Re: Is this all there is?

Christopher G. Beetle (
Sun, 14 May 1995 14:31:27 -0400

On 9 May 1995, Phil Nicholls wrote:

> On 8 May 1995, Christopher Beetle wrote:
> >Perhaps you could give some examples of those factual errors, misquoted
> >sources, and outright lies. Given the seriousness of your accusations, I
> >think that would be appropriate. I would be happy to pass along your
> >comments to the authors. I am sure that they would be willing to correct
> >any factual errors, misquoted sources, and outright lies in their work.
> >
> >Christopher Beetle <>
> If you would like to post some examples from this book and include the
> citations the authors used to back them up I will be more than happy to
> dissect them for you.
> --
> Phil Nicholls

Here is one case from Forbidden Archeology for your
inspection--the Laetoli footprints.

Excerpted from Forbidden Archeology, by M. Cremo and R. Thompson,
pp. 742-747. Copyright (c) 1993 by Govardhan Hill, Inc.

11.10 The Laetoli Footprints

The Laetoli site is located in northern Tanzania, about 30
miles south of Olduvai Gorge. Laetoli is the Masai word for red
lily. The area was first explored by the Leakeys in 1935. Later,
Mary Leakey returned to Laetoli and discovered some hominid jaws,
which she regarded as early Homo.
One day in 1979, Dr. Andrew Hill of the Kenya National Museum
and several other members of Mary Leakey's expedition were
playing around, throwing pieces of elephant dung at each other.
In the course of this sport, Hill noticed some marks on the
ground. They proved to be fossil footprints of animals.
Subsequently, Peter Jones and Philip Leakey, the youngest son of
Louis and Mary Leakey, discovered among the footprints some that
appeared to have been made by hominids. The prints had been
impressed in layers of volcanic ash, dated by Garniss Curtis,
using the potassium-argon method, at from 3.6 to 3.8 million
years old.
National Geographic magazine featured an article by Mary
Leakey titled "Footprints in the Ashes of Time." A caption to a
photo of some hominid prints read: "The best-preserved print
shows the raised arch, rounded heel, pronounced ball, and
forward-pointing big toe necessary for walking erect. Pressures
exerted along the foot attest to a striding gait" (M. Leakey
1979, p. 452). Dr. Louise Robbins, a footprint expert from the
University of North Carolina, observed: "They looked so human, so
modern, to be found in tuffs so old" (M. Leakey 1979, p. 452).
Readers who have accompanied us this far in our intellectual
journey will have little difficulty in recognizing the Laetoli
footprints as potential evidence for the presence of anatomically
modern human beings over 3.6 million years ago in Africa. We
were, however, somewhat astonished to encounter such a striking
anomaly in the unexpected setting of the more recent annals of
standard paleoanthropological research. What amazed us most was
that scientists of worldwide reputation, the best in their
profession, could look at these footprints, describe their
humanlike features, and remain completely oblivious to the
possibility that the creatures that made them might have been as
humanlike as ourselves.
Their mental currents were running in the usual fixed
channels. Mary Leakey (1979, p. 453) wrote: "at least 3,600,000
years ago, in Pliocene times, what I believe to be man's direct
ancestor walked fully upright with a bipedal, free-striding
gait. . . . the form of his foot was exactly the same as ours."
Who was the ancestor? Here we once more confront the debate,
between the Leakeys on one hand and Johanson and White on the
other, about the number and type of species represented by the
fossil materials from Hadar and Laetoli.
Taking the Leakeys' point of view, the Laetoli footprints
would have been made by a nonaustralopithecine ancestor of Homo
habilis. Taking the Johanson-White point of view, the Laetoli
footprints would have been made by Australopithecus afarensis. In
either case, the creature who made the prints would have had an
apelike head and other primitive features.
But why not a creature with fully modern feet and fully
modern body? There is nothing in the footprints that rules this
out. Furthermore, we have compiled in this book quite a bit of
fossil evidence, some of it from Africa, that is consistent with
the presence of anatomically modern human beings in the Early
Pleistocene and the Late Pliocene.
The most prominent set of tracks at Laetoli represented the
footprints of three hominids, one larger than the others.
Applying an anthropological rule of thumb that a hominid's foot
length represents 15 percent of the creature's height, Mary
Leakey (1979, p. 453) calculated that the largest hominid stood 4
feet, 8 inches tall, whereas the next largest stood 4 feet tall.
The smallest would have been still shorter. Leakey hypothesized
that the largest individual was an adult male, the next largest
an adult female, and the smallest a child. Admitting this was
only a guess, she suggested the alternative possibility that the
second largest set of prints might represent a juvenile male (M.
Leakey 1979, p. 453). One cannot, however, be certain that the
largest tracks represent a fully adult form either. Even so, the
heights of the creatures that made the two larger sets of tracks,
as estimated by Mary Leakey, fall within the modern human adult
Are we perhaps exaggerating the humanlike features of the
Laetoli footprints? Let us see what various researchers have
said. Louise M. Robbins, who provided an initial evaluation of
