When we think of Ice Age man, we usually think of a brutish, ape-like caveman that hunted woolly mammoths and woolly rhinos. According to evolutionary theory, the Ice Age is the time when man evolved through a series of missing links. (See “Are there missing links between man and apes?” at the end of this chapter for a discussion on supposed missing links.)
Biblical history records events during or soon after the Ice Age. This epoch includes the Book of Job and the life and times of the Jewish patriarchs. The Bible’s focus is on events that took place in the Middle East after the Flood. So, we should not expect to read about an Ice Age in the Bible.
Based on Genesis 10–11, we can deduce that for the first 100 years after the Flood, man lived exclusively in the Middle East. After leaving the ark, Noah and his three sons and their wives and their offspring settled and remained in the Tigris-Euphrates River area until the Tower of Babel incident. When Noah and his family left the ark, God commanded them to multiply and fill the earth once again (Gen. 9:7). They chose to not spread out from there in disobedience to God. Within a fairly short time, rebellion against God began. It reached a crisis point when the people of Babel built a tower to reach into “heaven.” The rebellion very likely involved astrology. God judged them by giving them a confusion of language that resulted in their dispersal over the earth (figure 13.1). This happened about 100 to 300 years after the Flood. By then the Ice Age was well underway.
Many people decided to head southwest and southeast from the warm Tigris-Euphrates Valley (figure 13.2). Those heading southwest settled around the Dead Sea, Palestine, Egypt, the Sahara Desert and the remainder of Africa. At that time, the summer climate of the entire area was still cooler and wetter than our present climate. This accounts for the thriving post-Flood civilizations found in areas that are now inhospitable. A few hundred years after the Flood and well into the Ice Age, the Sahara was teeming with life, as witnessed by the remains of aquatic animals and the extensive rock art discovered in the Sahara Desert.
Other groups headed southeast into India, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia, and eventually to New Zealand and the islands of the western Pacific. The Australian Aborigines would be included in this early group.
Those that headed northwest had to be hearty.1 They were migrating toward the Scandinavian ice sheet in northern Europe and northwestern Asia. They probably had no idea that an ice sheet existed when they first headed north, but soon they saw ice caps in the mountains. The volcanic ash and aerosols in the stratosphere made their days a little dark and cold, but game was plentiful. It was unlikely they could grow crops because the summers were too cool and the growing season too short, but they probably gathered berries and roots along the way. Large game was a possible factor for them moving farther and farther north. Eventually a few entered the land of the woolly mammoths. Caves were the most practical places to live. Your classic European “caveman” then became a reality, but he was neither brutish nor ape-like. They are known as Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man, were probably of average-or-greater intelligence (being able to survive in a harsh environment), and were not missing links.
Neanderthal (or Neandertal) man was once considered a link between apes and humans, but this was because of evolutionary bias. He did have some unusual facial features, but his brain was a little larger than modern man, whose brain averages almost three times the size of an ape brain. That should have spoken volumes to the early evolutionists who are always anxious to find a missing link. Over one hundred skeletons of Neanderthal man have been found in the caves of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. Their skeletons from the neck down are almost identical to modern man. Neanderthal man had brow ridges, lacked a chin, and the back of his head extended backwards. These skull features could be either unique genetic features (a result of inbreeding) or caused by disease. Some of their features could have been caused by diseases like rickets and arthritis that some of them were known to possess. Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which would be a common result of living in caves during the cloudy, bleak days of the Ice Age.
Cro-Magnon man, who looked as modern as you and I, seemed to follow the Neanderthals into Europe sometime later. They also lived in caves. They, along with the Neanderthals, used stone tools, probably because any metal tools they possessed upon leaving Babel had worn out. They also left their artwork on cave walls throughout the region. The Cro-Magnon people most likely interacted with Neanderthal man. Life would have been challenging for both groups in those days, but the abundant game kept them alive. For an account of what life was probably like living in a cave close to the ice sheet as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, read Life in the Great Ice Age.2
The Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals very likely intermarried and are included within the Europeans and Asians of today. We find skeletons from the Ice Age period that show a mixture of features from both groups of people.
