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The Creation History of Calaveras Man and His Artifacts
Robert E. Gentet and Edward C. Lain
© 2011
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Figure 1: One of the authors (Lain) by simulated Miwok village in the San Andreas County Museum. Note the large, heavy mortars and pestles on ledge. These were not manufactured by the Miwok Indians but were sometimes used by them after they weathered out of the 'Tertiary' riverbeds.
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Figure 2: C. J. King, the first director of the USGS, found a broken pestle in 1869 in the gold-bearing gravels under Table Mountain near Tuttleton, California less than 50 miles from the discovery site of the Calaveras Skull. King failed to publish his find in 1869 and it was much later in 1891 before it was published in the literature, not by King, but by fellow geologist G. F. Becker. However, the implement was presented to the Smithsonian Institution on Jan. 20, 1870, and was U.S. National Museum. Cat. No. 9237 until it was broken and the museum discarded it in 1935. Becker reported that: "This mass [of stone—the broken pestle] he [C. J. King] forced out of its place with considerable difficulty on account of the hardness of the gravel in which it was tightly wedged. It left behind a perfect cast of its shape in the matrix, and proved to be a part of a polished stone implement, no doubt a pestle . . . It is difficult to imagine more satisfactory evidence than this of the occurrence of implements in the auriferous, pre-glacial, sub-basaltic gravels" (Becker, 1891, pp. 193-194). Miners reported finding hundreds of pestles, mortars, and other types of human artifacts in the Tertiary gravels in a span of over 30 years during the last half of the nineteenth century.
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Figure 3: Tuolumne Table Mountain latite (an extrusive volcanic rock) now forms a prominent cliff overlooking the Stanislaus River at the extreme southern portion of Calaveras County. The erosion-resistant latite has capped the auriferous gravel in the ancient Tertiary Stanislaus River bed and preserved it from massive erosion as the rest of the surrounding countryside was eroded. It was under the Table Mountain latite that some of the human artifacts and bones were found.
1. Why should a Young-Earth Creationist be interested in studying the geology of the gold-bearing gravels of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California?

Obviously, if one would be interested in doing some prospecting, the study would be essential. Interest intensified with the '49ers Gold Rush a century and a half ago. But, that's not the reason for interest here. It was during the prospecting in the late 1800s that many human artifacts and some human fossils were discovered within the auriferous [gold-bearing] gravels. It's these ancient artifacts and fossils that draw our interest today.

2. What were these human remains and artifacts?

Both authors have previously written about these important discoveries. Geological Evidence of Early Man and The Case for the Calaveras Skull are posted on the CreationHistory.com website.

3. In a nutshell, sum up the significance of these findings.

The auriferous gravels are ancient, fossil river beds. Many do not realize that ancient riverbeds can be 'frozen' in time in the rock record. The oldest and most productive of these fossil riverbeds date as "Eocene.' Conventionally, this is dated as being about 50 million years old! According to widely accepted evolutionary theory, mankind had not yet evolved. To find human artifacts and remains in such ancient fossil river beds is totally contrary to, and unacceptable in, the evolutionary concept.

4. So, do these artifacts and remains blow a big hole in the evolutionary concept?

Exactly. That's why Young-Earth Creationists have an interest and so should anyone else who wants to know man's true history rather than following evolutionary myth.

5. So are these findings highly contested and dismissed by dyed-in-the wool evolutionists?

Yes, absolutely. Today, these discoveries are seldom even mentioned. At the time of their discoveries, spanning nearly 50 years in time, they were hotly debated, as our articles point out.

6. But, this present article is not a rehash about the artifacts and fossils themselves, but about something else, correct?

Yes. We believe Young Earth geology needs to be able to evaluate any area on Earth and see how its history fits into the complete biblical chronology from Creation Week to the present.

Much has been written about how the Flood of Noah's time is thought to have laid down the strata, but there are many problems associated with such an hypotheses. That's why one of the authors, Gentet, developed the Creation, Curse, Catastrophe (CCC) Young-Earth geologic model.

7. So will this article be using the CCC Model to give a tentative explanation of how a Christian can view the geologic setting of the auriferous gravels and thereby come to some conclusions about when the humans lived that left their bones and artifacts?

Precisely. Too often, Young Earth geology has been reduced to a Flood Model explanation which amounts to little more than knowing the strength and direction of the Flood waters! The CCC Model acknowledges that much geologic activity occurred during Creation Week, the long pre-Flood world, and the post-Flood world as well as the Genesis Flood Event (hereafter referred to as the GFE) itself. Much of the geologic record is not Flood related. This comes as a surprise to many who have only heard about the Flood effects.

8. But, isn't it difficult to know how to look at the rocks and the fossils and see any biblical meaning? After all, the Bible doesn't directly talk about geology except in the most general terms.

We're glad you asked that question. It brings up a number of important issues.

