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Petralona Cave - Greece

The human skull that challenges the Out of Africa theory

This is the account of the discovery of a skull that has the potential to change what we know about human evolution, and a suppression and cover-up which followed.   

In 1959, in an area called Chalkidiki in Petralona, Northern Greece, a shepherd came across a small opening to a cave, which became visible when a thick covering of snow finally melted.  He gathered a group of villagers to help him clear the entrance so they could go inside and explore.  They found a cave rich in stalactites and stalagmites. But they also found something surprising – a human skull embedded in the wall (later research also uncovered a huge number of fossils including pre-human species, animal hair, fossilized wood, and stone and bone tools).   

Petralona SkullThe skull was given to the University of Thessaloniki in Greece by the President of the Petralona Community. The agreement was that once the research was done, a museum would be opened featuring the findings from the Petralona cave, and the skull would be returned to be displayed in the museum – something that never happened.

Dr Aris Poulianos, member of the UNESCO's IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences), later founder of the Anthropological Association of Greece , and an expert anthropologist who was working at the University of Moscow at the time, was invited by the Prime Minister of Greece to return to Greece to take a position of a University Chair in Athens.  This was due to the publication of his book, ‘The Origins of the Greeks’, which provides excellent research showing that Greek people didn’t originate from the Slavic nations but were indigenous to Greece.  Upon his return to Greece, Dr Poulianos was made aware of the discovery of the skull at Petralona, and immediately started studying the Petralona cave and skull.

The ‘Petralona man’, or Archanthropus of Petralona, as it has since been called, was found to be 700,000 years old, making it the oldest human europeoid (presenting European traits) of that age ever discovered in Europe. Dr Poulianos’ research showed that the Petralona man evolved separately in Europe and was not an ancestor of a species that came out of Africa. 

In 1964, independent German researchers, Breitinger and Sickenberg, tried to dismiss Dr Poulianos’ findings, arguing that the skull was only 50,000 years old and was indeed an ancestor that came from Africa.  However, research published in the US in 1971 in the prestigious Archaeology magazine, backed up the findings that the skull was indeed 700,000 years old.  This was based on an analysis of the cave’s stratigraphy and the sediment in which the skull was embedded.  Further research in the cave discovered isolated teeth and two pre-human skeletons dating back 800,000 years, as well as other fossils of various species.

Today, most academics who have analyzed the Petralona remains say that the cranium of the Archanthropus of Petralona belongs to an archaic hominid distinguished from Homo erectus, and from both the classic Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, but showing characterists of all those species and presenting strong European traits.  A skull dating back 700,000 which is either Homo sapien or part Homo sapien is in direct conflict with the Out of Africa theory of human evolution.  

Petralona Man

Further excavations continued in the cave of Petralona with the participation of international researchers (46 specialists from 12 separate countries), which provided further proof of Dr Poulianos’ claims, including remarkable findings like fossilized pieces of wood, an oak leaf, animal hair and coprolites, which enabled accurate dating, as well as the almost continuous presence of stone and bone tools of the Archanthropus evolutionary stage, from the lower (750,000 years) to the upper (550,000 years) layers of sediment within the cave.

The research, after an interruption due to the dictatorship in Greece, continued up to 1983. It was then ordered by the government that all excavations at the site were forbidden to anyone, including the original archaeological team, and for 15 years nobody had access to the site or to the findings – no reason was provided by the government.  Was this denial of access to prevent the extraction of whatever new scientific conclusions remained hidden within the incredible fossils embedded within the layers of the caves’ walls? 

After the Anthropological Society of Greece took the case to the courts, 15 years later they were again allowed access to the cave.  Since then the Ministry of Culture is trying in any way to overcome the Courts decision and further trials proceed.

Aris PoulianosDr Poulianos’ findings contradicted conventional views regarding human evolution and his research was suppressed.  Dr Poulianos and his wife were physically attacked and injured in their home in 2012 and the culprits were never been found. He and his team have been denied further access to the cave to complete their research and study, and the whereabouts of the skull is now unknown.  

Today a sign sits outside the cave of Petralona stating that the skull found in the cave was 300,000 years old, and on Wikipedia today you will see references dismissing the evidence and trying to date the Petralona skull within acceptable parameters – between 160,000 and 240,000 years old.  

