When first publicized, Skull 1470 attracted enormous interest because of
five apparent ‘humanlike’ traits in the initial
- Its alleged large endocranial volume (ECV) of 810+ cm3.
- The remarkably flat face of the specimen as compared with the
prognathous (protruding jaw) face of all other known australopithecines,
especially the gracile, and to a lesser extent, robust specimens.
- The high-domed cranial vault, as compared with the flat forehead of
extinct australopithecines and modern-day apes.
- The lack of pronounced supraorbital tori (brow ridges).
- The more rounded braincase, similar to that of some Australopithecus
Figure 1. The remarkably flat face in the original reconstruction
of Skull KNMER 1470 from East Rudolph, Africa. Note the diminished
supraorbital torus (brow ridge) as compared with later reconstructions (from
Anyone viewing the lateral profile of 1470, as it was first presented,
could not help but marvel at its apparently modern aspect (Figure 1). Yet
doubts arose because these ‘modern-looking’ features clashed with
the supposed linear progression of the ape-like prognathicity of the
australopithecines to the various known examples (at that time) of Homo
erectus skulls which still, to a lesser degree, retained this feature.
In other words, the established pre-1972 hominid lineage did not allow for a
flat-faced, small-browed form
before the appearance of Homo erectus.
The radiometric date for 1470 was eventually accepted as about 1.9 Ma,
whereas erectus forms with more ‘primitive’ characteristics
were (at that time) only known from later times (700 ka in Asian
regions, and 1.6 Ma in Africa). In recent times, redating of some of the
Java specimens of H. erectus have produced considerably earlier
(older) ages. Gracile australopithecines were known from over 2 Ma, while
robust forms persisted to about 1 Ma. This puzzle was, I believe, the reason
skepticism began to arise in evolutionary ranks, which eventually led to
questions about the skull’s original reconstruction.
In the period 19771992, different reconstructions, which
increasingly emphasized its more ape-like, rather than human-like,
characteristics, began to appear in the literature. In the 1970s, Leakey
had declined to openly declare it to be a habiline and labelled it Homo
‘sp. indet.’, leaving others to draw conclusions as to its
affinities. In the first wave of enthusiasm, Skull 1470 was generally
promoted to the public as representing an intermediate form (mainly in brain
capacity) between the australopithecines and H. erectus forms, such
as KNMER 3733, ER 3883 (and later on, WT 15000). It also seemed to be
a possible descendant of A. africanus.3
Homo erectus specimens known at the time did indeed exhibit
several traits observed in australopithecines, whereas 1470 did not, except
for its larger ECV as compared with other gracile forms. Clearly, 1470 did
not fully fit the inferred intermediate status in all-important
Figure 2. Typical of australopithecines is the occipital flaring
visible in the posterior view of Skull 1470 (from Howells).
A Creationist Raises Concerns
In 1977, a creationist researcher, Christopher Hummer, drew attention to
a disturbing number of australopithecine traits in the skull.4 These included:
- the skirt-like occipital flaring typical of australopithecines (Figure
- the long ape-like upper lip, and
- the ape-type cranio-facial index of 59.0, which places it well
within the australopithecine range of 51.064.5 (the human range
is 30.0 to 45.0). This was significant in view of what was to come
Other pongid traits were also coming to light, such as the large
australopithecine-type tooth sockets and the marks of heavy masseter
muscles. In view of these features, Leakey’s associate, Alan Walker,
argued that there were too many similarities with A. africanus to be
ignored and he refused to lend his name to any claims for Homo
Figure 3. A more up-to-date lateral view of 1470 by Pellegrino.
Brow ridges are clearly evident, and the face is more prognathous (from
A more up-to-date reconstruction of 1470 appeared in Pellegrino’s
1985 work.7 Now the skull had
a flatter forehead, noticeable supraorbital tori, and a more prognathous
face. Also evident was postorbital constriction, plus the dolichocephalic
(long and narrow) nature of the brain case. The similarities to the
australopithecines were becoming more obvious (Figure 3).
