Bone Disease Simulating Ancient Age in "Pre-Human" Fossils
by Rush K. Acton, M.D.
The presence of bone disease of one kind or another as an explanation for so-called "pre-human" fossils is not a common finding but it has been a recurring theme in the scientific world literature. In 1871, Charles Robert Darwin published his second book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Here Darwin presented an ages-old theory that man is merely the highest product of evolution to date, beginning with the lower animals, and thus postulated the presence of "pre-human fossils" on their way up the evolutionary ladder from ape to man. Even before this time, specimens of bones began turning up in excavations around the world. Until a few bones and teeth began to appear, even such a staunch evolutionist as T.H. Huxley had expressed doubt that any of man's ancestors would ever be found in the earth's strata. Since that time evolutionary scientists have accumulated a scattered series of skeletons and parts thereof with various features of man or apes. In spite of considerable disagreement on these various finds, a sort of imaginary family tree of man's ancestors has been developed from these bones and pieces of bones. There is no universal agreement among evolutionists on these findings and their significance or exact place in the hypothetical family tree. Most examples of the "fossil men" can best be explained as variant forms of man or ape with an occasional example of outright fraud. Frank Cousins in his book, Fossil Man, mentions the matter of indecent haste in reporting and withholding of information. Dr. Duane Gish gives an excellent summary of the entire field in his book, Evolution, the Fossils Say No! He discusses the theoretical evolutionary sequence from early primates to modern man. He quotes a number of well known evolutionary paleontologists who make vague statements about the place of each fossil in the history of man. Dr. Gish goes on to develop the thesis that some of these are fossil remains of apes or ape-like creatures while other fossils meet all the requirements of Homo sapiens or modern man. He concludes that there is a consistent lack of transitional forms between the lower primates and man and that there is no evidence whatsoever in the fossil record for evolution.
It is common practice to assign a specific time period to a fossil in a rather dogmatic way, implying that there is good hard evidence to support the assigned date. Relative dating is based on the theoretical geologic time table which does not occur in its entirety anywhere on earth and in fact is based on a form of circular reasoning that assumes evolution. Absolute dating is commonly based on radioactive decay of certain elements. These elements undergo a spontaneous transition from a parent element to a daughter element at a given rate of decay. The proportions of parent to daughter elements in a given sample are put into a formula to determine the age of the material. False assumptions of purity of parent and of daughter elements in the sample and the known inconstancy of decay rates allow for enormous errors in the direction of falsely older dating. Dating methods become more unreliable the further one goes into the distant past. In addition, a great body of scientific evidence is beginning to accumulate that actually limits the age of the universe. This limitation is far short of the time absolutely required by the evolutionary theory. Thus, when evolutionists admit in the literature that disease processes leave their imprint on bone and teeth, producing a false impression of their concept of fossil man, it bears investigating.
Sir Marc Arman Ruffer coined the term "paleopathology" in 1913 in order to describe the study of disease processes and their effects on fossilized remains. Roy Moodie, Ph.D., an associate professor of anatomy, published a thorough review of the field in 1923. Being an evolutionist, Dr. Moodie believed that the history of disease begins with the early Paleozoic (judged to be about 100,000,000 years old then, now estimated to be 600,000,000 years ago). In a chapter in Diseases in Antiquity (Brothwell and Sandison) published in 1967, Dr. Moodie further states that organisms of disease have followed the same general evolutionary processes as have other living things. Fossil animals have shown evidence of various diseases including abscesses in teeth and jaw bones, arthritis, osteomyelitis, benign and malignant tumors, rickets, syphilis and tuberculosis.
Let us examine Neanderthal Man, a supposed forerunner of modern man in the light of paleopathology. In 1856 workers blasted a cave in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany. They discovered limb bones, pelvis, ribs, and a skull cap. These bones were examined by scientists in various parts of the world. An ardent evolutionist, T.H. Huxley, ruled this specimen out as an ape-to-man link. A German anatomist, Rudolph Virchow, said in essence that the fossil was the remains of modern man (Homo sapiens) afflicted with rickets and arthritis. In 1886, two more skulls of the same general configuration were found at Spy, Belgium. In the early 1900's, a number of similar specimens were found in Southern France and by now were lumped together as Neanderthal Man. There are now over one hundred specimens of Neanderthal Man. A paleontologist named Boule reconstructed a set of Neanderthal bones into a very ape-like creature but was severely criticized for this by other evolutionists who noted that the fossil represented Homo sapiens, or modern man, deformed by arthritis.
