Trillions of “Artifacts”—Who’s Really Got the Problem?

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A recent posting at the Naturalis Historia website confidently claims that trillions of artifacts found in Africa and elsewhere prove that the young-earth creation view is ridiculous. The website’s author is Dr. Joel Duff, a biology professor at the University of Akron and a member of the Presbyterian Church of America. Speaking about himself, he says,

I am fascinated by God’s creation and am concerned that modern conservative evangelicals have increasing [sic] abandoned the study of natural revelation resulting in both a lack of appreciation for the “good” creation and the inability to assess the results of modern science.

This is a misleading and ad hominem statement. There are literally thousands of conservative evangelicals in the world today with a Masters or PhD degree in science who hold to young-earth creation (such as scientists at Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Research Society and many other organizations all over the world, including the archeologists at the Associates for Biblical Research). And the number of such evangelical scientists has been increasing, not decreasing, over the past fifty years, much to the consternation of evolutionists. These creation scientists have not abandoned the study of nature.1 Many of them are involved in technical research and they don’t lack the ability to assess the results of modern science. They do appreciate and enjoy God’s creation, which is in one sense “good” because it bears the marks of His brilliant and omnipotent creative handiwork. But they also know that it is not the “very good” creation of Genesis 1 because it has been suffering in bondage to corruption (Romans 8:19–232) ever since God cursed the creation when Adam sinned (Genesis 3:14–19 and 5:29) and which will be removed only when Jesus Christ returns to make a new heavens and earth (Acts 3:21; Revelation 22:3). That’s a major reason why these creation scientists reject the evolutionary story of millions of years.

In Dr. Duff’s article about trillions of “artifacts,” after doing his calculations based on a young-earth creationist timescale of 6,000 years, he confidently says,

The sheer abundance of stone tools in Africa is one of most devastating pieces of evidence against the young-earth hypothesis that I have encountered. Until I started looking at reports of stone artifacts in Africa I had no idea that stone tools were so ubiquitous. We see them in museums and tend to think they are very rare.

Young Earth Creationists believe that the [sic] their interpretation of the Bible provides the best way to understand observations from geology, biology, astronomy and anthropology. However, these stone artifacts provide yet another example of where the YEC model for interpreting what we observe in the world around [sic] has provided a woefully inadequate explanatory framework. No doubt, trillions of artifacts raises [sic] difficult questions for all Christians as they seek to understand the anthropological message in scriptures. Young earth creationism seeks to provide a safe haven for escaping those questions but the safety it seeks for its followers is only an illusion which is why so many are apt to become disillusioned over time when they are confronted with the overwhelming evidence of their failed paradigm.

But notice his hand-waving claim (devoid of any calculations) that the evidence fits perfectly with evolutionary theory:

Modern science has determined that the Stone Age lasted as long as 2 million years. Assuming relatively small populations during that time span, this is about the time needed to produce the quantity of artifacts that we observe and estimate today.

Recalculating! Recalculating!

But let’s take a closer look, using his numbers to see what conclusions we can draw about the evolutionary scenario he so enthusiastically endorses as proven scientific fact. He says there is an estimated 15–150 trillion (yes, trillion) artifacts (allegedly, stone hand axes, scrapers, arrowheads, and so on) scattered across Africa and many billions or trillions more on the other continents. But he says the estimate of 15–150 trillion for the whole earth is conservative, so we will go with those numbers.

So let’s take the figure of 150,000,000,000,000 of these artifacts in the whole world. He says, “Modern science has determined that the Stone Age lasted as long as 2 million years.” Well, let’s stop and correct that statement. Modern science doesn’t determine anything. It is scientists who estimate this duration of the “Stone Age,” based on their (naturalistic=atheistic, uniformitarian) assumptions about process rates in the past (such as the rate of radiometric decay). But it is not all scientists who determine this estimate. It is not even most evolutionists who determine this (for the simple fact that most scientists are not even scientifically qualified to make such a determination to this historical question). It is only the majority of anthropologists (who are controlled by the anti-biblical, naturalistic paradigm) who make this estimate. The rest of the evolutionary scientists in other scientific disciplines (including Dr. Duff, a professor of biology) take the pronouncements of the anthropological majority by faith.