the Laetoli prints to Mary Leakey in 1979, later published a more
detailed report. Several sets of tracks, identified by letters,
were found at Laetoli. In examining the "G" trails, representing
the three individuals described by Mary Leakey as a possible
family group, Robbins (1987, p. 501) found that the prints "share
many features that are characteristic of the human foot
Robbins (1987, p. 501) noted: "Each hominid has a non-
divergent great toe, or toe 1, and that toe is about twice as
large as toe 2 beside it." She found the spacing between toes 1
and 2 "no greater than one finds in many people today, including
individuals who habitually wear shoes" (1987, p. 501). Robbins
also found "the ball region of the hominids' feet is of human
form" and added that the feet displayed "a functionally stable
longitudinal arch structure" (1987, p. 501). Finally, she
observed that "the heel impressions in the hominids' footprints
appear human in their form and in their locomotory performance"
(Robbins 1987, p. 501).
Robbins (1987, p. 501) therefore concluded that "the four
functional regions--heel, arch, ball, and toes--ofthe hominids'
feet imprinted the ash in a typically human manner" and that "the
hominids walked across the ash surface in characteristic human
bipedal fashion."
Concerning the size of the prints, Robbins (1987, p. 502)
stated: "The assumed dimensions of the G-2 footprints do indeed
fall well within the adult male range of a sample of American
subjects, and the measurements of G-3's footprints fall in the
lower portion of the range for adult females in the American
sample. The dimensions of the G-1 footprints, however, are well
below dimensional ranges for American adults but within foot
length and width ranges for a small sample of immature
individuals. . . . Nonetheless, it is mere conjecture at this
stage of hominid footprint investigation to suggest that the Site
G hominids may have been a male, a female, and an offspring who
were walking from an area of falling volcanic ash."
M. H. Day studied the prints using photogrammetric methods.
Photogrammetry is the science of obtaining exact measurements
through the use of photography. Photogrammetric methods are
extensively used by cartographers in making accurate contour maps
from aerial photographs. Day (1985, p. 121), having found the
same techniques useful on the miniature geography of footprints,
stated: "What these footprints, and their photogrammetric
analysis, show is that bipedalism of an apparently human kind was
established 3.6 million years ago. The mechanism of weight and
force transmission through the foot is extraordinarily close to
that of modern man." His study showed the prints had "close
similarities with the anatomy of the feet of the modern human
habitually unshod; arguably the normal human condition" (Day
1985, p. 121).
Typically, Day (1985, p. 125) concluded: "There is now no
serious dispute as to the upright stance and bipedal gait of the
But what proof did he have that an australopithecine made the
Laetoli footprints? There is no reason to rule out the
possibility that some unknown creature, perhaps very much like
modern Homo sapiens, was the cause of them.
R. H. Tuttle (1981, p. 91) stated: "The shapes of the prints
are indistinguishable from those of striding, habitually barefoot
Tuttle (1987, p. 517) concluded: "Strictly on the basis of
the morphology of the G prints, their makers could be classified
as Homo sp. because they are so similar to those of Homo sapiens,
but their early date would probably deter many
palaeoanthropologists from accepting this assignment. I suspect
that if the prints were undated, or if they had been given
younger dates, most experts would probably accept them as having
been made by Homo." Tuttle (1987, p. 517) also stated: "They are
like small barefoot Homo sapiens."
Furthermore, Tuttle held that the A. afarensis foot could not
have made the prints. Of the AL 333-115 foot, he said: "The
shafts of the proximal phalanges are markedly curved ventrally.
This feature is characteristic of certain full-time and part-time
arboreal apes and monkeys. . . . It is difficult to imagine a
foot with such markedly curved phalanges fitting neatly into the
footprints at Laetoli" (Tuttle 1981, p. 91). The same would be
true of any australopithecine foot.
Stern and Susman (1983) objected to this. Convinced that the
apelike A. afarensis foot had made the Laetoli footprints, they
proposed that the ancient hominids had walked across the volcanic
ash with their long toes curled under their feet, as chimpanzees
have sometimes been observed to do. Curled-under toes would
explain why the A. afarensis footprints at Laetoli so much
resembled those made by the relatively short-toed human foot.
Could an australopithecine walking with curled toes have made
the humanlike prints? Tuttle (1985) found this extremely
unlikely. If the Laetoli hominid had long toes, then, said
Tuttle, one would expect to find two patterns of toe
impressions--long extended toes and short curled toes, with
extra-deep knuckle marks. Tuttle (1985, p. 132) observed:
"Neither pattern exists at Laetoli G so we can infer that their
lateral toes were quite short." This meant the long-toed
afarensis foot could not have made the prints.
Even Tim White, who believed Australopithecus afarensis made
the footprints, stated: "The Stern and Susman (1983) model of toe
curling 'as in the chimpanzee' predicts substantial variation in
lateral toe lengths seen on the Laetoli prints. This prediction
is not borne out by the fossil prints" (White and Suwa 1987, p.