The very fact that there is such an abundance and variety of forms of the so-called Neanderthal Man is in itself a problem. The appearance of these specimens ranges from the classical Neanderthal of Western Europe to the more modern type which shades into Homo sapiens. The more primitive classic type has a large cranium about the size of modern man's but with a tendency to be flattened on the top side and to bulge more at the back and the sides. A bony prominence at the back of the skull marks the attachment of the spinal muscles and is referred to as the "Neanderthal bun." The forehead is marked by a massive supraorbital ridge.
Ivanhoe, writing in the scientific journal, Nature, in 1970, titled his article as follows: "Was Virchow Right About Neanderthal?" Virchow had reported that the Neanderthal Man's apelike appearance was due to a disease called rickets. He notes that every Neanderthal child's skull studied so far was apparently affected by severe rickets. When rickets occurs in children it produces a large head due to late closure of the epiphyses and fontanels. The forehead is high and bulbous, the "Olympian front." The skull bulges at the four corners giving the "caput quadratum" appearance and the teeth are characteristically bad. These features approach those of the classic Neanderthal skull. Large orbits (eye sockets), elliptical in the vertical dimension, are another feature of rickets seen in the Neanderthal children’s skulls and are taught as a simian (ape) characteristic of fossil skulls. Ivanhoe goes on to make a very good case for the correctness of Virchow's assumption that Neanderthal was merely modern man with rickets. Being a staunch evolutionist, however, he doesn't perceive this amazing thesis as any support of creation vs. evolution. He further notes the wide distribution of Neanderthal finds in various parts of the world and different climates. He feels that the more classic types of Neanderthal bones merely reflected the increased degree of bone changes from rickets in areas where sunshine is less available. Rickets is related to a relative shortage of Vitamin D which is manufactured in the skin upon exposure to light. Vitamin D is also found in certain fatty fishes and in eggs, among other things. Ivanhoe felt that Neanderthal had little exposure to the sun because of the cold weather, increased atmospheric turbulence, and rain in some of the areas where specimens were found. Mousterian sites of Neanderthal showed little evidence of fish consumption and eggs were thought to be rare. The corresponding condition which occurs in adults from lack of Vitamin D is osteomalacia or softening of the bone. Softening leads to bowing of long bones, and bowing of these bones is seen in both adults and children among the Neanderthal fossils. Both rickets and osteomalacia represent the lack of mineral salts in the protein matrix of bone, causing this relative lack of sturdiness of bone with resultant deformities. There are many causes of these conditions, including defects of nutrition in babies, and certain types of kidney disease. Vitamin D deficiency can also be associated with dimpling and formation of furrows in the enamel of permanent teeth. This feature alone can blur the identification of fossil teeth, which are often found alone or with a minimum of bony structures. Molar or cheek teeth of the old world monkeys, for example, have four cusps or little mounds and those of apes and man have five. Deficiencies in Vitamins A and C can also produce deformities of the permanent tooth structure.
It is possible that some of the changes that occur in fossil bones are attributable to a condition called Paget's Disease or Osteitis Deformans. This occurs most often between fifty and seventy years of age and can involve one or many bones. Hereditary and familial factors are known to play a role in Paget's Disease in some cases. It is not known exactly what causes Paget's, but it has been clearly shown that there is a greatly increased blood flow. This blood flow in pagetoid bones may be twenty times that of the normal rate. Common sites include long bones of the lower extremity and the spine and less often the bones of the upper extremity. The bones become thickened, softer and often curved. Thomas Fairbanks reported on Paget's Disease in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in May, 1950. He noted that when advanced cases involve many bones, the individual may assume a crouching "simian" posture. Even the hips assume a more ape-like angle of the femoral neck to the shaft as in the non-upright walkers. The larger skull is thrust forward and held low as in the apes. A loss of as much as thirteen inches in height has been reported. More commonly in Paget's, the skull is enlarged without enlargement of the facial bones causing the face to look unusually small.