First, we can know for sure those things the Bible directly tells us about the early Earth. In any geologic evaluation or model, it will involve doing some geologic detective work. Our results will only be as good as our hypothesis and our physical evidence. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand or feel that no real answer can be found. The authors believe that God has left us valuable clues in His Word to help us understand the Earth's past history. Modern education has rejected God's Word as the foundation of knowledge and embraced an evolutionary theory with a chronology supposedly reaching back millions and billions of years. The challenge to the Young Earth Creationist is to fit the complex geological record into a much shorter time frame. This article will attempt to do just that with the auriferous gravels and their human remains and artifacts.

9. What is the geologic setting of the gravels?

In a word: complicated. A lot of geology happened before the 'Eocene' stream beds containing gold nuggets even came on the scene.

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Figure 4: Ione Formation on J-14 (Jenny Lynn Road) off California Highway 26 near Valley Springs, CA (see chart)
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Figure 5: Picture of early auriferous gravels along California Highway 4 about 1.3 miles out of Angels Camp, CA. towards Murphy's. (see chart)
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Figure 6: Valley Springs Formation overlaid by younger auriferous gravels along California Highway 4 between Angels Camp and Murphy's, CA. (see chart)

Let's go back to the earliest rock record of the region to begin a brief overview.

First, the geologic record shows the continents were totally different in the beginning. They have grown since the time of Adam's creation. Since Creation Week, much new real estate has been added onto the edges of the continents through geologic activity. The oldest rocks dating from Creation Week are the Precambrian. They are now mainly buried under thick layers of other strata. These are foundational rocks underlying all the continents. Surprisingly they still also make up large shield [surface] areas on all the continents.

After Adam's creation, the area where the auriferous gravels were later deposited was covered by the sea. Into this sea, sediments were deposited early in the pre-Flood world. The bottom-most layers overlying the Precambrian are labeled 'Paleozoic.' Since their formation on the seafloor, they have been transformed into metamorphic rocks through violent, geologic events.

Many geologic happenings enlarged the continents during the long, pre-Flood world. The face of the Earth dramatically altered. The fossil record shows radical environmental changes. Such changes are the direct result of some life forms dying out and different ones expanding into new areas from their original creation centers.

On top of the Paleozoic rocks are found prominent Mesozoic rocks that now form the spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains. These granitic rocks were originally formed deep underground through earth-moving events. Geologists estimate many miles of overlying rocks were later eroded off the buried granitic batholiths. The eroded material now fills the nearby Great Valley to the west. This spectacular un-roofing of the batholiths provides a key benchmark to tie it to a biblical event. According to the CCC Model, this time of great erosion is the GFE. It is the transition from the 'world that then was' [the pre-Flood Earth] into the post-Flood world.

It's after this monumental erosion event [the GFE] that the landscape is set for the formation of the auriferous gravels in the riverbeds. Here the early post-Flood world is represented by the 'Eocene' deposits. This Eocene environment immediately after the Flood was a period of relative geologic calm. The mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains had not yet risen to their great heights. The area consisted of much lower lying hills and plains.

It's in this early post-Flood world that people travelling in boats found a new life in a new land we now call California. Geologists estimate the vegetation was then very lush and the rainfall abundant, based upon the fossil record.

Here streams coming from east of what is now California entered the new land. The streams eroded gold nuggets from the mother lode that had been born during the violent transition period. Into these early streambeds, remains of the early humans and their artifacts [mortars and pestles] were also deposited.

But this early post-Flood paradise came to a violent end as volcanic activity and earth movements dramatically changed the landscape once again. The Eocene stream beds were preserved as they were topped with lava and the landscape devastated. The gold-bearing gravels now became fossil riverbeds wrapped in volcanic debris awaiting the arrival of the '49ers thousands of years later.

The dramatic rise of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the North-South backbone of California was now set to occur. After the birth of the Sierra Nevada fault on the eastern front of the mountains, movement along the fault created a steep eastern [Nevada-facing] slope and a gently tilted western [Great Valley] slope.

After the dramatic rise of the Sierra Mountains in the Post-Flood world, huge glaciers formed on both the western and eastern slopes, carving out the familiar U-shaped valleys visible today. See the chart for additional information.

10. That's a lot of geologic action since Creation!

Now maybe you will begin to see why we said the geologic history of the area is complicated. California is still one of the most active geologic areas in the United States. Just check out the latest earthquakes, for an example.

11. Can you now fill in some of the details of what you discussed in the brief overview?

We shall try. Remember that while we may understand the broad overview of a region, details may change as new information is gathered or we find we have made a wrong assumption. Geology is one of the most uncertain sciences because in contradiction to the scientific method, you can't repeat geologic history. But a general understanding can be found. It's good not to get too 'hung up' on details that can and do change as new data is accumulated.

12. Getting back to the basic reason for this article, the old '49ers who sought gold didn't realize they were reaping the blessings of the Flood and finding the remains of the early post-Flood settlers?

That's right. We're sure they and the ones who followed them were entirely interested in the gold. But, by their findings they helped us better understand the early time after the Flood in California. They also found an estimated 106 million troy ounces of gold between 1848 and 1967.

These relatively minor ' yet important ' gold-bearing gravels are within the larger setting of the geologic history of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They are set within the key events of the pre-Flood, Flood, and post-Flood times.