Let’s use Dr. Duff’s figures to see how his calculations add up with evolutionary timescales. Let’s assume for the moment that there really are 150 trillion stone artifacts in the world. This is a conservative number, he says, given that this is the high estimate just for Africa. The “Stone Age” lasted 2 million years, evolutionists say. Dr. Duff says we can safely consider that a generation was 25 years and the average population per generation was 100,000 individuals. From this we can calculate that during the “Stone Age” there would be 80,000 generations (2,000,000 years multiplied by 1 generation/25 years). That means that 8,000,000,000 individuals lived during the “Stone Age” (80,000 generations x 100,000 individuals/generation).

If those 8,000,000,000 individuals made 150,000,000,000,000 artifacts, then during their lifetime, each individual made 18,750 artifacts!

If each individual lived 50 years,3 then each individual made 375 artifacts each year of his or her entire life. That is over 1 per day each day of each individual’s life over the course of 2,000,000 years! Besides the time to grow up and learn how to make tools, hunt and prepare and eat food, make clothes, travel, fight or flee in war, relax with the family, and besides the time when an individual was too young or too sick or too old to make artifacts, these individuals would also have to collect source rock and the tool would need to become useless and be discarded all over the whole continent of Africa and every other continent. Such reasoning is absurd. We could also ask where are the bones and graves of those 8 billion people? Why do we find so few human remains? Surely we should find many, many more than we do.

Even if we took the even more conservative figure of 15 trillion artifacts in the whole world (not just in Africa), we would have to imagine that every person who ever lived over two million years made 37.5 stone tools each year his whole life regardless of his age or health and life circumstances. What would be the point of everyone making all these tools? Stone tools to cut animals and plants surely would not wear out so fast as to necessitate this rate of production. Is this rate of tool-making even remotely believable? The absurdity here is the number of artifacts, not so much the number of people or years to produce them.

Are They Really Man-Made Artifacts?

But what if these rocks are not man-made objects? One person commenting on Dr. Duff’s article asked an important question: “How sure are we that the artifacts are not of some kind of natural origin?”

Dr. Duff replied,

Good question. There are many many studies that have been done in which scientists have recreated the actions of producing stone tools so they could study the lithic artifacts created by the process. These studies tell us about the types of percussion marks produced on rocks from directed strikes versus random strikes. There is of course a possibility that a rock rolling down a hill may strike another rock just right and produce a chip that could be interpreted as having come from intentional manufacturing process but even this I am sure has been tested. In these studies where lithics/artifacts are counted, they are using a conservative approach and counting only rocks that have been clearly manipulated intentionally. As I said in the article, these numbers here are probably underestimates of processed rock rather than overestimates.

But take a look at the pictures here from Dr. Duff’s article!4

Dr. Duff’s Photos
Dr. Duff’s Photos

These are not “stone-age” artifacts scattered rather evenly over hundreds of thousands of square miles of the surface of Africa (in the Sahara Desert of Libya). Notice that the sharp, angular, rocks, some of which could be interpreted as “tools,” are scattered among rounded stones of various sizes. But since they are on the surface and not in a sealed archaeological context with historically datable material (pottery, inscription context, architecture), there is no good reason to think they are truly artifacts and it is impossible to say how old they are. They are determined to be “stone-age” because of evolutionary assumptions about what “stone-age” tools looked like. As AiG geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling commented to me after seeing the pictures and reading the article, these are mainly gravels transported and deposited by moving water. In the process they were rounded or shattered to varying degrees. Keep in mind that these rocks are the basis for the evolutionists’ estimates of stone tools around the world to be in the trillions! Note also that the photo shows how the estimate was derived: by studying a few hundred square-meter areas and then extrapolating from those observations to draw conclusions about the whole continent. Dr. Snelling added, “Such ‘artifacts’ are not found all across Africa, as there is much of Africa that isn’t desert. And they are not seen anywhere across the USA that I am aware of, or in Australia.” Without a doubt the number of these “artifacts” is far less than the trillions claimed by these evolutionists for Africa, to say nothing of the rest of the continents.5 In any case, they are not all artifacts (“stone-age” tools) scattered over this vast area. In fact, it is highly questionable if any but a few of them are. Why would these primitive “ape-men” distribute their millions of discarded tools so evenly over such a vast area?