An excellent report by a pathologist from the Hospital for Joint Disease in New York, Dr. Goldenberg, describes the overall appearance of the disease in this way. "In advanced cases of polyostotic Paget's Disease, the deformities of the spine, femora, and tibiae may result in considerable loss of height. The enlarged head, apparent lengthening of the upper extremities, waddling gait and bow legs suggest a simian appearance."
Congenital syphilis occurs when the mother affected with this venereal disease transmits it by way of her own blood stream to the yet unborn baby. The fetus within the mother's womb is usually protected from this disease until the sixteenth week of pregnancy, and most infections occur in the last weeks before delivery of the baby. Fiumara and Lessell, writing in the Archives of Dermatology, describe a number of common findings in this condition. The most frequent sign occurring in eighty-seven percent of their series is called frontal bossing of Parrot. This is due to local areas of frontal bone periostitis (inflammation) caused by the microorganism that produces syphilis. When it involves the forehead above the orbits, it produces the so-called Olympian brow similar to the classic features of western European Neanderthal skulls. Deformities of the long bones of the limbs can occur with syphilis and may produce bowing and curvature of these bones. A condition called Moon's "mulberry molars" was found in about two out of three of this group of patients. The molar teeth are deformed with many poorly developed cusps (grinding surfaces) instead of the usual pattern of five cusps. Syphilitic incisor teeth can be deformed, barrel-shaped and thicker than normal. A specialist in venereal diseases in London named D.J.M. Wright examined the collection of Neanderthal bones in the British Museum of Natural History and reported that these bones could be merely modern man affected by congenital syphilis.
Neanderthal Man is now taught in evolutionary circles as being Homo sapiens, a sub-species of modern man that lived about 40,000 to 100,000 years ago as a predecessor to modern man.
There remains considerable disagreement among evolutionists as to whether some or all of the Neanderthals evolved into modern man or whether they just vanished into extinction. One author of a 1977 edition of a textbook used in a large university today has an entire chapter on the Neanderthal problem. There are several problems, the most striking one being the sudden disappearance of Neanderthals. The author believes that this suggests catastrophism and even mentions the Genesis flood.
Putting aside preconceived notions of evolution or creation, one can clearly see that the evolutionary scientists have provided good evidence to suggest that Neanderthal Man might well represent some of Noah's descendants ravaged by various diseases. How blind man can be to scientific evidence when it conflicts with a compelling need to demonstrate that God does not exist and that the creation did not take place.
1 Brothwell, Don and Sandison, A.T.: Diseases in Antiquity, Springfield, Illinois, Charles C. Thomas, 1967.
2 Cousins, Frank W.: Fossil Man, A.E. Norris & Sons Ltd., 1971.
3 Fairbank, H.A. Thomas, "Paget’s Disease Syndrome—Osteitis Deformans," The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Vol. 32B, pp. 253-365, May, 1950.
4 Fiumara, N.J. and Lessell, Simmons: "Manifestations of Late Congenital Syphilis," Archives of Dermatology, Vol. 102, pp. 68-83, July, 1970.
5 Gish, Duane: Evolution: The Fossils Say No!, San Diego, California, Creation-Life Publishers, 1973.
6 Ivanhoe, Francis: "Was Virchow Right About Neanderthal?" Nature, Vol. 227, pp. 577-579, August 8, 1970.
7 Moodie, Roy L.: Paleopathology, Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1923.
8 Parrot, M.: "The Osseous Lesions of Hereditary Syphilis," The Lancet, Vol. 1, pp. 703-705, May 17, 1879.
9 Wright, D.J.M.: "Syphilis and Neanderthal Man," Nature, Vol. 229, p. 409, February 5, 1971.
* Dr. Rush K. Acton: In addition to his practice as an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Acton is Clinical Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Clinical Associate Professor of Anatomy at the University of Miami. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Cite this article: Rush K. Acton, M.D. 1978. Bone Disease Simulating Ancient Age in "Pre-Human" Fossils. Acts & Facts. 7 (5).