Let's take a moment to pay a solemn tribute to all the trees that needlessly died in the making of Harun Yahya's book, "The Skulls That Demolish Darwin", a lavishly illustrated volume filled with beautiful, glossy photos of unfortunately misidentified fossils and badly-crafted fake plaster skulls. Aiming for a target audience comprised of ignoramuses, the legally blind, and people who regularly fall for Nigerian scam artists , this tome showcases Yahya's utter desperation in his quest to "prove" a non-argument based on a strawman misunderstanding of evolution.
I first learned of this site while doing an image search for something else, and discovered this photo on a Harun Yahya site, criesofdarwinism.com, with a caption claiming, "This fossil tiger skull shows that tigers have been exactly the same for the last 80 million years, without undergoing any alterations" -- apparently an attempt to imply that mammals which existed in their present form for that long are evidence to disprove evolution.
Well, right off the bat my BS detector went off, because not only did the skull not look "80 million years old", but "80 million years ago" was during the Cretaceous era, when dinosaurs were the ruling fauna. According to the official literature, the earliest cat ancestors did not show up in the fossil record until approx. 25 million years ago. It is also unlikely that bones and teeth that were "80 million years old" would have been this well-preserved in terms of color and form.
Then I did a Google Image search on "fossil tiger skull" to see if there was anything else to compare it to. The only images for this search term turned up were from Yahya's creationist sites. So I Googled "tiger skull", and found some photos of those. Other images of animal skulls can be easily be found on various sites on the web, including Skulls Unlimited, Bone Clones, Valley Anatomical Preparation, University of Edinburgh Natural History Collection, and Will's Skull Site
This is the skull of a present day tiger. "Exactly the same"?? Hardly. The large eye orbits and smaller teeth of the skull on Yahya's page are those of a small felid, such as an Asiatic golden cat or a similar small wild felid.
The other skulls on the page all had the same odd "recent" look to them as well, even though the claim was that they were millions of years old and "unchanged". Plus, they simply did not look authentic -- why did they all seem to have a similar appearance, covered in the same colored dirt matrix, for instance? Why was there no space or separation between upper and lower jaws? Why didn't we see typical skull features such as sutures? Shouldn't someone even vaguely familiar with skulls notice something was amiss?
As it turns out, Yahya owns quite a few creationist "fossils" sites with similar photos and presentation. Do a Google Image search on the fossil of any particular mammal, and chances are, a Yahya site will be on the first page. Many of them can be found reproduced on his "Atlas of Creation" site as well (the infamous creationism book that used a stolen photo of a fishing lure to represent a real insect).
Yahya's claim is that the fossil skulls in the photos are of modern species which have remained "unchanged" from antiquity. His "evidence" is to juxtapose the photo of a skull (with an alleged date) with a photo of a living present-day animal.
...Now, if Yahya's claims were true about these being examples of species which were "unchanged" from antiquity, then one would expect the SKULLS of the present-day animals to match Yahya's fossil photos. One would expect to make the comparison between the "fossil" skull and the recent skull. But Yahya had disengenuously not made that comparison. So I went about the task of locating the modern skulls to compare for myself.
Looking more closely at these "fossils" on my 15" MacBook Pro (which has a screen resolution of 1400X900), I was noticing what appeared to be more like roughly carved plaster. Some of them appear to be made entirely of plaster (except for some embedded teeth), some showing the artist either too lazy or unskilled to carve the more intricate and nuanced details of a real skull. The notations on all these photographs are mine.
Anyone with a basic understanding of zoology or comparative anatomy knows that skulls have certain features such as sutures; foramina (holes where the blood vessels pass through); contours for where the muscles and ligaments attach; etc. Different species can be identified by certain skull shapes and structures as well as the shape, number and structure of the teeth. But whoever made these poorly attempted reconstructions apparently had no understanding of these important details.
