Have Dinosaur and Human Fossils Been Found Together?
Dinosaur fossils have been found on every continent on Earth; humans have inhabited, and continue to inhabit, every continent on Earth. Thus, it would seem that if dinosaurs and humans really did live as contemporaries at one time, as creationists contend, human fossils would have been found alongside, near, or in the same strata as dinosaur fossils. So, is there evidence from the fossil record of their coexistence?
Admittedly, at times questions like these appear somewhat puzzling, at least on the surface. We know from the biblical record that dinosaurs and humans coexisted (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). Furthermore, many ancient paintings, figurines, rock carvings, and historical references confirm they were contemporaries upon the Earth (see Lyons and Butt, 2008). Still, many wonder why, at first glance, the fossil record seems not to substantiate creationists’ claims that dinosaurs and humans were contemporaries?
Fossilization is Rare
First, one must understand that fossils are rare, relatively speaking. Not every living plant, animal, or human fossilizes after death. In fact, it is extremely rare for things once living to fossilize. Dead animals lying in a field or on the side of the road do not fossilize. In order for something to become fossilized, it must be buried rapidly in just the right place. Consider as an example all the bison that were killed and left to decompose on the Great Plains of the United States. In the late 19th century, a man could purchase a window seat on a train, have the conductor stop close to a herd of American bison, and pull out his rifle and fire upon the herd until he ran out of ammunition. The locomotive would then move on, leaving behind countless dead and dying animals. By the end of the 19th century, the bison population in America had been reduced from millions to approximately 500 (Jones, n.d.). What happened to the millions of carcasses? They are not scattered all along the Great Plains today. Why? Because their flesh and bones were scavenged by insects, worms, birds, and other animals. The smallest portions were digested by fungi, bacteria, and enzymatic degradation until the buffalo remains disappeared. Even oxygen plays a role in the breakdown of chemicals that make up living things.
Evolutionary scientist James Powell described another situation where a rather large population of animals died. He wrote:
[I]n the winter after the great Yellowstone fires of 1988, thousands of elk perished from extreme cold coupled with lack of food. Late the following spring, their carcasses were strewn everywhere. Yet only a few years later, bones from the great elk kill are scarce. The odds that a single one will be preserved so that it can be found 65 million years from now approach zero. At best we can expect to find fossil evidence of only a tiny fraction of the animals that once lived. The earth’s normal processes destroy or hide most of the clues (1998, p. xv, emp. added).
Normally, as Powell indicated, living things do not fossilize. Under normal conditions, living things decay and rot. It is atypical for plants and animals to fossilize, because they must avoid even the tiniest of scavengers, bacteria, fungi, etc. For bones to fossilize, they must be buried—the sooner and deeper the better. Mud, silt, and other fine sediments are good for fossilization because they can block out oxygen. In this “protected” environment, bones and teeth may even last long enough to mineralize. But, normally, carcasses do not find themselves in such environments.
Not as Many Dinosaur Fossils as You Think
Although dinosaur graveyards have been discovered in various countries around the world (e.g., Tanzania, Africa; Jenson, Utah [USA]) where thousands of dinosaur bones are jumbled together (obviously due to some sort of catastrophe—e.g., a flood), most people are unaware of the fact that, in museums, “in spite of the intense popular and scientific interest in the dinosaurs and the well-publicized efforts of generations of dinosaur hunters, only about 2,100 articulated dinosaur bones (two or more aligned in the same position as in life)” exist (Powell, 1998, p. xv, parenthetical comment in orig.; see also Dodson, 1990, 87:7608; Lewin, 1990). Furthermore, in an article in the October 1990 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Peter Dodson of the University of Pennsylvania reported that almost half (45.3%) of all dinosaur genera are based on a single specimen, and 74% are represented by five specimens or less (87:7608). Even some of the most famous dinosaurs are based on a fraction of what they were originally. For example, the 120-foot-long Argentinosaurus replica (housed in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia) is based on only 10 percent of its remains (a dozen backbone vertebrae, a few limb bones and part of the hips) [Meyer, 2002]. Truthfully, although dinosaurs have captured the attention of scientists for more than 150 years, their fossilized remains are not as prevalent as many would think.
Human Fossils—Extremely Scarce!