In 1985, the primatologist Napier, reproduced a more up-to-date
anterolateral photograph of 1470, which clearly indicated a more robust
specimen, especially in the forward jutting of the face.8 Napier ascribed an ECV of 750 cm3to
the skull. In 1995, Howells pointed out that some experts, such as Wood,
were no longer consigning 1470 to the taxon Homo habilis but rather
to a separate species, Homo rudolfensis.9 Wood had elucidated this view in 1993.10 In 1995, Leakey himself
produced another reconstruction of the skull, which was quite similar to
that of Pellegrino.11 This
time he consigned 1470 to the taxon Homo habilis (Figure 4).
Figure 4. In this 1995 reconstruction, the discoverer himself has
apparently acknowledged that the original reconstruction was not accurate
Facial Development from Infancy through
Adolescence to Adulthood
A few years ago, Tim Bromage, an expert in hominid bone development,12 pointed out that facial
bones grow and change via a combination of two
processes (a) deposition of new material, and (b), the
resorption of old. For example, the jaws become more prominent during
growth if deposition of bone on the front surfaces is combined with
resorption at the back. Under a microscope, Bromage and his team were able
to study the relevant sites where these processes occurred in humans and
They were able to discern the cells responsible for deposition and
resorption by the telltale traces on the surface of the bones involved.
Bromage and his colleague Dennis Smith of Toronto then developed an
analysis, which avoided the necessity of damaging the valuable skull
material itself. Theoretically, a study of the surfaces of such bones in a
hominid face would reveal the pattern of deposition and resorption. In
practice, it proved a little more difficult. However, using a new technique
the team was able to ‘read the messages’ left by the surface
Figure 5. This may be the true profile of 1470. Based on new
bone-scanning techniques, typical australopithecine prognathicity is evident
in this 1992 drawing (from Bromage).
In the New Scientist article, Bromage then broke off to remind
readers of the history of fossil hominid morphological interpretation. He
pointed out that the views about early hominids have swung widely over the
decades. Sometimes their ape-like qualities were emphasized, while at other
times their human-like aspects. In the 1980s, Bromage expected to find that
the face of the famous Taung ‘child’ would have a bone surface
pattern more like that of humans, but to his surprise he found its pattern
was typical of monkeys and apes. (This hominid is the type of
specimen from Australopithecus africanus, and it was first revealed
to the anthropological community by Dart, in 1924. At that time it was
promoted as an ancient human ancestor.)
Bromage and Dean soon found other evidence pointing in the same
direction. By studying growth lines in tooth enamel in other fossil
hominids, they found the teeth of many early specimens developed at ape-like
rates. This was confirmed later by a second team (Conroy and Vannier).14 The results came as quite a
shock, and ran contrary to prevailing views on hominid maturation.
Continuing on, Bromage then pointed out that when first reconstructed,
the face of skull 1470 was fitted to the cranium almost vertically.15,16 Yet subsequent studies
demonstrated that the face jutted out considerably, like
australopithecines.17,18 Bromage also found that with this new
perspective, ER Skull 1470 bore a resemblance (albeit superficial) to the
hyper-robust and extremely gorilla-like fossil australopithecine KNM-WT
17000 (the so-called ‘Black Skull’ or A. ethiopicus).19
Few, if any, hominid students would consider that WT 17000 is on the
human line. The fossil has a chimp-sized brain, no forehead, a massively
prognathous face, a massive sagittal crest and extreme post-orbital
constriction and its meatus angle (pitch of face onto the cranium) is in the
range of chimpanzees and A. afarensis! Compared with WT 17000, Skull
1470 does indeed possess a large braincase: (ECV) of c. 752 cm3
vs <400 cm3. When WT 17000 was discovered in the mid-1980s,
it caused consternation because it seemed to be inferring that was going
backwards. WT 17000, dated at 2.5 Ma, is more robust than the much earlier
A. afarensis specimens, which date from approximately 3.3 Ma).
According to Bromage, WT 17000 shares one or two features with so-called
early Homo, as do some other A. boisei forms, but it is most
unlikely that ‘early Homo’ is a genuine human-like
type. Without elaborating on these supposed resemblances (except for the
long and protruding upper jaw), Bromage says that there is a provocative
resemblance to WT 17000. This is difficult to seriously accept, but any
similarities between boisei and Homo create problems for the
evolutionist because two such disparate forms would have had to acquire
these similar traits independently in both lines. The only other
alternative, is to speculate that the early ‘Homo’ and
A. boisei forms gained these likenesses from some unknown common
ancestor. The creationist view (the correct view in my opinion) is that
so-called early Homo is not Homo at all and is nothing more
than a larger-brained australopithecine.