This photo purported to be a "fossil snow leopard", but appeared to look more like a poorly-done plaster cast of a skull with embedded molar teeth that look more like those of a dog than a snow leopard. The surface texture appears to be that of a softer material such as plaster, and the contours of the cranium, instead of being rounded, are flat with what appear to be crude carving marks.
This photo claimed to be a "fossil zebra":
Whoever made these particular skulls didn't understand how to carve jawbones and left haphazard, telltale chisel and/or palette marks all over their creations, which I have pointed out with arrows.
And then we have this -- an alleged "98 million year old" turtle fossil... and turtles do go back to the dinosaur era, so it's not like a turtle fossil that old is any big surprise ... but I mean... come on, guys -- apparently they couldn't be bothered to remove the obvious mold seam line...
The credits attributed all of these as coming from China.
On a hunch, knowing that the Chinese will create and sell fakes of just about anything, I Googled "fake Chinese fossils" and came upon this (from a fossil dealer site with extensive photos of fakes and how to identify them):
Perhaps no other source for fake fossils has posed such a problem as exists today with fossils from China. We must preface this section to say the fake Chinese fossil market is becoming increasingly sophisticated and changing so rapidly that any fossil now originating in China should be approached with caution. This section deals with only the tip of a massive and growing "iceberg
The techniques are both ingenious and varied as to what the Chinese do to fabricate and substantially enhance fossils. Most Chinese fossils are made by a combination of these processes. These techniques include:
4) Blending three-dimensional skulls (even using modern skulls!) of different animals together with artificially added real teeth to create fake skulls of rare, impressive animals. (especially a problem with Saber Cat skulls) This has been done by adding genuine fossil teeth to modern skulls or attaching animal teeth to a composite of modern skulls such as pig, dog, horse, cat, etc. to create new exotic or rare species.
A FAKE SABER CAT SKULL made from a substantially modified dog skull but possibly a mix of multiple animals. Entire snout portion is roughly carved plaster with fake saber teeth and genuine carnassial teeth glued into the jaws after the original genuine teeth were removed.
Continuing my investigation, I Googled for a random native Chinese animal -- "leopard cat skull" -- and voila! The first entry was a Harun Yahya site -- this one fossil-museum.net (not to be confused with fossilmuseum.com)
Here I have juxtaposed Yahya's skull image with photos of living leopard cats (the bottom photo, one in a Chinese market).
We call a "leopard cat" a "leopard cat" because of its leopardlike spots. Otherwise, it is very much like other small felids, and is sometimes bred with domestic house cats. Assuming for the sake of argument this really is what they claim, how in bloody hell did they know this was a "leopard cat" fossil!?!?!? Were the spots preserved as well? This is why scientists identify their fossil finds with scientific names as opposed to modern-day terms. It would have been referred to as "Felis [somethingorother]" because attributes like spots and color are obviously things that aren't preserved in fossils.
Here is an alleged "fossil polar bear skull" from the same site. It looks more canine than ursine, and its zygomatic arch appears to have been badly reconstructed, suggesting either a forgery and/or prepared by an amateur:
...again, a canid-looking skull identified as a "bear skull". (Interestingly, Yahya's jpeg was named "catamount skull", which it is most definitely not.) Bears typically have a set of broad, closely spaced molars designed more for an omnivorous diet. This skull has a set of molars more typical of the dog family.
This skull alleged to be the fossil of a "spotted seal". The photo to the right is the skull of a modern spotted seal. Note the huge eye orbit, rounded cranium and thin zygomatic arch. "Unchanged", Mr. Yahya? ...Or is possible you're pretty all-around clueless on this subject?
The site just went on and on and on with these alleged "fossil skulls", which all had the same badly crafted look to them. Due to space limitations I am not going to post all of the examples of forgery/misidentifications here, but it seems his error rate is so high that it is easy to find examples even from picking pages at random (as I have done). Any reader can see for themselves and compare to modern skulls. Yahya claims he has "millions" of "fossils"... and probably a dozen websites or more with the same images and "information". Here are some more on Yahya's main site, harunyahya.com:
This one is claimed to be a "fossil hyena skull":
EBay Buyers Guide -- Chinese Fossils, Amber, Antiques and Coins
Warning: There are a lot of sellers of Chinese antiques, fossils, and coins (coins may be Chinese or antique US coins) on ebay.