Humans make up an infinitesimal portion of the fossil record. Due to the number of drawings of our alleged human ancestors that appear in the news on a regular basis, one might get the feeling that hominoid and human fossils are ubiquitous. But such is not the case. In a 1981 New Scientistarticle, John Reader wrote: “The entire hominid collection known today would barely cover a billiard table" (89:802). One year later, Lyall Watson similarly stated: “The fossils that decorate our family tree are so scarce that there are still more scientists than specimens. The remarkable fact is that all the physical evidence we have for human evolution can still be placed, with room to spare, inside a single coffin” (1982, 90:44, emp. added). In a conversation with James Powell, president and director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, renowned evolutionary paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey gave some insight into her frustrations in searching for hominid (or human) fossils when she described her “nearly futile hunt for human bone in a new field area as four years of hard work producing only three nondescript scraps” (see Powell, 1998, p. xv, emp. added). In 2004, David Begun concluded an article in Science titled “The Earliest Hominins—Is Less More?” by admitting: “[T]he level of uncertainty in the available direct evidence at this time renders irreconcilable differences of opinion inevitable. The solution is in the mantra of all paleontologists: We need more fossils!” (303:1479-1480, emp. added). Although hominid/human fossils are among the most sought-after fossils in the world, scientists readily admit that few such fossils have been found.
As you can see, the question “Why don’t we find dinosaur and human fossils together?” is extremely misleading. The truth is, fossils themselves are rare. And, of all those things that do fossilize, it appears that less than 1% are vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals) [see Snelling, 1991, p. 30]. Furthermore, human fossils make up a microscopic part of the fossil record. Searching for one is like trying to find the one proverbial needle in a haystack. The real question then, is not, “Why don’t we find dinosaur and human fossils together?” but, “Where are all of the human fossils?”
Simply because human fossils apparently have not been found with dinosaur fossils does not make the case for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans any less credible. Think about it. Where are the human fossils that have been found with the recently extinct Pyrenean Ibex? Can we prove that Dodo birds and humans once lived together by observing their fossilized remains together in a particular layer of rock? We know that they once coexisted, but can a person point to the fossil record for such information? The chance of finding human fossils is rare. The chance of finding exactly the combination of fossils for which one is searching (in this case, dinosaurs and humans) is even less likely.
A Lesson Learned from “Living Fossils”
We learn from “living fossils” that animals and plants can live long periods of time (allegedly millions of years) without leaving behind fossil evidence. For example, evolutionists believe Gingko trees were thriving 240 million years ago, before dinosaurs allegedly evolved (see Krock, 2003). Interestingly, Gingko fossils are absent in rock layers reportedly representing many millions of years, yet they are alive today (Hodge, 2006, p. 183). Consequently, simply because they are absent in certain rock strata does not mean they were non-existent during the alleged millions of years it took those layers of rock to form. Likewise, simply because human fossils are missing in certain layers of rock does not mean they were not living at the time those rock layers were formed.
Consider also the living fossil known as the coelacanth. From 1839 (when fossil coelacanths were first discovered—Perkins, 2001) to 1938, evolutionists alleged that these fish were the missing link in the evolution of fish to amphibians (“Diver Finds…,” n.d.). Supposedly, coelacanths had existed “for nearly 400 million years” (“Diver Finds…”). Evolutionists firmly believed that “the coelacanth became extinct about 70 million years ago [about the same time dinosaurs died out—EL] because their fossils are not found in any deposits higher than this” (Hodge, 2006, p. 183). Science News declared that coelacanths “disappeared from the fossil record 75 million years ago” (Perkins, 2001, emp. added). Until 1938, evolutionists believed that men and coelacanths could not possibly have lived at the same time. These creatures were known only from rock layers that evolutionists claimed were 70+ million years old.
On December 24, 1938, the scientific world was rocked when an unidentified fish five feet long and over 100 pounds was brought to shore in South Africa. It was caught in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. The fisherman who netted the fish (having no idea what the creature’s proper name was) called it “the great sea lizard” because its pectoral fins looked more like little fringed legs. Once scientists examined this strange creature, however, they confirmed what formerly was thought impossible—a live coelacanth had been caught in modern times (see “Coelacanth,” n.d.)! It was as shocking as if a living T. rex had been found. After all, they supposedly became extinct at the same time.
Since 1938, more than 100 coelacanths have been caught and many more sighted (see “Coelacanth”). In 1952, they were seen swimming near the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean. Another population was found in 1998 off the coast of Indonesia. Surprisingly, local Indonesian fishermen were quite familiar with this fish, having been catching them for years; though scientists were totally unaware they lived in that region.