There is no compelling evidence to contradict the common creationist view
that A. boisei, the hyper-robust boisei (WT 17000), and
Paranthropus robustus, all belong to one created kind, with all
so-called gracile types (ER 1470, the Taung ‘child’ and other
africanus) possibly making up another. Most afarensis
specimens share affinities with the gracile forms (africanus). The
opinion that all australopithecine forms, whether or not one chooses to call
some of them Paranthropus, belong to just one genus, is not uncommon,
even in the evolutionary camp.
The latest reconstructions of Taung and ER 1470 by Bromage and his team
indicate that these two forms are strikingly similar to other
australopithecines, and very different from known Homo types such as
erectus.17. Also in both specimens, the
meatus angle is in the chimp/africanus range, and not in the known
human range. This is without question a clear structural separation between
the erectus human specimens ER 3733 and ER 3883 on the one hand, and
other so-called hominid forms, such as the ‘habilines’ ER 1813, ER
1470, and several boisei and africanus specimens, plus the
common chimp on the other.
Of course, similarities can be misleading. Bromage claimed that modern
humans and afarensis share the way in which their cheekbones are
swept back relative to the upper jaw, a point which could indicate that
afarensis may have been ancestral to man. But instead of finding
that the bones of both the two species developed in an identical way, the
opposite was true ‘Although the two faces
[afarensis and humans] share some similarities, they [were] built in
very different ways during development,’ says Bromage.
‘This particular characteristic cannot be used in support of
an ancestral relationship between A. afarensis and
humankind,’ he said17 (emphasis
Bromage does not totally reject Skull 1470 as possibly belonging to the
genus Homo, but this opinion seems to be mostly based on the larger
size of the skull in comparison with other australopithecines. Yet, it is
also possible that the latest estimates of 752 cm3may still be
too large for Skull 1470, in view of its now completely ape-like skull
morphology and its long forward-jutting jaws and non-existent forehead.
Bromage believes that the real, common, ancestor of humans and
australopithecines may be found in a form, which was already evolving in
both Homo and Paranthropus (A. boisei), and that the best
candidates may be the hyper-robust WT 17000 and the gracile A. africanus.
I believe most of these contradictory problems are caused by
paleoanthropologists insisting on calling all the australopithecines
‘hominids’, rather than hominoids.
Skull 1470 and Language
Although overall ape and human brain structure is somewhat similar, there
are a two areas, which may help to distinguish between fossil apes and
humans the two major language centres (the Broca’s
area and Wernicke’s area) and the lunate sulcus, which is found in
humans but not in apes. These features sometimes leave faint traces inside
the skull, and claims have been made that a Broca’s area is discernible
in Skull 1470. However, as Leakey says,20 the issue is by no means clear, and the
experts are divided. The material is extremely difficult to interpret
because the markings on the brain casts are very faint. Like humans, chimps
and gorillas are vocal, using lips, tongue, and vocal cords when
communicating, and they too have a Broca’s area.21 However, it is the smaller, less detectable
Wernicke’s area, which is necessary for full speecH. A Broca’s
area exists in the erectus specimen WT 15000,22 but has not been detected in any other H.
erectus specimen as geologically old as the Turkana Boy. This aspect
must, therefore, be left in the ‘extremely doubtful’ category.
Certainly no evidence exists for the presence of the lunate sulcus or
Wernicke’s area in ER 1470.
Figure 6. Comparative lateral profiles of the ‘Taung
Child’, (a specimen of A. africanus), and a juvenile chimpanzee.
The similarities are clear. By the time the chimp has reached adulthood the
resemblances are much less obvious (from Beasley).
Furthermore, the larynx in adult humans is uniquely low in the throat.
