Human Remains in a Drowned Ice Age Cave Contradict Young-Earth Chronology

During the last Ice Age when the oceans were up to 300 feet lower than they are today an extensive cave system on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico was exposed above sea level allowing it to be inhabited by land animals.  When the great ice sheets melted from the Earth’s surface causing the oceans to rise, these caves systems were drowned and are now only accessible by divers.   In 2012 divers exploring one of these drowned caves systems discovered a nearly complete human skeleton on the cave floor over 3000 feet from the nearest entrance.   Now pieces of that skeleton have been dated yielding an estimated age of at least 13,000 years before present.  (Stinnesbeck et al. 2017)

What is particularly fascinating about these remains is the evidence that this skeleton must have come to rest in its current location well before the cave was flooded by rising sea levels.   Some of the bones have stalagmites that have grown on top of them.  In fact, it was by dating the age of the stalagmite that had grown on top of the bone that scientists were able to set a lower limit to the age of the bones themselves.  These stalagmite must have grown from water dripping onto the bones when the cave was dry.   Later, ground water filled the cave stopping stalagmite formation and preserving the remains as they appear today for many thousands of years.

Fig 1. from Stinnesbeck et al. 2017 (See references for link and fig legend is from that paper) Geographical position and site of the Chan Hol skeleton. a: Location of submerged caves containing human skeletal remains dating to >8000 BP in the Tulum area of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Orange dots refer to human remains [20, 21, 25]. The red dot marks Chan Hol II. b: The Chan Hol II archaeological site prior to looting. The arrow points to the CH-7 stalagmite analyzed here. (c) Reconstruction of the skeleton based on photographs of the site prior to looting. Note that the skeleton was originally complete and almost articulated (Photo courtesy Nick Poole and Thomas Spamberg

What do these bones tell us about the history of human occupation of the New World?  This skeleton represents one of the oldest dated human remains found in the New World.  The fact that it was found in a cave that was once above sea level but is now many meters below sea level tells us that this person had entered the cave during the last Ice Age when sea levels were much lower than they are today exposing extensive cave systems that had been produced by underground rivers prior to the sea level drop.  During this time when the caves were exposed many animals utilized the caves including giant sloths and other South American Ice Age animals.

A tight squeeze: When did this person live in the young-earth chronology?

Young earth creationists (YECs) believe that all people alive today are dispersed descendants of a group of people who had gathered at Babel in the Middle East about 4250 years ago (see timeline below).  According to the YEC timeline of history, some of those people left Babel and migrated through Asia over the Bering Strait.  This land bridge between North America and Asia had just formed during an Ice Age that began 4250 years ago.  From there people migrated down into North America, Central America and eventually populated South America.

The Ice Age is said to have lasted from 4250 before present to about 4000 years before present or a total of only 250 years. There are many human remains in the New World that testify to human occupation during the most recent Ice Age.  Hence, in the YEC timeline man must have migrated to North America from the Middle East and established populations across two continents in less than 250 years.  In fact, the timeline below suggests that the New World wasn’t even accessible for nearly 100 years after Babel and then humans finally enter into the Americas just about 2100 years ago near the end of the Ice Age.

Ice-age timeline (click on to enlarge) showing also where stone-tool making is expected in the young earth timeline. This is a typical timeline presented by Answers in Genesis and ICR.

The evidence from the bones sitting below sea level in a cave in Mexico further highlights the absurd nature of this proposed rapid migration and population expansion. Not only does this require that this people must have migrated all the way to Central America while the oceans were much lower than they are today but this particular person had to enter the cave, die there, decompose and then stalagmites had to form on top of its bones.  That whole stalagmite was dated and not only was it very old but the dates from different parts of the stalagmite indicate it took over 1000 years to grow.  This time of growth had to occur while the cave was above sea level and so this person must have died in the cave well before the end of the last Ice Age because there had to be enough time for the stalagmites to form before the cave was drowned.

YECs will dispute the time it takes to form a stalagmite but even if this they may form quickly the stalagmites unequivocally show us that the bones were laid in the cave while it was dry and that some period of time was necessary for further cave formation before being drowned.

Once again, our observations of the world around us are difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the YEC chronology of earth’s history.   Is it reasonable to believe that less than 200 years, one or a few families would have traveled from the Middle East up through Asia, cross into North America and then made their way down into Central America all the while splitting off group members to populate areas along the way?  Why continue to leave areas that are ideal habitats to migrate across mountains, through cold and icy regions, cross rivers, and deep deserts?  How could populations have expanded so quickly in just 200  to 300 years that it allowed people to find there way to almost every part of the New World before the end of the Ice Age?  Constant migration wouldn’t seem to be ideal conditions for population growth especially since the world they would have encountered would have many predators at the time such as many kinds of large cats (saber-tooth cats and lions).

Normally stalagmites grow very slowly and there is nothing in this particular cave to suggest that we would expect growth any different that we observe today. The very presence of a stalagmite on top of the bones contradicts the very restricted YEC timeline of the Ice Age and human occupation of North America.  All of the observations we make of human remains and cultural artifacts found in the Americas are readily accommodated by an old earth model of Earth’s history.

