The Lady of Guadeloupe: a Miocene Homo sapiens?

Guadeloupe Woman
The skeleton of Guadeloupe Woman [Source]
Here’s an unusual case, from the letters page of the Daily Echo of Bournemouth (Dorset, UK). It’s got nothing to do with that Lady of Guadalupe or even this Lady of Guadalupe (different spelling and different places), which probably fall into the category Bad Relics (or, at least, Bad Art). No, this is to do with a skeleton discovered on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1812. Now, I don’t have the time to go trawling English provincial newspapers for stories about Bad Archaeology—although I have every reason to believe that they are a good source for them—much less their letter pages. Instead, I’m indebted to this post by The Sensuous Curmudgeon, a blogger who focuses “on the “evolution vs. creationism” controversy because that’s where the domestic enemies of freedom and reason are currently active”. He blogs with humour and insight, providing a commentary on the science deniers who dislike the idea of evolution, usually for their own sectarian religious purposes. The Curmudgeon draws attention to the letter of Mike Aston (no, not the late archaeologist Mick Aston, known to millions thanks to the television programme Time Team). He says that “[b]ecause today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name”, but I am perfectly happy to name and shame. The Curmudgeon is undoubtedly a gentleman: does my willingness to provide the writer’s name make me a bad person? It’s a matter of public record, so I would guess not. Here’s the text of the letter in full, just in case it disappears from the Daily Echo’s website, as letters often do after a few months):

Evolution is just a theory

First published Saturday 4 April 2015 in Letters to the Editor THE media is full of evolutionary talk these days. It is taught in schools as fact, when the truth is it is still only a theory, it is not fact. Professor Fred Hoyle, the former astronomer royal, said “the odds of life having spontaneously formed on earth are the same as for a whirlwind blowing through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 ready for take off”. The fact is there are big holes in the evolutionary theory and intelligent design is a much more likely solution. In 1812 a well documented woman’s skeleton was discovered buried in a massive sandstone block over a mile in length on the island of Guadeloupe. Known as Guadeloupe Woman she was 5ft 2 inches tall with head and feet missing. The rock was dated at 28million years old, 25million years before we were supposed to be here. You will find little reference to this in evolutionary texts. She was quietly moved to the basement of the British Museum after the publication of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and I believe she is still there. Perhaps she should be returned to a place where the public can view her again? It would certainly start a debate. MIKE ASTON Beatty Road, Bournemouth

My usual reaction to this sort of thing is to think that it’s not even wrong, to use Wolfgang Pauli’s phrase (nicht einmal falsch in the original German) to describe a poorly written paper. But it provides material for me to write about and is an egregious example of the stupidity of science deniers. I had not heard of it until yesterday (or, if I had, it had made no impression on me) and it isn’t referred to in most of the usual books on “ancient mysteries”. It isn’t even in Cremo and Thompson’s vast compendium of discredited fossils, Forbidden Archeology. So, let’s start by looking at the claim.

Guadelopue Woman discovered

Sir Alexander Cochrane
Sir Alexander Cochrane (1758-1832), by Robert Field © National Galleries of Scotland [Source]
What is known about the discovery of the skeleton in 1812? We know from records of the British Museum that Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane (1758-1832), Governor of Guadeloupe from January 1810 to 1814, presented it to the Museum in 1813. The date of 1812 is when Cochrane became aware of the skeleton, which was among a number of objects taken as booty when the English navy captured the island from the French. It was in a block of stone that was being prepared for transport to France, to be examined by the naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). A bed of rock, more than a mile (1.6 km) long, close to Le Moule on the north-eastern coast of Guadeloupe was the source of numerous skeletons, of which this was just one. Cochrane had it sent to England, where it was examined at the British Museum by Karl (Charles) König (1774–1851), Keeper of the Natural History collections from 1813. König presented a paper to the Royal Society in 1814, announcing that the skeleton was evidently not a fossil. He was puzzled by it and found it impossible to assign it an age, as “our geological knowledge of Guadeloupe is yet too imperfect to assist in determining this question”. Nevertheless, he demonstrated that the bones were embedded not in solid rock but in a concretion of calcareous sand, noting that “[i]t may be of very recent formation”. Fossil humans were big news at the time. Cuvier long insisted that no fossilised human remains had been discovered, although he changed his mind towards the end of his life, after indisputably petrified hominid bone was found. Nevertheless, he opposed evolutionary theories that were then being formulated, preferring instead to believe in extinction through catastrophes. Others thought it merely a matter of time until the fossilised remains of early humans were found. A Neanderthal skull found in Gibraltar in 1848 was not at first recognised as a fossil hominid. It was not until miners at the Feldhofer Grotto in the Neander valley found a skeleton in 1857 that the first extinct hominid species was described. The Guadeloupe skeleton became part of the permanent collections of the Natural History Museum when it was founded in 1881, accessioned as M 16820. Many creationist websites fail to recognise that this is not the same institution as the British Museum. It remained on display from 1882 to 1967, when it was transferred to a store. In 2006 it was reaccessioned with the number PA HR 4128. Unfortunately, it does not currently appear on the Museum’s online database. There is nothing suspicious about this: the Museum holds a very large number number of objects and many of the more obscure items have not yet been added.