This enables us to coordinate mouth and throat for speech, and prevents us
from breathing and swallowing at the same time, thus avoiding
choking humans often speak while eating! In apes the
larynx is located much higher. As Leakey points out, all species
earlier than H. erectus have the larynx in the ape position.23
Before concluding, the work of creationist hominid researcher Beasley
must be considered.24 In
his recent creation theory of pre-Flood giantism and post-Flood dimunition,
declining longevity and earlier skeletal maturation (morphological
shrinkage), he presents compelling evidence to show that the
australopithecine apes and the so-called ‘habilines’ have nothing
to do with human origins.
Instead, he proposes that many fossil ‘hominids’ are simply
large forms of immediate post-Flood anthropoid apes. Beasley initially
argued that the dimunition was due to biospheric changes at the time of the
Flood. More recently, he has suggested that loss of longevity potential and
(by inference) body size may have arisen because longevity genes were lost
due to genetic bottlenecks at the time of the Flood and the subsequent
isolation of populations. While this view was made specifically in
reference to post-Flood humans, the principle could equally apply to other
forms of life, including pongids.25
The evolutionary view is that man’s ancient ape-like ancestors (the
australopithecines) were generally much smaller human-like creatures, which
gradually developed into larger man-like forms with constantly-increasing
brain capacity. This is totally opposed by Beasley’s evidence. His
theory proposes that so-called habilines, including Skull 1470, plus various
species of gracile australopithecines, may be the migratory,
non-evolutionary ancestors of today’s pygmy and common chimpanzees.
The coarse, robust australopithecine forms such as A. boisei and WT
17000 could well be ancestral to modern common chimps and/or gorillas.
Skull 1470 is completely rejected as belonging to the genus Homo, and
in fact Beasley considers that the habiline and africanus specimens
are probably congeneric, if not conspecific. The text and Figure 13 of his
1990 work, strongly suggests a lineage leading from ER 1470 through ER 1813
and the africanus Sts 5 (Sterkfontein South-East African specimen 5)
to today’s Pan paniscus (bonobo).26 His theory is based on changes in mean
cranial capacities and craniofacial structure during a postulated migration
through Africa from Asia Minor.
Comparative lateral skull profiles of the Taung ‘Child’ and
juvenile chimps bear an uncanny likeness to each other, while the latest
profiles of East Turkana habilines such as ER 1470 and KNMER 1813
appear to reflect an increasing simian appearance, accompanied by
morphological shrinkage.26 Comparisons of
KNMER 1813 and the skull of a pygmy chimpanzee are instructive.27 These interpretations are
compatible with the remarkable lack of chimp and gorilla forms in the fossil
record. It strongly supports Pliocene and Pleistocene australopithecines
being ancestral not to humans but to modern African pongids. Strong nuchal
cresting28 is present in ER
1470, ER1805, and to a lesser extent in ER 1813. It is interesting to note
that the development of saggital crests in living chimpanzees is not
altogether common, and is generally restricted to males of the species.
Indeed, saggital crests are not particularly diagnostic, since they can be
found in some Inuit (Eskimo) males.
What is clear is that the later reconstructions of skull 1470, along with
Bromage’s bone-scanning technique, reveal a craniofacial structure
similar to gracile australopithecine, except for the larger brain size. The
old flat, human-type face is gone, the forehead has disappeared, the marked
supraorbital ridges are firmly established, and the facial prognathicity is
obviously in line with all other australopithecines. Along with Skull 1470,
another intriguing puzzle seems to have been solved the
alleged habiline ER 1813 is also now seen to belong not to Homo, but
to the genus Australopithecus. Until recently, Skull 1470’s
supposed human-like traits were constantly being emphasized while its pongid
characters were simply largely ignored now the latter can
no longer be neglected.
It is interesting to note that in a recent publication, anthropologists
Johanson and Edgar have completely ignored the work of Bromage and Dean,29 and are still presenting
Skull 1470 with the original and incorrect flat face as portrayed in 1972.