Large game would have become scarce during the extinctions at the end the Ice Age, but since summers were becoming warmer, man was able to start planting and harvesting again. He built tribal dwellings, then villages, and then cities. Civilization and agriculture developed rapidly. Life in the great Ice Age was only a blip in the life of man in Europe and western Asia. Evolutionary archeologists and anthropologists have thought that the development of agriculture was slow in Europe, but this is very likely due to their evolutionary bias in which man evolved from the apes over millions of years. Some archeologists now are recognizing that agriculture could have developed in Europe rapidly:
The realization that recent hunter-gatherers can turn to herding and crop cultivation if they perceive this to be advantageous has major implications for studies of agricultural origins in Europe.3
Other families left the Tigris-Euphrates Valley heading east and northeast (figure 13.2). They, too, would have been a hardy people, since the continental interior of Asia was relatively cold with ice caps developing in the higher mountains. Those spreading due east were the ancient Oriental tribes who settled in eastern Asia.
Some of the tribes would have moved northeast into Siberia. Winters were cold in this region, but not nearly as cold as they are today. Game was overwhelmingly abundant. This is where the woolly mammoths lived by the millions. There are quite a number of signs that early man inhabited Siberia, especially southern Siberia. Just recently, archeologists discovered that man lived during the Ice Age along the Yana River in north central Siberia.4 This time would be, according to evolutionary theory, during the “paleolithic” (old stone age) and “neolithic” (new stone age) periods. These classifications from the 1800s are now seen as simplifications:
We saw earlier how the nineteenth-century scheme for European prehistory divides it into a sequence of ages based on the material used for cutting tools — first stone, then bronze, then iron. Archaeologists today realize that while these can be useful divisions, they don’t necessarily correspond to major changes in the way prehistoric people lived or prehistoric communities functioned.5
As the tribes continued on their journeys, some remained in Siberia while others with more wanderlust continued moving on. It is even possible that as they approached the mild Pacific or Arctic Ocean, the climate was warmer than interior Asia. This might have motivated them to continue migrating east.
Soon some of the nomads reached the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska. Because it was either shallow or dry, they crossed into the New World and became the first Native Americans to reach Alaska. The lowlands of Alaska had mild winters and cool summers at this time. As always, some people would settle down and others would continue migrating. From Alaska, they continued on into the Yukon Territory of northwest Canada and southeast along the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains and down the ice-free corridor (figure 13.3).
It would have taken most of the Ice Age for there to be enough snow and ice piled up on the land to expose the shallow Bering Strait and shelf for man to walk over to Alaska. This is assuming the current depth of the Bering Strait. There would have been only a narrow window of opportunity to walk by foot into Alaska. Such a time would have occurred near the end of the Ice Age when conditions became colder. Because many animals had already preceded man into North America, I lean toward the option that the Bering Strait was shallower early in the Ice Age and became exposed earlier. Then man and beast would have migrated into North America early in the Ice Age.
Most Native Americans traveled by land, but it is possible others migrated down the Pacific Coast. They could have built boats, crossed the Bering Strait, and floated along the coasts of Alaska and western British Columbia into Washington state and from there south and east. The waters of the Pacific Ocean would still be warm and the glaciers still would occupy the mountains of British Columbia this early in the Ice Age. Archeologists have uncovered a large ancient garbage dump mostly of fish bones on Heceta Island near Ketchikan, Alaska. A report in Science News6 states:
The animal remains show that these people were experienced in offshore fishing and made extensive use of water transportation. … [There was] a relatively mild coastal climate and access to abundant marine food sources would have greatly benefited maritime immigrants, compared with hunters crossing a bitterly cold [ice-free] corridor between massive sheets of ice.
This statement is within a uniformitarian Ice Age context. Within the post-Flood Ice Age model, the ice-free corridor along the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains would not be nearly as cold in the winter due to downslope chinook winds.