Guadeluope Woman and creationists

König recognised the skeleton as that of a modern woman, which has given creationists great delight. Although I was unaware of its existence until yesterday, there are plenty of websites that mention it (Google tells me that there are “[a]bout 1,690 results” today). That makes my heart sink. Partly at discovering that there is just so much stupidity out there and partly at thinking how much research I have got to do to examine the claims. Fortunately, though, it’s not that bad. Most of these results are simply copy-and-paste jobs, mostly on creationist sites but also, hearteningly, on debunking sites. Few, though, seem to have done any real research, preferring to parrot each other. There are a few exceptions, including in Google Books. The principal claim is that this is the skeleton of a Homo sapiens of fully modern type, embedded in a very ancient sandstone. Creationists seem to have started to use Guadloupe Woman as evidence for their twisted beliefs as a result of a publication by Bill Cooper in Creation Ex Nihilo 3 (3), pp 6-9. Its title, Human fossils from Noah’s Flood, gives us a clue about the slant he chose to take. As we’ve already seen, the skeleton is not fossilised, a fact that has been known since 1814. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of Cooper’s paper and it is not archived anywhere on the web, so I am dependent on secondary reports of what it claims. It is possible that this site contains the original text, but without sight of the original publication, I have not been able to verify this.

Location of Guadeloupe Woman
A location map for the findspot of Guadelope Woman, adapted from Bill Cooper [Source]
Cooper is the source of the claim that the skeleton was discovered in 1812, which isn’t quite right. However, this means that anyone using this date ultimately depends on his paper: König does not mention a date for the find, but it must be earlier than the English capture of Guadeloupe in 1810. That is not a major problem, but it does suggest that Cooper failed to undertake proper research into the circumstances of the discovery. Cooper then claims that the skeleton was embedded in a Lower Miocene deposit conventionally dated 25 million years old. Now, the Miocene is currently dated 23,030,000 to 5,333,000 years ago, but what’s two million years to a creationist who believes the universe to be under 10,000 years old? His point is to ridicule “evolutionary timescales”. König stated in 1814 that he could not ascertain whether the “rock” in which the skeleton was embedded was of recent formation or ancient. So how did Bill Cooper decide that it was a Lower Miocene deposit? For one thing, he claims that its matrix is limestone, whereas König had said that it was a concretion of calcareous sand: these are not the same thing! A map of the findspot (helpfully labelled Figure 1 Fossil Site Location & Profile) appears to be from Cooper’s original publication; I have cleaned up the version posted on this website. Notice how the strata are labelled MIOCENE?? This suggests to me that there is some doubt about their date. Even allowing for the bedrock being of this date, there is no evidence that the concretion containing Guadeloupe Woman was Miocene: the “5 in thick “flagstones”” shown in the profile give us an important clue to the identity of the deposit. It is beachrock, a material that forms in the inter-tidal zone and characteristically cracks into slab-like formations. This is the material that makes up the Bimini “road”, a natural formation that has been falsely claimed as artificial and evidence for Atlantis. Also, notice that there is a cemetery (Clerc’s sandy graveyard) above the high water mark. This is a cemetery excavated by the archaeologist Edgar Clerc (1915-1982), founder of the Musée Edgar Clerc. The cemetery dates from the period after Columbus’s voyages to the Caribbean at the end of the fifteenth century and is dated by artefacts and a dog skeleton associated with the bodies. The graves are cut into a sandy deposit, which is clearly the source of the beachrock in which Guadeloupe Woman was embedded. Thus, we can dispose of a Miocene date for the “rock” and for the skeleton. Never mind. Bill Cooper goes on to claim that “[e]arly in the nineteenth century, it was displayed to the public as a curiosity, being the only example of a fossil man embedded in a limestone mass”. That may indeed be the case. However, he went on to allege a dark conspiracy by wicked “evolutionists”: “when Darwinism gained a foothold in academic circles, the specimen was quietly removed from public display”. This is the source of Mike Aston’s claim that “[s]he was quietly moved to the basement of the British Museum after the publication of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution”. Cooper visited the Natural History Museum in the early 1980s and was “given to understand, in fact, that [he] was the first member of the public to set eyes on it since the early 1930s”. We have already seen that the skeleton remained on display until 1967. Innuendo about deceitful scientists is a common ploy used by dishonest creationists.

