This week we received an inquiry from Bill S. asking about human fossils. We will do our best to answer his questions.
From: Bill S.
I have read of the many findings of fossils and their interpretations of age which contradict the Bible. In reading the account of Noah and his family along with two of each kind being saved from the flood and the rest of mankind and other animals destroyed, why is it we do not find fossil evidence of man like fossil evidence of other life forms?
Bill, thank you for asking this question. It is a question that perplexes many Christians and non-Christians alike, and one I have seen frequently over the years.
To begin with, allow me to shed some light on the nature of the fossil record that may help. Approximately 95% of the fossil record is composed of shallow marine fossils such as corals, bryozoans, shellfish and many other invertebrates. Of the remaining 5%, nearly 95% is vegetation such as algae, plants and coal. Of the remaining 5% of the 5%, or only 0.25%, are composed of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals). Of the remaining 0.25%, only about 1%, or 0.0025%, consist of more than one bone or tooth. Of this remaining 0.0025%, fish fossils make up the vast majority of the vertebrate fossils leaving the fossils of mammals with more than one bone at a very small percentage of fossils found.
Most fossils of land animals are found higher in the geological strata than most marine fossils. From a biblical perspective, we explain this as the result of different ecological or environmental zones being buried by the Flood waters. As the Flood began to prevail upon the earth, it would have churned and scoured millions of tons of sediment and debris. That sediment would eventually start to sink and cover the lowest lying areas, such as ocean bottoms, first. Next it would have buried the shallower waters, then coastlines, plains and prairies, then low hills, until it eventually would have been deposited on the highest peaks that existed at the time.
As the Flood rose, some animals would have tried to reach higher ground, but eventually all failed to reach high enough ground. Humans would have used whatever they had to try to escape the torrents. They would have used boats that were inferior to the Ark in their attempts to escape. Therefore, a number of the population would have been as near the surface as possible.
Most of the best preserved fossils were those that were buried quickly and deeply by fine sediment. Those that were buried nearer to the surface would have been buried in a larger and coarser sediment, making preservation less likely. Additionally, bodies buried near the surface would also have been more likely to decay and been eaten by marine scavengers, resulting in a decreased likelihood of being preserved.
If you examine very many fossils, you will quickly notice that those plants and animals that are most frequently preserved in the rocks have a shell, bark, scales, thick skin, etc, that aids in the preservation. When compared to most animals, human are very thin skinned. Thinner skin means less protection from the elements and from damage. There is also the likelihood that the bodies of many of the people killed in the Flood, floated for a time. This would have exposed them to the bacteria and the elements, causing them to bloat and decay. Bodies in this condition would have been easily smashed and broken apart, again making them more susceptible to marine scavengers and less likely to be preserved.
Having said all this, there have been reports of human fossils or artifacts discovered in Flood sediments. However, a number of these were never adequately documented and many of those that have appeared in the scientific literature have been subject to question.
One such claim was a gold chain that was reportedly found in black coal. No photos were taken of the chain in situ and when the chain was closely examined, there was no sign of coal or coal residue found upon it.
Another example are the somewhat controversial Guadeloupe skeletons. Some have claimed the skeletons were found in Miocene strata. According to some creationists, Miocene layers are most likely post-Flood and therefore would not have been from the time of the Flood.
Two human skeletons were found in Cretaceous sandstone supposedly dated to 65 million years, in a copper mine in Moab, Utah. The completely articulated skeletons have been stained green due to their exposure to the copper carbonate in the rocks. While some believe the skeletons are of a much more recent origin, there may be a possibility that they could be pre-flood humans, but this is considered a remote possibility at best.
To quote my dear friend Dr. Andrew Snelling, one of the foremost creation geologists of our day:
As far as we are aware at the present time, there are no indisputable human fossils in the fossil record that we could say belong to the pre-Flood human culture(s). When we endeavour to understand some of the processes that may have occurred during the Flood, and also the real nature of the fossil record, we are not embarrassed by the seeming lack of human fossils.
We don’t have all the explanations as to how the evidence came to be that way, and it may be that in the future we will discover some human fossils. However, there is also much about the fossil record that the evolutionists have a hard time explaining. On the other hand, we should also realize that we don’t have all the answers either, and we never will.
Even though God has left us with evidence for creation and the Flood, the Bible still says that without faith it is impossible to please and believe Him (Hebrews 11:6). Because we weren’t there at the time of the Flood we cannot scientifically prove exactly what happened, so there will always be aspects that will involve our faith. However, it is not blind faith. As we have investigated the evidence, we have seen nothing to contradict what the Bible says about a world Flood. We can be satisfied that there are reasonable explanations, consistent with Scripture, for the seeming lack of human fossils in Flood rocks.
For more information on human fossils, we recommend you check out the chapter on human fossils in Creation Answers Book.