The corridor probably would still be open since it was still early or midway in the Ice Age when the first migrations occurred. Animals had used the corridor earlier, since they started their spread about a few hundred years before man. The corridor closed late in the Ice Age as ice sheets from British Columbia and central Canada merged, but there is evidence that the first people probably made it through before closure and not after. One piece of evidence for this lies with the Taber child, found in southern Alberta below 60 feet of glacial till and post-glacial debris.7 A number of archaeologists have disputed the pre-glacial implication of the Taber child,8 but its location indicates that it is pre-glacial.
The first Native Americans, called various names by archeologists, such as Clovis or Folsom man, would have had no difficulty spreading south into southern North America, Central America, and eventually into South America. The journey from the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers to the southern tip of South America did not need to be a grueling journey, as some have envisioned,9 nor did it need to take a long time. If the tribes were nomadic hunters and they averaged two miles a day for only four of the warmest months, they would move at the rate of 250 miles (400 km) a year. The distance to the southern tip of South America is about 15,000 miles (24,000 km). At the rate of 250 miles (400 km) each summer, the people could have made the journey in only 60 years.
Sixty years is a crude back-of-the-envelope calculation to estimate the minimum time it would take to reach South America. The actual migration would likely have been more complicated and slower. Migration could have happened in spurts. Some tribes could have settled for a while in a location before moving on. We know some tribes did settle along the route, such as the Eskimos. Why would the more wandering tribes keep moving? There are many possible reasons, already alluded to before. Some could have simply possessed wanderlust and traveled for the same reason people climb a mountain — because it is there. Others could have been forced to move due to human conflicts of various sorts. It could have been the younger generation spreading outward into more promising territory away from their more settled elders. The tribes could have thought hunting would be better farther along, just like the saying “the grass is greener on the other side of the mountain.” Regardless, it need not take much time for people, as well as animals, to populate North and South America.
Some may wonder whether there was a God-ordained purpose for the Ice Age. In other words, did God cause the Ice Age that would have some benefit for man? Or was the Ice Age simply a climatic consequence of the Genesis flood?
We know the Flood had a purpose. It was to destroy the wickedness of man and start over because “…
the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5; NASB). That was an extremely bleak situation, and God was forced to take drastic action. The confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel also had a purpose. It was a judgment from God with the goal of causing man to finally fill the earth after the Flood. I also believe that God could see where such an ungodly, idolatrous union of people would lead down the road, and it was not good. Any number of evil results could have happened. Many other biblical events can be understood as “coming from God” to fulfill His purpose. What about the Ice Age?
It is difficult to conclude one way or other whether the Ice Age had a purpose for man. The Ice Age is not mentioned in the Bible; it is a climatic deduction from the biblical event of the Flood. One could think that if such a great event as the Ice Age had a purpose, God would have mentioned it. However, the Bible was practically all written after the ice melted. The Book of Job is probably the only book written during the Ice Age. Job does mention snow and ice, but he could have observed such features during winter. There are also events not mentioned in the Bible that have a purpose for man. Furthermore, the Ice Age occurred in the far north or in the mountains, far from contact with most people. Therefore, the Ice Age would produce little harm for mankind.
There are two purposes I would like to suggest. Ice sheets and glaciers grind up the rock to silt size. This silt is called rock flour. While the Ice Age was ending, this rock flour would have been blown all over the world by the strong, dry storms during deglaciation. There is even much dust in the Ice Age portion of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets. We will visit this topic more when I get back to the woolly mammoth. The interesting aspect of this wind-blown silt is that it is a very rich soil. A number of places in the world where the wind-blown silt is especially thick are super agricultural areas. These areas include the Midwest of the United States, the Ukraine, and large areas of China.
Another possible purpose for the Ice Age could have been to aid the repopulating of the earth, as described in this chapter. Mild winters and cool summers, the characteristic of the early and mid Ice Age, would have helped people to migrate across the Sahara Desert, which was much cooler and wetter, and into central and southern Africa. Such a climate would have aided man and beasts to migrate into Siberia and pass into North America. On the other hand, mild winters and cooler summers with more precipitation would have made the Tigris-Euphrates area a much more ideal location to live than today. Maybe this is the reason people settled there and did not want to leave.