Modern-day coelacanths look exactly like their fossil counterparts (which are mistakenly dated as being millions of years old). This living fossil is a thorn in the side of evolutionists. It makes a mockery of evolutionary dating methods, provides further proof of the myths of missing links, and exposes their “facts” for what they really are—unproven assumptions.
Moreover, consider that evolutionists admit that the fossil record of the past “70 million years” shows no evidence of coelacanths. Yet, we know they lived during these alleged “70 million years,” because they are still alive today. Like Gingko trees, coelacanths’ absence in certain rock strata does not mean they were not living during the alleged millions of years it took the rock layers to form; it simply means that they were not buried and fossilized in those layers of rock. Similarly, humans just as easily could have been alive when the various rock layers were formed, without leaving human fossils. Think about it: we have just as much fossil evidence for humans living the past “70 million years” on Earth as we do coelacanths and Gingkos. In short, living fossils help us understand that simply because human fossils are missing in certain layers of rock does not mean humans were not living at the time those rock layers were formed.
Considering that sedimentary rock (the type of rock in which fossils are most likely to be discovered) covers about 75% of Earth’s land area and much of the ocean floor, and is tens of thousands of feet thick in certain places (Crawford, 1988, 17:278), even if there are dinosaur and human remains fossilized in the same rock, the chance of them being exposed, discovered, recognized, and reported together is very improbable. They might be exposed somewhere in the world today (like in a mine, cliff, or road cutting), but unless they are discovered before the Sun, wind, and rain turn them to dust, such exposure is useless to scientists.
Humans and the Flood
It could be that in the time of Noah, the human population was confined mainly to the Middle East, while most dinosaurs roamed in other parts of the world. If this was the case, and the global Flood of Noah’s day caused most of the fossils on Earth (as creationists believe), then one would not expect to find many (if any) humans buried with dinosaurs. What’s more, humans would have been less likely (than various animals) to be buried rapidly and fossilized during the Flood. As Bodie Hodge noted:
Since the rains of Noah’s Flood took weeks to cover the earth, many people [unlike dinosaurs—EL] could have made it to boats, grabbed on to floating debris, and so on. Some may have made it to higher ground. Although they wouldn’t have lasted long and would have eventually perished, they might not fossilize (Hodge, 2006, p. 179).
The fact is, in most cases, living things do not fossilize.
[D]ead things decompose or get eaten. They just disappear and nothing is left. The 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia was a shocking reminder of the speed with which water and other forces can eliminate all trace of bodies, even when we know where to look. According to the United Nation’s Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, nearly 43,000 tsunami victims were never found (Hodge, p. 180).
Could it be…?
It may very well be the case that human and dinosaur fossilized footprints have been discovered together, or at the very least in the same vicinity or in the same layer of rock in which dinosaur tracks are found (see Woetzel, 2013, p. 28). It may also be that human and dinosaur bones have been discovered together in times past, but for at least two reasons, were not reported. First, someone who might have found these bones in a quarry could react by saying, “Look at these old bones. Fascinating!... Okay, now, hurry up and hand me another explosive so we can meet our quota of coal for the day.” It could be that the fossil evidence for the cohabitation of men and dinosaurs went up in smoke long ago. Second, it may be possible that human bones have been found by scientists alongside dinosaur fossils, yet simply have not been reported widely. We are not suggesting that all evolutionary scientists are dishonest. Rather, we simply believe they are blinded by presuppositions that affect their judgment (even as many “Christians” are). Since evolutionists seem so certain that hominid/human fossils should never be found in layers of rock more than a few million years old, if they ever did, likely they would just explain away the evidence. “It just cannot be, if evolution is true…. There must be some explanation other than humans and dinosaurs really lived together.” If evolutionists can “confuse” a dolphin’s rib for a human collarbone (Anderson, 1983, p. 199), or an extinct pig’s tooth for a human tooth (e.g., Nebraska Man; see Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 88-89), then similar mistakes could easily be made concerning human and dinosaur fossils. If one ever has been found with another, scientists could have misinterpreted the “anomaly.”
It may be that dinosaur and human fossils are never found together. But, whether they are or not, the evidence for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs at one time in the past is undeniable to the unbiased truth seeker (see Lyons and Butt, 2008). Indeed, there is a mountain of biblical, historical, and physical evidence which indicates that dinosaurs and humans once walked this Earth at the same time.
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