Lessons to be learned from Guadeloupe Woman

One of the first lessons is that creationists will continue to reproduce bad data long after they have been debunked. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum produced a direct rebuttal of Cooper’s claims that was given out to enquirers following the publication of the paper in Creation Ex Nihilo in 1983. He eventually had it published in that journal. This did not stop Bill Cooper from using Guadeloupe Woman as the basis for a public lecture he gave as part of the Creation Science Movement, “the oldest creationist movement in the world”. A visit to the Natural History Museum by the rival creationist Biblical Creation Society soon after this lecture convinced its members that the skeleton is not good evidence for their sectarian interpretation of the geological column. Even hardline creationists state that other creationists should not use discredited arguments. There is no excuse for Mike Aston to bring up Guadeloupe Woman, who was debunked more than 30 years ago.

Tornado in a junkyard
A very silly and completely wrong analogy [Source]
Mike Aston’s letter also shows the use of false analogy, using Fred Hoyle’s (1915-2001) discredited tornado in a junkyard. Although he originally used it as an argument against abiogensis in his argument for panspermia, it has been taken up eagerly by creationists who fail to understand the cumulative nature of biological evolution. It is one of those utterly worthless arguments that shows up creationists’ lack of knowledge of how evolution works. Incidentally, Fred Hoyle never was Astronomer Royal. Mr Aston also indulges in the equally daft idea that evolution ”is still only a theory”, a failure to understand the nature of scientific theories. Wikipedia usefully defines a scientific theory as “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world”. This is not the same as the popular use of the word theory to mean “guess”, which is what Mr Aston wrongly believes Theory of Evolution to mean. This is yet another of those arguments creationists advise each other not to use. Evolution is an observable fact, although creationists don’t like to admit it. The theory is a scientific explanation about how it occurs. There is no real debate among biologists that evolution occurs, nor that Charles Darwin’s hypothesis of natural selection working on random mutations over millennia is the most convincing explanation so far put forward. While there are arguments about specific details, the overarching theory is one of the most robust in all of science.

Guadeloupe Woman: conclusions

The skeleton of Guadeloupe Woman is of relatively recent date. This is adequately shown by the context of her findspot. For anyone to claim that she is a representative of human beings alive in the Miocene is to ignore rebuttals of the claim that have been in the public domain for more than 30 years. When someone like Mike Aston writes letters of this sort to local newspapers, they always turn out to be ill informed. Mr Aston is perhaps hoping to stir up a controversy. This is made evident by his otherwise irrelevant mention of intelligent design. This is a nonsensical, politically motivated attempt to have creationism taught in schools in the USA after the failure of “Scientific Creationsim”. It is all part of a wider “War on Science” by religious believers who are frightened by the way that centuries of discovery and refinement of knowledge is eating away at their cherished beliefs. Archaeology is only a small part of their problems, but their denial of science impacts every area of human learning.

Footnote: The Creation Science Movement

The Creation Science Movement was founded in 1932 and started out as The Evolution Protest Movement. Based in Portsmouth (Hants, UK), it continues to claim that “society witnesses to the effect of atheistic humanism which belief in the theory of evolution has brought–fragmented family units, abortion, child abuse etc.”. It runs its own exhibition in the former National Provincial Bank at The Hard in Portsmouth, called Genesis Expo (warning: Boris the Tyrannosaurus rex is terrifying, apparently the bastard offspring of Jurassic Park’s T Rex and Barney). I wonder if Mike Aston is a member of the group?