YEC explanations for these bone and others observations require a set of unrealistic ad-hoc proposals that stretch all reasonable bounds of rational inquiry.

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I’ve written about another set of bones found in another cave in Mexico that tells a similar story: Underwater Cave Yields Fossilized Teenage from the Ice Age

Stinnesbeck W, Becker J, Hering F, Frey E, González AG, et al. (2017) The earliest settlers of Mesoamerica date back to the late Pleistocene. PLOS ONE 12(8): e0183345. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183345

Comments

  1. I wonder,,, did those YECie people bring their dinosaur pets with them 4250 years ago?

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  2. Another example highlighting the difference between understanding “deep time” as merely large numbers assigned by radioactivity and understanding “deep time” as a great story with an elaborately unfolding sequence of events.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charles Deetz ;) says:

    I’ve found that AIG post-flood timeline chart absolutely unbelievable. Nice to show it hear with a story that shows why it is unbelievable.

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  4. JOSEPH P EMMICK says:

    Just curious if you ever post anything that supports Scripture (not necessarily focused on young v. old earth) or is your focus on just disproving young earth? Also wondering how you view the idea that time is relative (e=mc2) to the speed of light and the role that might play in our perception of how long it took an event to occur?  When a Being who exists outside of the boundaries of time and space takes an action that influences events in time and space how will that appear to the beings locked in time and space?

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    • My articles do spend a good amount of time with critiquing the young-earth dogma but if you look under the categories (at bottom of page) under Reformed Theology and Creationism and the Church you will find more broad articles that address my theology. For example: https://thenaturalhistorian.com/2012/05/16/garden-of-eden-biblical-worldview-temple-beal/ Regarding relativity etc.. I have no reason to believe that God has changed how he is or has governed his creation. Its always possible but hypothesizing such changes might appear to be a way to solve possible problems but most people, even most YECs, eventually abandon such attempts because more problems are created than solved in most cases.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Just curious if you ever post anything that supports Scripture…”

      Well, unlike the dishonest YECs, he clearly supports the Ninth Commandment.

      If your alleged faith has “don’t bear false witness” as one of its top ten commands, yet you have to repeatedly, deliberately break it to support your claim that a few lines of obvious poetry are to be taken as science, what sort of faith do you really have?

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  5. wowfunny251 says:

    Valid, but this wouldn’t be that big an issue for many YEC’s I have personally spoken with (more than 30%), who show some leeway on the geneologies and merely claim a 6000-10,000 year old earth. There are still a massive number of problems with the model, but it does help against arguments like this.

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    • “There are still a massive number of problems with the model, but it does help against arguments like this.”

      Why are you falsely portraying evidence as mere arguments?

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      • wowfunny251 says:

        All conclusions (no matter how sound) drawn from evidence is a type of argument. Your use of the word “mere” implies something “lesser” about arguments, which is never the case.

        Even drawing the conclusion “the earth is round” from satellite pictures of the earth is still an argument, just an extremely sound one. (Near certain)

        A fossil does not independently create a conclusion, that must be done by a living human interpreter. It is both evidence and an argument. And all conclusions drawn from evidence/data always will be arguments, no matter how sound the conclusion. Everything humanity has ever learned came from an argument from the data, there is no other way to reach a conclusion.

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        • “All conclusions (no matter how sound) drawn from evidence is a type of argument. Your use of the word “mere” implies something “lesser” about arguments, which is never the case.”

          The modifier “mere” refers to your omission of evidence. Arguments without evidence are inferior to those with evidence.

          “Everything humanity has ever learned came from an argument from the data, there is no other way to reach a conclusion.”

          But you’re falsely portraying science as mere post hoc arguments about evidence (while never citing any), when the actual power of scientific hypotheses is predicting the actual evidence we will see before we see it. The point is to avoid our human tendency to see what we want to see.

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          • wowfunny251 says:

            Evidence is just data that points to a conclusion, all correct arguments are from evidence by definition. And (with the exception of devil’s advocate arguments) everyone making an argument will think their argument is true and thus is an argument from evidence.

            YEC proponents claim their arguments are from evidence, atheistic evolutionists claim their arguments are from evidence, flat-earthers claim their arguments are from evidence. Making a distinction between arguments from evidence and arguments that are not from evidence gets us nowhere, you end up reasoning in a circle. (you are essentially saying “arguments that are right are inferior to arguments that are not”) It’s better to simply judge the argument on it’s own merit and figure out if it is true or not.

            Also, yes predicting the data “before we see it” is good, but it isn’t necessary to learn something to be true. Ultimately, reality doesn’t come from our minds, the chronological order we find out information has no effect on what is true and what is not.

            Conclusions drawn from predicting the data before we see it can still be wrong, conclusions drawn from “ad-hoc” arguments are often right (because predicting data in advance is not always possible, but again, isn’t necessary to learn information about the world).

            There really isn’t anything wrong with looking at the available data and using that to come to a conclusion, that is (the majority of the time) how reasoning works.

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