Malcolm Bowden and ER 3733

Here is what creationist Malcolm Bowden has to say about the Homo erectus skull ER 3733:
The Homo erectus skull

We will briefly digress to consider this skull - No. 3733 - (Fig. 57) which was also given considerable publicity. It was found in 1975 in many pieces. Following its reconstruction Leakey said, 'In all its features the cranium is strikingly like that of H. erectus from Pekin' (Leakey 1976). It was found in strata dated 1.3 to 1.6 million years and Leakey said it was about 1.5 million years old.

On the problem of what angle the face-bones should be (which we have met regarding 1470 man, p201), he says:

The facial skeleton is flexed under the calvaria and in the preliminary reconstruction is set at about the same angle as that reconstructed for a female H. erectus by Weidenreich. (Leakey 1976)
Here indeed is a classic example of much supposition being eventually accepted as a fact. As we have shown on p116, Weidenreich's reconstruction of Nellie [the nickname of the reconstructed skull] was from a number of broken pieces of apes skulls from widely different parts of the Pekin site. So despite the grave, scientific aura with which he tries to invest his reconstruction, it is clearly piecemeal and arbitrary. Leakey, seeing that his skull was similar to Weidenreich's, set the face-bones at the same angle.

[There is more in this section, but none of it discusses ER 3733]

It is difficult to tell from this whether Bowden is claiming ER 3373 is a human or an ape. Most people would probably accept that it looks quite human, despite the massive brow ridges and small brain size. But Bowden seems to accept the judgement that it is very similar to the Peking Man skulls (which he considers apes), although the brain size is smaller than any of them.

Bowden's concern about the angle of the facial bones indicates that he may think ER 3733 is an ape which has been incorrectly reconstructed to make it look more human than it really is. In the case of ER 1470, the facial bones attach to the rest of the skull at only one point, and there is some uncertainty about the angle of the facial bones. But ER 3733 is much more complete, and there is little room for adjustment in the angle of the face. We have, therefore, a skull with a human face, attached to a braincase that Bowden thinks belongs to an ape.

March 18, 1998: In email, Bowden confirmed to me that he thinks ER 3733 is human. That does not explain, however, how this can be reconciled with his belief that the similar but larger Peking Man and Java Man skulls are apes.


Bowden M.: Ape-men: fact or fallacy? Bromley,Kent:Sovereign, 1981. Ed. 2

Leakey R.E. and Walker A.C.: Australopithecus, Homo erectus and the single species hypothesis. Nature 261:572-574, 1976. (discusses the significance of the KNM-ER 406 and KNM-ER 3733 fossils)

Creationist arguments about Homo erectus

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