Recently, Professor C.G. Nicholas Mascie-Taylor of the University of Cambridge sent a letter to the Ministry of Culture in Greece saying that the correct date of the skull is 700,000 years old and not 300,000. He has also challenged the government’s suppression of information regarding this incredible discovery. 


The Greek Ministry of Education, Religions, Culture and Sports,

Bouboulinas 20-22,

Athens 106 82,

Greece

5 September 2012

Dear Sir,

I am writing on behalf of the European Anthropological Association, which is the umbrella professional and academic association linking all of the national European biological anthropology and human biology societies, to express our concerns about the conservation of the Petralona Cave and Skull, the misinformation of the dating of the skull, as well as the treatment of personnel associated with the conservation of the Cave.

The bases of our concerns are that the skull has been damaged through many scratches and the crown of a tooth (1st molar) cut off. As requested by Anthropological Association of Greece what is required is a detailed description of the present status of the skull, so that no one in future can arbitrarily damage it further. There is also the problem of dating which has been scientifically dated at about 700,000 years ago not 300,000 as is given at the information desk. There is a very detailed record of the excavations and findings which need to receive further public presentation but which have never been catalogued so as to prevent specimens going missing.

It is very unfortunate that the Greek Archaeological Department stopped Dr Aris Poulianos from further work in the Cave without any explanation. It is also very worrying that Dr Poulianos and his wife were physically attacked and injured in their home earlier this year and the culprits have not been found. He was also verbally abused when attempting to give an invited presentation to teachers and school children.

Senior anthropologists and geologists have also been denied access to the Cave and the specimens for further study on a number of occasions without substantive reasons. Earlier this year there has also been misinformation given to the Greek Parliament concerning financial aspects of the Cave.

I look forward to receiving answers to these questions.

Yours faithfully

Professor C G N Mascie-Taylor MA, PhD, ScD (all Cambridge), FSB, FNAS (Hungary)

Professor of Human Population Biology and Health and President of the European Anthropological Association

(Reference)


The most important conclusion of Dr Poulianos' research regards the co-existence of all main anthropological types (African – Kobi, Asian – Beijing and European – Petralona) at the same almost period (700,000, 500,000 and 750,000 respectively). That means: the appearance of the today human main populations (races or even better phyllae - from the Greek language and that’s why polyphyletic etc) is tending to almost 1,000,000 m.y.a. and not to only 10,000 or 30,000 years as currently considered world wide.

However, independently if there is a scientific dispute on the above, it is only sad to become aware that research is not allowed to those who are not coordinated to the “standard” knowledge, risking even their lives in front of gun shooters. 

Is this a cover up of an incredible discovery that the powers-that-be do not want us to have access to?  You be the judge.

By John Black

Related Links

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Petralona Cave

The 40th Anniversary since the discovery of the Petralona Archanthropus' skull

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The Petralona hominid Site: Uranium-series re-analysis of ‘layer 10’ calcite and associated paleomagnetic analyses

The significance of the fossil hominid skull from Petralona, Greece

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Comments

The dated sample for the "out of Africa" position is Lucy, dated at maybe 200,000 years old. However, aboriginal evidence from Australia is dated at 400,000 years old. Time for a rethink?

Duncan, both numbers you quote are off by approximately an order of magnitude, and in opposite directions. Lucy was millions of years ago, and Australian was tens of thousands of years ago, not hundreds of thousands.

Hope that helps to clear up your confusion.

To add a bit of information regarding the possible causes of the suppression of this research and attacks on the researcher, it is true that some people (some of the commenters in this thread even) hold beliefs which they would rather retain than alter in the face of new information. Some people threaten more than ad hominem attacks in such circumstances, and I have been threatened with violence for merely being correct about something (politics!)

Also, established researchers attain to the lion's share of grant monies, and these amount to considerable sums. Evidence which challenges, or refutes, their careers is often suppressed for economic reason.

Nations which depend on archeological tourism for economic resources, like Greece, certainly have motivation to do the same, particularly in trying economic times.

Note that I am neither refuting nor supporting these claims. I merely point out that these are some of the ways people act when challenged financially and culturally.

I would like to read more substantive refutation attempts than those I have seen here, which are largely ad hominem attacks rather than reasoned arguments.

FFS, ppl. This is a science matter. Use science to prove your points, not slander and insults.