    1. Yeah I want Google monitoring science. Sounds greaaaaat! Im sure they have plenty of anthropologists, paleontologists, astrophysiscists, astronomers, Drs of medicine….. GET OUT OF HERE. Theres so muchtat needs to be rewritten and the old ancient scientists with the books they studied from ww2 era is what theyve been teaching, and them students been teaching that, , if they would just stop the BS and study the artifacts, we wouldnt have to wait generations for governments to tell us the truth. I cant believe I once sounded like the science brainwashed few, who portray the scientific theories we go on, as if its all fact, when we just now are putting out our 1st attempt at getting it right. And to them we did. “No alterations neccessary” with my pipe at a table speaking with a british accent. Theres so much that scientists blow off ad then WHAT DO YA KNOW a few decades later PROOF Look at all the proof we have for Dark Energy, and Dark Matter, (zero), look at ALL THE DEBUNKING the government has spent on making sure unidentied flying objects dont get out, all over the planet, before the 1900s, back throughout over 15,000 years, all


  1. Come now, clearly man and dinosaur co existed. All the most eminent scientists say so, men like the world respected Dr Ken Hovind and his esteemed friend the noble prize winning Dr Ken Ham.
    Was it not Dr Ham who writing in the pages of Nature proved that T-Rex only used its teeth for opening coconuts in the garden of eden. Was it not Dr Hovind who through his work at the Max Planck institute proved how eve saddled her velocirapter for her berry picking trips.
    And as for medical breakthroughs, we all know that John Snow helped stop a cholera epidemic by wishing really hard while holding a collection of bronze and iron age science books.
    And yet you have the gall to mock creationism, well I hope you are never rushed to hospital. You would not be able to look the trauma surgeon in the eye as he stands back really,really wishes hard that you get better.


  2. Wow, you showed that guy. How dare he write a letter to a provincial newspaper that questions your ideology. Another great victory for the forces of freedom and truth in the struggle against darkness. Maybe next time you can use your privileged education and superior writing ability to pummel and bully a small child who writes a letter to Santa Claus.

    You want to talk science? Here’s some science for you. The eccentric beliefs of people with a mild touch of schizotypal personality disorder are largely harmless. Equally harmless is the common defense mechanism of sublimation.

    You and other self-professed skeptics and debunkers are sublimating your own insecurities about your intellectual inferiority vis a vis genuine scientists making actual, creative discoveries by bludgeoning less educated, rational people with your “skepticism” and “rationality.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1) Difference is, this Aston person is presumably NOT a small child. That’s a rather important point.

      2) The letter veers off into support for Intelligent Design, which as the links in the article show is far from harmless, being a well funded and insidious campaign to insert lies into the education system, to be taught as fact or viable theory.

      3) For all your defence of Aston, your own ascription of his ignorance to mental illness is pretty damn condescending to both him AND actually mentally ill people. Stop being an ableist jackass.


  3. Sure, this article is almost four years old, but I just discovered your site and I certainly appreciate your take downs. Also, it looks like PBS Kids has co-opted Boris the Tyrannosaurus, which is kind of funny. I’m willing to bet Genesis Expo and PBS don’t see eye to eye on, well, pretty much anything.


  4. You couldnt even come up with an original title. This has nothing to do with creationism, the specimen was found where it was found, and dated a date you dont like, so lets put it in the basement. How about letting modern science have a shot at it, nooooo that might throw a wrench in your precious BS