Stern and Susman did in fact claim that a few of the Laetoli
footprints gave signs of toes longer than in humans. Tuttle
(1985, p. 132) admitted that "the right foot of G-1 sometimes
left peculiar marks distal to the toe tips." To Stern and Susman,
the marks forward of the "toe tips" represented the actual toe
tips of uncurled toes. But Tuttle had another explanation for the
marks. He wrote: "These are best explained by . . . the tendency
for G-1 to drag its foot on lift off probably due to pathology of
the lower limb" (Tuttle 1985, p. 132). The fact that the peculiar
markings appeared only on one foot of one individual, and then
only sometimes, lends support to Tuttle's explanation.
Stern and Susman (1983) also suggested that the Laetoli
prints did not have a deep rounded impression at the base of the
big toe, representing the ball of the foot in humans. They
regarded this as evidence that the foot that made the prints was
not human. But Tuttle (1985, p. 132) observed that "humans
commonly leave prints devoid of these features as may be seen in
prints on the beach." And, as we have seen, Robbins (1987, p.
501) said the prints she studied did have a "humanlike" ball
Directly challenging Johanson, White, Latimer, and Lovejoy,
who asserted Australopithecus afarensis made the Laetoli prints,
Tuttle (1985, p. 130) said: "Because of digital curvature and
elongation and other skeletal features that evidence aboreal
habits . . . it is unlikely that Australopithecus afarensis from
Hadar, Ethiopia, could make footprints like those at Laetoli."
Such statements have provoked elaborate counterattacks from
Johanson and his followers, who have continued to promote the
idea that A. afarensis could have made the tracks.
Tim White, for example, published a study (White and Suwa
1987) of the Laetoli prints in which he disputed Tuttle's
contention that their maker was a hominid more advanced than A.
White asserted: "there is not a single shred of evidence
among the 26 hominid individuals in the collection of over 5,000
vertebrate remains from Laetoli that would suggest the presence
of a more advanced Pliocene hominid at this site" (White and Suwa
1987, p. 496). But, as we have seen in our review of African
hominid fossils, there are in fact a few "shreds" of evidence for
the presence of sapiens-like creatures in the Pliocene, some not
far from Laetoli. Also, it is well known that human skeletal
remains are quite rare, even at sites where there are other
unmistakable signs of a human presence.
Like Tuttle, White rejected the curled-toe hypothesis of
Stern and Susman. Instead, White tried to fit the foot of A.
afarensis to the Laetoli prints. This was very difficult because
no complete foot skeleton of A. afarensis had been found at the
Hadar site. A partial foot skeleton, however, had been recovered.
This was the AL 333-115 foot skeleton, which included only bones
from the front part of the foot--phalanges and metatarsal heads.
According to White, the best tracks at Laetoli were in the G-
1 trail, representing the smallest of the three individuals of
the G group. Even White admitted that the phalanges of AL 333-115
were "obviously incompatible with the G-1 tracks" (White and Suwa
1987, p. 497). Stern and Susman, and Tuttle, found them
incompatible with any of the tracks. White, however, pointed out
that the AL 333-115 individual represented one of the larger,
presumably male, members of the First Family group and proposed
that the foot of Lucy, one of the smaller, female individuals,
might have fitted the G-1 Laetoli prints.
But the only bones recovered from Lucy's foot were an ankle
bone and two toe bones. White therefore decided to use a partial
Homo habilis foot skeleton (OH 8) from Olduvai Gorge to
reconstruct the rear part of Lucy's foot. White reduced the OH 8
foot by 10 percent to bring it down to the size of Lucy's ankle
bone (talus). He then scaled the large AL 333-115 toes bones down
to the size of Lucy's few toe bones, and used them to make up the
rest of the foot (White and Suwa 1987, p. 502). According to
White, this speculatively reconstructed foot matched the prints.
White predicted that "the discovery of a complete foot
skeleton at Hadar or Laetoli will conform in its basic
proportions with the reconstruction described in this paper"
(White and Suwa 1987, p. 512). But this prediction remains to be
fulfilled. It is interesting that the most complete afarensis
foot skeleton now available (AL 333-115) definitely does not fit
any of the prints.
White also predicted that "the Laetoli prints will eventually
be shown to be subtly distinct from those left under analogous
conditions by anatomically modern humans" (White and Suwa 1987,
pp. 510, 512). But as far as anyone can see now, they are
indistinguishable from those of modern humans. Even White himself
once said: "Make no mistake about it. They are like modern human
footprints. If one were left in the sand of a California beach
today, and a four-year-old were asked what it was, he would
instantly say that somebody had walked there. He wouldn't be able
to tell it from a hundred other prints on the beach, nor would
you. The external morphology is the same. There is a well-shaped
modern heel with a strong arch and a good ball of the foot in
front of it. The big toe is in a straight line. It doesn't stick
out to the side like an ape toe" (Johanson and Edey 1981, p.
And Tuttle (1985, p. 130) noted: "in all discernible
morphological features, the feet of the individuals that made the
G trails are indistinguishable from those of modern humans."