They would certainly be well aware of the latest developments in
bone-scanning techniques, and this indicates to me a marked reluctance on
their part to accept the implications involved. However, they do concede
that 1470 perhaps belongs to a separate species, Homo rudolfensis
which, according to their phylogeny left no
descendants ‘Whether 1470 really belongs within
habilis has become a matter of heated debate’ they
say (emphasis added).30
One must be careful not to claim this is necessarily the end of the 1470
saga more developments may yet occur, but we can only go on
the state of knowledge at any given time. Twenty-five years ago, it
appeared that 1470 fitted the evolutionary scenario reasonably well. In
1999, it looks increasingly like a larger-brained gracile australopithecine.
There is precious little evidence to show otherwise. For the present it
should be quietly packed away and added to the long list of abandoned or
downgraded hominid specimens, which once adorned our natural history
A.W. (Bill) Mehlert has a Diploma in
Theology and lives in Brisbane, Australia. He is a keen student of Flood
geology and the fossil record, including the supposed fossil evidence for
human evolution, and has written a number of important articles on these
topics in the Creation Research Society Quarterly and Creation Ex
Nihilo Technical Journal. Return to top.
- Wood, B., The Evolution of Early Man, Cassells,
Australia, Sydney, pp. 75, 78, 1976. Return to text.
- Johnson, J.W., The Crumbling Theory of Evolution,
Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Inc., Los Angeles, pp. 4552, 1982.
Return to text.
- Pellegrino, C.R., Timegate: Hurtling Backward
Through History, TAB Books, Blue Ridge Summit, Virginia, p. 120, 1985.
Return to text.
- Hummer, C., A plea for caution about Skull 1470,
CRSQ 14:168172, 1977. Return to
- Howells, W., Getting Here: The Story of Human
Evolution, The Compass Press, Washington DC, p. 89, 1993. Return to text.
- Lewin, R., Bones of Contention, Penguin, London,
pp. 160161, 1987. Return to text.
- Pellegrino, Ref. 3, p. 134. Return to
- Napier, J.R. and P.H., The Natural History of the
Primates, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, p. 181,
1985. Return to text.
- Howells, Ref. 5, p. 89. Return to
- Wood, B., Rift on the record, Nature
365:789, 1993. Return to text.
- Leakey, R., The Origin of Humankind, Weidenfeld
and Nicolson, London, p. 28, 1995. Return to text.
- Bromage, T., Faces from the past, New Scientist,
133(1803):3235, 1992. Return to
- Bromage, Ref. 12, p. 32. Return to
- Conroy, G.C., and Vannier, M.W., Dental development of
the Taung skull for computerized tomography, Nature
329:625627, 1987. Return to text.
- Bromage, Ref. 12, pp. 33, 35. Return to
- Leakey, M.G., and Leakey, R.E., Koobi Fora Research
Project 1: The fossil hominids and an introduction to their context,
19681974, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 130, Plate 15, 1978. Return to text.
- Bromage, Ref. 12, p. 33. Return to
- Haviland, W.A., Human Evolution and Prehistory,
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, p. 139, Figure 7.2, 1978. Return to text.
- Walker, A., Leakey, R.E., Harris, J.M. and Brown,
F.H., 2.5-Myr Australopithecus boisei from west of Lake Turkana,
Kenya, Nature 322:517522, 1986. Return to
- Leakey, R. and Lewin, R., Origins Reconsidered,
Little, Brown and Co., London, p. 260, 1993. Return to
- Willis, D., The Hominid Gang, Phoenix Books,
New York City, p. 241, 1992. Return to text.
- Walker, A. and Shipman, P., The Wisdom of Bones,
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, pp. 172173, 1996. Return to text.
- Leakey, Ref. 11, p. 131. Return to
- Beasley, G.J., Pre-Flood giantism: a key to the
interpretation of fossil hominids and hominoids, CEN Tech. J.
4:555, 1990. Return to text.
- Beasley, G.J., Archaic fossil human
remains an update, CEN Tech. J.
9(2):169215, 1995. Return to text.
- Beasley, Ref. 24, p. 43. Return to
- Beasley, Ref. 24, Figures 7, 8 Return
- A nuchal crest is a transverse body ridge across the
posterior margin of the root of the skull for attachment of neck muscles. Return to text.
- Johanson, D.C. and Edgar, B., From Lucy to
Language, Simon and Schuster, New York, pp. 38,177179. Return to text.
- Johanson and Edgar, Ref. 29, p. 177. Return to text.