But these stones are not a huge problem for young-earth creationists. With warmer ocean waters and volcanic dust and aerosols in the atmosphere at the end of the Flood of Noah’s day about 4,500 years ago conditions were ripe to produce massive snowfall in the higher latitudes (building up the extensive glaciers of the Ice Age) and extremely heavy rainfall in the lower latitudes. So in the couple of centuries of the post-Flood, Ice-Age period6 there would still be residual catastrophism on local or region scale greater than we generally see today.7 The extremely heavy rainfall in lower latitudes would have resulted in massive sheet runoff and erosion from hills so that large sheets of loose sediments spread out onto lower-lying flat areas. This is very evident in the western USA. In now desert areas the intense winds then remove much of the smaller sand particles from these outwash deposits, leaving behind the larger pebbles and cobbles scattered across the desert floor like litter. Some of the pebbles and cobbles would have been rounded while others would have been chipped and flaked by the agitation in those debris flows. Thus these extensive deposits of pebbles and cobbles of various sizes and shapes are not the work of “stone-age” people over millions of years of tool-making but are better explained by the work of catastrophic natural processes in a very short time.

Dr. Duff says,

Young earth creationism seeks to provide a safe haven for escaping those questions but the safety it seeks for its followers is only an illusion which is why so many are apt to become disillusioned over time when they are confronted with the overwhelming evidence of their failed paradigm.

Informed young-earth creationists, however, are not seeking “to provide a safe haven for escaping those questions” about human origins. We rather use critical thinking to expose the false claims of the evolutionists and then show that real science (not atheistic and imaginative artistic interpretations of the fossil evidence masquerading as scientific fact) confirms what Genesis so clearly teaches. See for example my DVD lecture Ape-men: the Grand Illusion and Dr. David Menton’s DVD lecture Three Ways to Make an Ape Man.

Young-earth creationism is clearly taught in God’s inspired, inerrant Word, the Bible. Christians need to believe God rather than trusting the arrogant claims of the scientific majority who knowingly or unknowingly are looking at the world through the distorting lenses of “evolutionized glasses” and thereby grossly misinterpreting the evidence to come up with their “just so” stories. Christians need to put on “biblical glasses” as they seek to understand the history and origin of what we see in the world.8

The evolution story (rooted in the religion of naturalism, aka atheism) has a way of making otherwise intelligent people think like this. Non-Christian evolutionists seek to use science to provide what they think is a safe haven for escaping the moral and spiritual demands of the Creator. They are simply suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–20) and will not escape judgment apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16–19). Sadly, many professing Christians, like Dr. Duff, are deceived and are promoting the false evolutionist stories as fact in the church, thereby undermining the clear truth and authority of God’s Word. But Jesus said that if we abide in His Word, we will know that truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31–32). Believing Genesis will certainly set Christians free from the evolutionary deceptions of man. Dr. Duff needs to believe God’s inerrant Word, an eyewitness to all events in history, not the fallible and erroneous words of men who imagine events over millions of years that no human observed.

Answers in Depth

2015 Volume 10


  1. Dr. Duff’s reference to “natural revelation” is misleading. Theologians speak of “general revelation” to describe the witness that the physical creation gives to the existence and nature of the Creator. Scripture teaches that creation infallibly bears testimony of the Creator so that men are “without excuse” for their rebellion, unbelief and idolatry (Romans 1:18–20). No Scripture teaches that scientific study of the creation divorced from God’s written revelation in the Bible can lead to a correct understanding of the origin and history of the creation. See chapter 4 in Coming to Grips with Genesis.
  2. On this critically relevant passage, see
  3. The lifespan of chimps, gorillas, gibbons, orangutans is about 40–50 years: With disease, death by animal attacks, and wars among ape-men, their life-span likely never exceeded 50 years and often could have been much less. According to the World Health Organization in 2012, six countries today have life expectancies of 50 years or less:
  4. See also the photos and their misleading captions in this report on the same evolutionist research:
  5. Similar erroneous reasoning can be seen from the pictures and text in Dr. Duff’s previous article.
  6. See Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews, “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?,” Answers in Genesis, April 1, 2013,
  7. See Lawrence Ford, “F.A.S.T. and Furious,” Answers in Genesis, August 25, 2008,; “Post-Flood World,” Answers in Genesis, August 25, 2008,; and John Whitmore, “Continuing Catastrophes,” Answers in Genesis, August 25, 2008,
  8. See Ken Ham, “What’s the Best ‘Proof’ of Creation?,” The New Answers Book 2 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008),


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