Strange, I never did see an Orangutan in Africa, did you? Yet we have massive amounts of DNA that seems clearly derivative of Orangutan, infact, almost moreso than chimpanzee. Secondly, this very article is about something that seems to contradict that. There are numerous hominids, of which we have not sequenced for comparison with human, or for deceloping any working possible models for region and demographic in terms of their possible contribution. Africans may have dna from hominids not common to or notably higher than non-africans, in the same way europeans seems more influenced by neanderthal than other groups have denisovan infuence. Is there even evidence, dna evidence that any human is related to lucy? What about herto? Or any of these presumed originators of man. We have none at the moment, just assumptions, and obviously, any contradictions or alternative possibilities are denied. The article says that the dating was supported other evidence, such as the surrounding materials. And even if the date were not correct, and this did not represent an alternate beginning of man, the thing is, we should still be working to further identify it and its position in mans developement, and whats it's sphere of influence was. Even if this was younger than whatever is assumed to be an older ancestor in africa, does not mean that is the case! That is why man should be working on sequencing every archaic human, every hominid and everything in between, to see how they relate to each other, and us, if at all. As far as I am concerned, any and every hominid found outside africa that is not found in africa challenges out of africa, until and unless we sequence everything and see how it fits to be sure. Because I already know I have dna not found in africa, in some modern africans, nor in the archaic form! There is no dna proof or even archeologocal proof of neanderthal in africa, is there? So what do people do? "Oh, well, neanderthal comes from heidelburgensis, who came from africa, then" Really? What evidence do we have exactly, that factually puts neanderthal as descending from heidelburgensis? And if geidelburgensis is foind in and out of Africa, how do we know it originated in one and not the other? "Oh, well, heidelburgensis was originally african because it comes from X which is african, then." Really? So we proved that lineage as well? See, none of that is concrete. At all. And even if we see a skull of something is older in one place, and a skull of the same is more recent in another, even that does not definitely prove it came from one first, without dna support, because fossils are rare anyway, so NOT finding one means nothing, and finding one just means the conditions were right, at that spot, at that time. There could be tons of fossils we have yet to find, and there are countless relatives that we will never find because their remains simply do not exist...

Strange, I never did see an Orangutan in Africa, did you? Yet we have massive amounts of DNA that seems clearly derivative of Orangutan, infact, almost moreso than chimpanzee. Secondly, this very article is about something that seems to contradict that. There are numerous hominids, of which we have not sequenced for comparison with human, or for deceloping any working possible models for region and demographic in terms of their possible contribution. Africans may have dna from hominids not common to or notably higher than non-africans, in the same way europeans seems more influenced by neanderthal than other groups have denisovan infuence. Is there even evidence, dna evidence that any human is related to lucy? What about herto? Or any of these presumed originators of man. We have none at the moment, just assumptions, and obviously, any contradictions or alternative possibilities are denied. The article says that the dating was supported other evidence, such as the surrounding materials. And even if the date were not correct, and this did not represent an alternate beginning of man, the thing is, we should still be working to further identify it and its position in mans developement, and whats it's sphere of influence was. Even if this was younger than whatever is assumed to be an older ancestor in africa, does not mean that is the case! That is why man should be working on sequencing every archaic human, every hominid and everything in between, to see how they relate to each other, and us, if at all. As far as I am concerned, any and every hominid found outside africa that is not found in africa challenges out of africa, until and unless we sequence everything and see how it fits to be sure. Because I already know I have dna not found in africa, in some modern africans, nor in the archaic form! There is no dna proof or even archeologocal proof of neanderthal in africa, is there? So what do people do? "Oh, well, neanderthal comes from heidelburgensis, who came from africa, then" Really? What evidence do we have exactly, that factually puts neanderthal as descending from heidelburgensis? And if geidelburgensis is foind in and out of Africa, how do we know it originated in one and not the other? "Oh, well, heidelburgensis was originally african because it comes from X which is african, then." Really? So we proved that lineage as well? See, none of that is concrete. At all. And even if we see a skull of something is older in one place, and a skull of the same is more recent in another, even that does not definitely prove it came from one first, without dna support, because fossils are rare anyway, so NOT finding one means nothing, and finding one just means the conditions were right, at that spot, at that time. There could be tons of fossils we have yet to find, and there are countless relatives that we will never find because their remains simply do not exist...

sooo, the fact is... that facts are only facts until proven otherwise...i do not see much actuality in all those 'facts'.

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