      1. THEY PUT IT IN THE BASEMENT, and you write for a “thing” called bad archaeology. I accuse you of putting foward a column that should be studied,a,d should have been studied for the past 170 years. I am no creationist, I believe in evolution, but why would they put this possible,and almost SURELY world changing articact and THOUSANDS OF OTHERS THAT WE KNOW ABOUT AND DONT KNOW ABOUT, to keep the history nice and tidy. To not have to rewrite EVERYTHING. You write for a page I would have wrote for, for 35 years, until I started to stop dismissing thingscout of hand.. Like Heuatlaco. OrThe Nampa Figurine. Or the Russian find of nanotechnology thats hundreds of thousands years old, You men to tell me that, they walked out of Africa and knew how to make nano molybdinum and tungsten technology. Maybe you should take a look around because theres a lot that evidence, I canname hundreds off the top of my heard. Read the 1800 New York Times articles about archeaology, theres dozens maybe hundreds, of dig in mounds of Indians, the Smitthsonian shows up takes over the dig, and the Giant skeletons that was printed, and taken photos of, were always taken to the Smithsonian, Go ask if you can see one. If anything, you print Bad archaeology, when in many cases, its your article that, if you dug deeper, rather than just putting out enough for an article, maybe your life would be a little more interesting.The only bad archaeology is the fact that this skeleton has been hidden in for almost 200 years in the British Museum Basement. Thats ad archaeology. Andto further the work of Darwin.Im sure he himself seen the skeleton, If he did helooked the other way, being a scientific theoy he wasworking on,it all goes down the drain and if he didnt, see it, he SHOULD HAVE BEEN FORCED TO SEE IT BECAUSE THERE IS A PROBLEM. And it needs an answe. If you dont have an answer you need to do more work, and it has nothing to do with vreationism


        1. Well, you’ve either not read the article (from which you’d have learnt that the skeleton isn’t in the British Museum, ‘basement’ or otherwise) or you have comprehension issues. And why bring Darwin into it? He wasn’t realy interested in skeletons. He preferred to observe the living world. It’s also not an artefact. Look up the definition of artefact: it’s something made, not the remains of something that was once alive.


  5. Forget Creationism. Account for a human fossil being that old, and artifacts being found even older. So much evidence brushed under the rug. As a book worm science nerd my whole life reading my books and doing my homework, Now Ive lost trust in science from that fact that this skeleton, and thousands of artifacts like this end up in the basement rather than put it on display. This is ONE ARTIFACT. I could sit here until Christmas naming others that were hidden, stopped the dig because dates came back too old, Im tired of scientists not having the nerve to step up to the plate and go to bat for the truth. No, they write some BS article and use creationism as an argument in favor of the side of science even though IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FOSSIL AND WHAT IT MEANS IN THE LONG RUN TO SCIENCE. Bad Archaeology is a great name for the site.


  6. So this woman fossilized in just a few hundred years, teGuadaloupe Woman, is not listed, it hasnt been shown in 200 years and this guy says theres nothing suspiious, yet they have ridiculous SHIT in there but leave out the thing that would change history. GIVE ME A F’ING BREAK.This fossil was at most a few hundred years , but possibly 15,00 when humans got here…..15,000 years, oh wait, possibly…., 20,000 years, oh wait,…… 25,000 years, oh wait 30,000…. years BUT OF|H WAIT, IF YOU LISTEN TO THE ARHAEOLOGICAL TEAM CALLED ON TO DATE ANOTHER ARTFACT MADE BY HUMANS, AND A PICTURE OF AN ELEPHANT LIKE CREATURE, it was dated like a dozen times with 4 different dating methods, Fission track dating, barbon 14 dating, uraniam-thorium dating, dendochronology,lead-lead dating , is that where we are now. You and the rest of the morons who stick to the 1st scientists making their 1st attempt at getting it right, GOT IT COMPLETELY CORRECT. Sumeria, the 1st real civilization. Noone was ther before them, they were cave men. Ohh Gobekli Tepe. Sumerians tell and print the 1st fact, as well as their stories as we do, here was no sci fi back then. They depicted giants, not 20 foot tall, just 8-10 feet tall. Some a bigger. We accept Home Florensiensis, yet god forbid we even think the thought there were ppl bigger. The New scientists will find more, then the next generation, then the next, and by the time of the 1st millenium, our scientists will be looked at as people who could get some things right, (chemistry, Computers, biology, and get the history of our own speies so wrong when its screaming at us, LOOK IM RIGHT HERE! JUST OPEN THE DRAWER, LOOK STUDY ME, STOP IGNORING ALL THESE FACT just to appease academia. Who you are appeasing because they were taught this shit, back in the 1910s, 1920s, ’30s’s 40s and 50s. When the goernment controlled what we knew. UFOS, You are a quak. Kelly Johnson creator of our stralth planes with 2 other witnessed in airplanes t


  7. if, indeed the guadeloupe woman is not a 28 million year old fossil, i see no problem in allowing it to be put through the very best of modern tests to finally find out what she is and maybe how she found herself in a relatively modern and extremely large slab of concrete?


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