,000 years ago. These time periods are important because they show that these cultures were already in existence at the time of Adam.

Therefore, the position of Old Earth Creation (OEC) - where a pre-Adamic epoch was ‘discontinued’ (to put it euphemistically), in order for God begin again with a new (Adamic) creation - runs aground for two key reasons:

Firstly, it requires an extinction event of significant scale and impact, and so we should find obvious and verifiable evidence for this as we have done with other mass-extinction events. Instead, we find the opposite. Rather than depicting a mass-extinction event, archaeological evidence from around the world shows numerous examples of continuous habitation across this event’s timeline.

Secondly, one has to question why God would destroy these pre-Adamic cultures, only to recreate them almost instantaneously again. This is not a new observation. In 1926, C. C. Walker noted the same thing saying “there does not appear to be any evidence at all that some six thousand years ago an existing cosmos was reduced to such a chaos as is described in Genesis 1v2” and the observation was repeated by L G Sargent in 1966.3[3]

These reasons become more apposite when we consider just how vast some of the Neolithic cultures were.

For example, the Natufian culture is recognised as one of the first Neolithic cultures. It began in the Epipalaeolithic period roughly 11,500 to 14,500 years ago, and shows evidence of ongoing settlement right through to the bronze age. [4] It is named after the Wadi en-Natuf near Jerusalem where evidence of their culture was first discovered, and since then numerous other sites have been found in excavations throughout Palestine and Syria. [5] Archaeologists have noted that this culture had a number of traits showing that it became reasonably well developed. For example:

  • Purpose-built dwellings and structures (as opposed to simply sheltering in caves) [6];
  • Humans were actively modifying local ecosystems to increase the availability of plant resources by actively tilling and tending vegetation [7] (A technical way of saying ‘early farming’);
  • They exploited a diverse range of potentially edible animal and plant foods that included wild barley, lentils, and nuts, some of which might have been prepared for consumption through de-husking and grinding using mortars, pestles, and grinding stones that were constructed from basalt, limestone, and sandstone [8]; and
  • Graves have been found that were lined with colourful and aromatic flowers, showing grave preparation was a sophisticated planned process [9].

According to UNESCO, “Evidence from numerous Natufian burials and early stone architecture represents the transition from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture and animal husbandry”. [10] In other words, this was more than a simplistic race that pre-dated Adam and Eve by about roughly 5,000 years, but one that eventually developed into a relatively sophisticated culture beyond being nomads, hunters and gatherers. The Natufians established permanent settlements consisting of well-made circular semi-subterranean dwellings spread out over several thousand meters, providing housing for a hundred people or more. Archaeologists have found flint sickles used to harvest grains and grinding stones used to process food. [11]

The Natufian culture is just one example. Further eastwards, the Mehrgarh culture thrived in an area west of the Indus River Valley in Pakistan from about 7,000 to 2,500 BC. The archaeological site of Mehrgarh is in the Kachi plain, close to the mouth of the Bolan Pass, and covers an area of about 250 hectares. [12] One of the notable aspects of the findings at Mehrgarh, is that they show evidence of continuous habitation from early phases where people lived in rudimentary houses of mud bricks, through to later stages where they have storage of grains, domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle. These later phases also offer evidence of ceramics, metallurgy and other arts and crafts. [13]

Moving still further east into China, we find the Yangshao culture that existed extensively along the Yellow River in China. It’s dated from around 5,000 BC to 3,000 BC, and remains from this culture have been found in excavations in villages such as Banpo, Jiangzhai, Beishouling, and Dadiwan in the Wei River valley in Shaanxi. [14] Some Yangshao settlements such as Jiangzhai contain raised-floor buildings that may have been used for the storage of surplus grains, and grinding stones for making flour were also found. The Yangshao people kept mostly pigs and dogs, while sheep, goats, and cattle appear to have been rare. It seems much of their meat came from hunting and fishing. Their stone tools were polished and highly specialised, and in terms of craft work they produced silk to a small degree and wove hemp. [15]

On the other side of world from China, the Cueva Fell is a remarkable natural cave and archaeological site located in the Río Chico canyon, Chile, near the Straits of Magellan and the Argentine border. It was formed by river water eroding the sandstone bank and creating a canopy and shelter above. From time to time remnants of the sandstone canopy fell to the floor, forming layers that later separated and preserved various human occupation periods. These periods range from about 9,000BC to roughly 700 years ago. [16] The oldest occupation layer contained various tools such as scrapers and choppers made from stone and bone, as well several hearths. The later layers show combs, beads, stone knives, and also structures for ritual burials.

Continuous habitation

The point with all these examples is that they show that human cultures have been continuously developing throughout this period of history. This means that if God did bring an end to all pre-Adamic cultures, the only explanation then is that he recreated these cultures across the world almost instantly (and that really doesn’t make sense) with an unbroken technological and societal trajectory.

Some have suggested that Adam and Eve originated much further back in time. This can’t be correct, because the points we looked at earlier from Genesis place Adam and his family right in the late Neolithic age - a time of agriculture and craftsmanship that was a handful of generations away from the bronze age, and the archaeological evidence verifies what we read in Genesis. However, the archaeological evidence also helps us to understand that there were vast cultures across the world at the same time as Adam and Eve.

The evidence for continuous habitation is not limited to archaeology. The fields of genomics and genetics also provide robust proof that the races of people contemporary with Adam and Eve were part of a continuous, evolutionary creation . . . 

  1. Roberts, R The Visible Hand of God (The Christadelphian Magazine, 1881) 18:60
  2. x
  3. Sargent, L G, What do we believe (The Christadelphian Magazine, 1966) 103:459
  4. Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990)
  5. Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 689.
  6. Gil Haklay & Avi Gopher, A New Look at Shelter 131/51 in the Natufian Site of Eynan (Ain-Mallaha), Israel. (PLoS ONE 10(7), 2015) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130121.
  7. Melinda Zeder, The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East, (Current Anthropology, 2011) 52:221.
  8. Patrick Mahoney, Dental microwear from Natufian hunter-gatherers and early Neolithic farmers: Comparisons within and between samples (American Journal of Physical Anthropology,2006) 56 130(3):308-19
  9. Dani Nadel et al, Earliest floral grave lining from 13,700-11,700-y-old Natufian burials at Raqefet Cave, Mt. Carmel, Israel (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 16 July 2013) 110(29):11774-8.
  10. UNESCO, Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Accessed October 2016) [1]
  11. Walter C. Kaiser Jr., A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 34–35.
  12. UNESCO, Archaeological Site of Mehrgarh (Accessed November 2016) http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1876/
  13. Dilip K. Chakrabarti, The Oxford Companion to Indian Archaeology (Oxford University Press, 2006), 108
  14. Kwang-chih Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China (Yale University Press, 1986)
  15. Li Liu & Xingcan Chen, The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
  16. Tom Dillehay, Gerardo Calderon, & Gustavo Politis, Earliest hunters and gatherers of South America (Journal of World Prehistory, 1992). Vol 6 (2): 145–204. doi:10.1007/BF00975549