If the seller is in China, the item is almost guaranteed to be fake. Basically all Chinese amber sold on ebay is fake; either plastic, or real amber (or copal) melted down in solvents and then cast in a mold around insects. They may even claim it is "baltic amber". Scorpions in amber are very rare, yet they're common on ebay. From china. They're all fake. [...]
There is a huge business in China of manufacturing fake antiques and fossils to be sold in the US on ebay.
Think those Chinese fossils look a bit strange? If you're lucky, they are a composite of real fossils. But more likely they are made out of modern bones glued or cemented onto a matrix rock of similar color, or a complete carved fabrication with some teeth glued on the front.
Note that it is illegal in China for anyone except The State to sell fossils from China. So at the very least, you're buying "stolen" goods that may be confiscated in Chinese customs. Unless it was made two weeks ago from animal bones, mud and cement, in which case it is perfectly legal.
Fake Hyena Skull
This fake fossil is probably based on a real dog (modern dog, Canis familiaris) skull or teeth.
MODERN MAMMAL SKULLS SOLD AS "FOSSILS"
There has been a disturbing occurrence in the fossil business with some fraudulent suppliers offering MODERN skulls of various living mammals such as bear, bobcat, coyote, beaver, raccoon, mink, muskrat and wolf, etc.. as being FOSSILS. These are usually made to look old as if they were found in river banks or springs and appear to look prehistoric. They are sold both loose and in artificially created matrix reconstructed to appear as though the skull is still partially embedded. The skulls are modern specimens available from various sources such as trappers and breeding farms. ... One bit of proof in their modern provenance is that if they truly were found in an ancient or prehistoric deposit, the TEETH would be darker than the white tone of modern skulls.
The men mailed 158 fossils to overseas buyers labelled as "stone carving molds" or "plaster art."
They were captured after customs officials at the Hangzhou airport, in eastern China, noticed eight bone-like articles in a parcel labeled "artifacts" and going to Turkey.
The "artifacts" turned out to be fossil fragments of Cenozoic Era mammals dating back 50 million years, Xinhua said, citing Jiang Min, an official with the anti-smuggling bureau of Hangzhou customs.
[...]One apprehended seller, surnamed Cui, said there was "quick money" to be made by smuggling fossils. A translator would post the information online after Cui purchased the fossils, then negotiate with foreign buyers, mostly in the United States, Britain and Turkey.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And then, there are the instances when he doesn't have a fossil to plaster over or misidentify -- he simply doctors a stolen photo of a fossil in an attempt to make it look like a present-day animal. It's apparent in this bat-fossil Photoshop job that he's optimistic his readers are too ignorant about animal morphology to notice that he has given the bat an extra pair of arms and legs...
Other photos show what appear to be legitimate skulls or fossils, but are misidentified. This alleged "rabbit fossil" appears repeatedly throughout his websites, but the details I have highlighted make it apparent that this is NOT a "rabbit fossil" at all. One of the defining characteristics of a rabbit is having just one pair of chisel-like incisors on its upper and lower jaw (with a smaller pair of incisors behind them). The fossil depicted on Yahya's site obviously has a row of incisors -- not just one pair.
The skull below is identified as a "lynx" (caracal) skull, but compared to the real caracal skull, its snout and jawbone looks much too long and thin to be that of a felid. The cat family is characterized by a streamlined, rounded, sort of helmet-shaped skull with a rather short snout. Yahya's strange example appears to be a combination of things, including a very clumsy attempt at reconstructing the zygomatic arch.