If man ascended from the apes or an ape-like creature over several million years, a multitude of fossil links should be found. This transition was theorized to have occurred during the time of the Ice Age — possibly even caused by the Ice Age as some scientists postulate. Why people evolved, but not animals, at this time is an obvious contradiction to evolutionary theory. Paleoanthropologists, as missing link hunters are called, have combed the world for over 100 years expending huge amounts of time and money in their search for the missing links. Indeed, they have found a few candidates, but the number is rather small, and the interpretation of the fossil scraps is open to debate. Every paleoanthropologist seems to have his own interpretation as to how the bones should be arranged.
As a result of their enthusiasm and intense competition to find the missing link, paleoanthropologists have run into a great deal of trouble. Neanderthal man, early on, was seized as the missing link, but experts later realized that their own bias created this link. Neanderthal man is just a variety of man.
Exaggerated missing link claims have even been made on the basis of one tooth. The “Nebraska man” found in Nebraska in 1922 ended up being a pig’s tooth.
Fraud was easy to foist on these desperate fossil-man hunters. The so-called Piltdown man, despite obvious clues, fooled all of the leading palaeontologists in the early and mid 20th century. This “missing link” ended up being the jaw of an ape connected to the braincase of a man.
The most recent candidates for missing link status have lasted a little longer, but amidst controversy. Ramapithicus, based on scraps of teeth and jaws, was thought to be the first missing link between man and apes. However, more material has been found. It ended up being an extinct ape. The original analysis of its missing link status was once again found to be loaded with bias.
Australopithicus is the next in line. It can be coined, “Mr. Missing Link.” There are now a variety of such creatures in this group, including Lucy, found by Donald Johanson in Ethiopia.10 It is even claimed Lucy walked upright like humans. Most of the scraps labeled Homo habilis would also fall into the category of Australopithicus. Paleoanthropologists emphasize their “human-like” characteristics and usually downplay their ape-like features. Based on a computer analysis of many parts of the available skeletons of Australopithicus, Charles Oxnard11 categorized it as a unique ape, not in the line between apes and man. Of course, one would expect unique features with an extinct animal because that is part of the definition of being extinct.
Australopithicus is overwhelmingly apish. It has the brain size of an ape, its skull looks like an ape, and it is questionable that it walked upright, according to Sir Solly Zuckerman,12 one of the leading evolutionary experts on this fossil during the middle of the 20th century. Just recently, an analysis of the elbow area of Lucy and one other Australopithicus fossil revealed the bones of a knuckle walker, comparable to some living apes.13 Unfortunately, in their desire to keep the missing link status of Australopithicus, paleoanthropologists have relegated this new evidence as a throwback from a previous ancestor, claiming that the knuckle-walking ability was not used.
Sir Solly Zuckerman14, waxing philosophical about this entire enterprise of attempting to find the missing link, laments:
As I have already implied, students of fossil primates have not been distinguished for caution when working within the logical constraints of their subject. The record is so astonishing that it is legitimate to ask whether much science is yet to be found in this field at all. … So much glamour still attaches to the theme of the missing-link, and to man’s relationship with the animal world, that it may always be difficult to exorcise from the comparative study of Primates, living and fossil, the kind of myths which the unaided eye is able to conjure out of a well of wishful thinking.
The last candidate for missing link status is Homo erectus. This designation includes a fair variety of fossils, some of which are questionable. Early members of the category include the equivocal Java man and Peking man. Since this time, many fossils of Homo erectus have been unearthed. As it turns out, Homo erectus is only a little different than Neanderthal man. The main difference is that Homo erectus generally had a smaller stature and brain size, but still within the normal range of man. And just like Neanderthal man, modern people and mixed types lived in the same region at the same time. There is only one conclusion that can be drawn and that is Homo erectus was a breed of man, as documented extensively in Marvin Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention.15
Help keep these daily articles coming. Support AiG.
Discover how compromise starting in Genesis has filtered down from Christian seminaries and colleges to pastors—and finally to parents and their children. This erosive legacy is seen in generations of young people leaving the church—two-thirds of them. Get the facts, discover God’s truth, and help bring a new reformation to churches and families by helping to call them back to the authority of God’s Word.