Day, M. H. (1985) Hominid locomotion--from Taung to the Laetoli
footprints. In Tobias, P. V., ed. Hominid Evolution: Past,
Present, and Future. New York, Alan R. Liss, pp. 115-128.
Johanson, D. C., and Edey, M. A. (1981) Lucy: The Beginnings of
Humankind. New York, Simon and Schuster.
Leakey, M. D. (1979) Footprints in the ashes of time. National
Geographic, 155: 446-457.
Robbins, L. M. (1987) Hominid footprints from Site G. In Leakey,
M. D., and Harris, J., eds. Laetoli: A Pliocene Site in
Northern Tanzania. Oxford, Clarendon Press, pp. 497-502.
Stern, Jr., J. T., and Susman, R. L. (1983). The locomotor
anatomy of Australopithecus afarensis. American Journal of
Physical Anthropology, 60: 279-318.
Tuttle, R. H. (1981) Evolution of hominid bipedalism and
prehensile capabilities. Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society of London, B, 292: 89-94.
Tuttle, R. H. (1985) Ape footprints and Laetoli impressions: a
response to the SUNY claims. In Tobias, P. V., ed. Hominid
Evolution: Past, Present, and Future. New York, Alan R. Liss,
pp. 129-133.
Tuttle, R. H. (1987) Kinesiological inferences and evolutionary
implications from Laetoli biped trails G-1, G-2/3, and A. In
Leakey, M. D., and Harris, J. eds. Laetoli: A Pliocene Site
in Northern Tanzania. Oxford, Clarendon Press, pp. 508-517.
White, T. D., and Suwa, G. (1987) Hominid footprints at Laetoli:
facts and interpretations. American Journal of Physcial
Anthropology, 72: 485-514.

Christopher Beetle <>
P.O. Box 1920, Alachua, FL 32615-1920 U.S.A.
Phone: (904) 462-0466 * FAX: (904) 462-0463