Elsewhere on the same site, Yahya also claims THIS very different looking skull is ALSO a "lion skull"!!!!!!! Apparently Yahya's extremely ignorant definition of an "unchanging" skull is simply that it has eye sockets, pointy teeth and vaguely looks like it might fit into whatever photographs he has on had.
1. Some of his examples appear to be molded or embellished with plaster, indicated by inaccurate modeling; filled-in looking areas that should be hollow; carving marks typical of chiseling into softer material; stucco marks typical of smoothing plaster on via palette knife; obscuring the separations of the upper and lower jawbones; and lack of clarity of details such as sutures and the typical contours found on authentic skulls.
2. As "Darwinsgift" pointed out in his video, the matrix (stone or clay) on too many of the examples look too similar, despite the claims of coming from different locations. Too many appear as if they were simply smeared with the same kind of clay or dirt and cleaned off a little, especially in the areas which might be more difficult to carve or forge, such as the area where the jawbone protrudes through the zygomatic arch, or the sinus areas.
3. Other examples appear to be real skulls and/or fossils, but are too often misidentified by Yahya as modern animals (or the wrong species, if an apparently modern skull was used). The sheer amount of errors and misidentifications suggest that Yahya is either making them up, or getting his information from a seller who is making them up due to ignorance or deliberate deception (so they can sell the fossil at a higher price).
4. Reports of forgeries from China that resemble these skulls add to their dubious nature. Certain locations in China do indeed contain rich deposits of fossils, inspiring forgers to create fakes that resemble the legitimate specimens in museums. There are also reports of stealing or smuggling fossils from legitimate dig sites to be sold on the black market. Since such dishonest people are doing this more for profit than for educational purposes, claims of age and identification can be dubious. It is also possible that some of the well-preserved mammalian skulls were excavated from caves (which would explain their well preserved quality), but because they superficially appeared to be found in older strata, an amateur without proper dating technology, which can be quite expensive, might assume they are older than they really are.
Another unfortunate possibility would be that the sellers doctored or embellished authentic fossils they found with plaster and dog teeth in order to make them appear like entire specimens and thus command a higher price, essentially vandalizing priceless artifacts of natural history. Seeing that some of the fossils appeared to be those of extinct species (not modern mammals as Yahya claimed), this would be especially unfortunate. Is Yahya actually trying to destroy or conceal the evidence for evolution by buying up fossils and then labeling them as modern animals? I know that sounds like a conspiracy theory, but Yahya *does* have a habit of projecting the very things he's guilty of...
Yahya loves to focus on the shopworn creationist sawhorses such as Piltdown Man and Archaeoraptor (the composite Chinese fossil that fooled National Geographic, etc.) Yet the examples of "fossil" skulls he claims are examples of "unchanged species" (of which he claims he has "millions") are obviously (and badly crafted) faked. On his site darwinismrefuted.com, Yahya writes:
I think my irony meter just exploded. What he was referring to was a letter written by Dr. Storrs Olson, of the Smithsonian Institute Natural History Museum, castigating National Geographic for jumping the gun on questionable fossils. Now, if "evolutionists" were all out to deceive the public with forgeries, they would not be castigating each other like this. The Smithsonian Institute is hardly the bastion of creationism, after all. They would not produce sites that educate people on how to identify fakes. They will readily admit when forgeries are discovered because, after all, everyone is susceptible to making mistakes. But they do admit when the mistakes are made. Thousands of fossils have been discovered, so there is going to be a margin for error.
What's even more ironic is that Yahya will: 1. probably never admit his "fossils" are frauds. At best he will attempt to locate a better-quality maker for his forgeries. At worst, his acolytes will mob this site in their typical way, deny the evidence and try to shift the focus on "evolutionists". and 2. not own up to his standard that if a hoax is used as evidence for an argument, then it invalidates the argument. In other words, if hoaxes and fakes are the measure of an argument's validity according to Yahya, then by his own standards, he just hoisted himself way up high on his own petard.
(All photos on this site are copyright their respective authors and are used here for the purpose of education, which fall under the category of "Fair Use".)