13. Isn't it also at this same time that gold and other precious minerals were emplaced?

Yes, the catastrophic Flood gave birth in this area to the Mother Lode fault zone and numerous other related fault zones. In these tears in the Earth, gold was deposited in veins as hot waters and gases steamed upward from deep within the Earth.

The events that brought the gold into man's later reach also brought other precious minerals. The region also produces chromite (from which chrome is derived), jade, tungsten (the largest tungsten mine in the world is near Bishop, CA), molybdenum, garnet (Garnet Hill in Calaveras County is a prime collecting locality), zinc, silver, lead, limestone and limestone products to name just a few of the treasures for man's later use. It's interesting to see how God used these geologic events to provide for man's future needs. This is something entirely overlooked within the evolutionary paradigm.

14. In the midst of all this recorded geologic chaos, how can you be sure you are finding where the Flood Event is recorded?

The CCC geologic model fundamentally draws upon the Bible's own description of the GFE to locate in each local geologic column where it should be placed. The emphasis in the Book of Genesis of the Deluge is one of 40 days and nights of relentless, catastrophic rainfall around the world. This would have produced enormous runoff and erosion of existing strata on all the continents. This tell-tale massive erosion footprint becomes a major benchmark for the GFE.

Once you come to realize the Bible makes allowance for fossils and strata formation before the Flood, the geological record begins to make better sense. The Flood Model basically restricts fossils and strata formation to the GFE. However, when the fossils and the strata are carefully evaluated (which they have been for over 200 years now), it will be seen that many of the layers show what the CCC Model calls 'time indicators.' That is, fossil and geologic findings that require time beyond the catastrophic events of the Flood.

15. So, is that why you place the Genesis Flood Event at the 'Cretaceous' un-roofing of the deeply buried granitic batholiths now comprising the Sierra Nevada Mountains?

Indeed, exactly so. This was no small erosion event! While, again, the details are not precisely known, some scientists estimate that up to nine miles of overburden was removed. Remember that this area of North America was a very active geologic boundary (and still is to a smaller degree). While we would not expect to see such drastic erosion everywhere worldwide during the GFE, when you have the right ingredients come together, the Flood event's geologic record can be quite astounding.

16. How do you know that this un-roofing erosion wasn't a part of the ending stages of the GFE?

The Flood Model, in contrast to the CCC Model, would assign much strata erosion to the latter stages of the Flood. This is natural since the Flood Model says the bulk of the strata were formed during the Flood, so the massive erosion had to happen later.

However, the Bible makes it very clear (and we should be using it as our principal guide since we have no other way to know how it happened) that the initial stage of the Flood was the most catastrophic. In contrast to the 40 days and nights of unending, pounding rains worldwide, the later decreasing of Flood water is clearly shown to take months. We would expect to find some erosion connected to this recession of the Flood waters (tidal action would be one of the major sources of wearing down surfaces, and evidences of this are clearly seen around the world in mountain ranges and even flat, undersea structures called guyots). However, in this area in California, up to nine miles of overburden strata were eroded. This is way too much erosion, we believe, to occur during what the Bible describes as gradual and slow retreat of the Flood waters.

17. As you look at the local geologic column and try to understand it in the light of the Bible, aren't you having to accept evolutionary interpretation?

It has been a contention of some Young Earth writers that the whole geologic column is based upon wrong assumptions and therefore should not be used by creationists. However, other Young Earth writers take a more positive viewpoint. The geologic column was developed in the early 1800s before the advent of the theory of evolution, but after the idea of an ancient Earth became acceptable. The fossil sequence in the rocks was first explained by invoking progressive creation. This was necessitated when many professing Christian geologists failed to see how geologic events could fit into a young Earth chronology.

As is true today with some Young Earth scientists and writers, early geologists only saw the GFE in the Book of Genesis and therefore assumed that most of geology had to fit within that catastrophic event. When it did not, they assumed the history of the Earth was much longer than had been traditionally taught. Other times of God's intervention, particularly during the cursed, pre-Flood world, were overlooked.

Even today the pre-Flood world is often pictured by some Young Earth writers as tranquil and not significant for geologic study. We must be careful to separate evolutionary and deep time thinking from the raw data. And, it is true that this can sometimes be difficult. However, if one stays true to the short Biblical chronology and allows for multiple times of divine intervention in the Earth's history, a basic understanding of local events can be attained using good geologic data. A better understanding of the pre-Flood world, particularly how plants and animals were placed in creation centers, helps explain the developing fossil patterns in each local geologic sequence.

18. So, the CCC geologic model avoids many of the early errors and yet uses valid geologic findings within the biblical framework?

Yes, that's the basis of the CCC Model. Like any geologic model, it's not complete and as new data becomes available, it will change in detail, but the fundamental premises remain. God is Creator. God made all things in six days, thousands, not billions, of years ago. God built the ability within life to change, but only within strict limits (min, or 'kinds'). God has intervened numerous times within Earth's history, particularly the world before the Flood. Geologic events are divinely controlled and ultimately used for man's benefit. The geologic record has meaning for us today for that very reason.

Further Reading:
For questions/comments contact Robert Gentet at contact@creationhistory.com