Science in Christian Perspective




Seeking Ancient Paths

John R. Armstrong

B I, 4515 Varsity Drive N.W.
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T3A OZ8

From: PSCF 41 (March 1989): 33-35.

An American Association of Petroleum Geologists convention at Dallas offered my first chance to visit the famous dinosaur trackways and some alleged human footprints near Glen Rose, Texas on April 21, 1983. That month's ASA Newsletter led to a sparkling correspondence with Ronnie Hastings of Waxahachie. He and Glen Kuban invited me back in 1987 for a full two weeks in the Paluxy River valley. Beginning on August 21, our expedition covered the surviving documented sites along with some which had never been reported, local museums, and available sources of information. We investigated rumors of anomalous fossils, examined myriad clues to the ancient setting, and allowed the evidence to shape our conclusions.

The best "mantrack trails" already had been studied and shown to be plantigrade (metatarsal) trackways of bipedal dinosaurs, especially at McFall, Taylor and West sites (Godfrey and Cole, 1986; Hastings, 1985, 1986, 1987a&b, 1988; Kuban 1986a&b, 1987a&b ' 1988). Supposed footprints on the Dinosaur Valley State Park ledge or shelf, including "eroded brontosaur...... bear" and assorted human examples (Morris, 1980, pp. 155-158; also cited by WilderSmith, Dougherty, and Baugh) were demonstrated to be erosional and weathering features (Milne and Schafersman, 1983; Cole and Godfrey, 1985; Godfrey and Cole, 1986; Hastings, 1988; Kuban, 1988). Similar features at other sites (cited by Dougherty, 1984, as human footprints and a dog track) had likewise been recognized as inorganic in origin, prior to our fieldwork. Even so, we reviewed each site and allegation, continued to map, measure, and photograph.

Tridactyl patterns indicating dinosaur toes (in some cases also claws) are visible in each theropod trackway of the plantigrade variety which has been considered a "giant mantrack trail" to correlate with Genesis 6:4. Though individual tracks may be indistinct, others in the sequence confirm their origin. Discolorations are evident in a BibleScience Association poster, available at Somervell County Museum, of a Taylor Trail track photographed more than a decade ago (also in photographs in Dougherty, 1984 and Morris, 1980). Some of the Kuban/Hastings cores have been analyzed at Indiana/Purdue University, found to be more dolomitic within the toe outlines than outside the track (Farlow, 1987, pp. 26-27; as anticipated by Hastings, 1987a and 1988). This contrast in mineralogy extends to the substrate, ruling out any suggestion of tampering. I postulated (Hastings 1987a, p. 14) that such selective dolomitization may reflect greater concentrations of cyanobacteria in the pools which probably filled the footprints at ancient low tide: the bacteria inhibit limestone from forming, while their chlorophyll increases concentration of magnesium ions.

We checked fresh excavations at the McFall and Kerr Sites, where "mantrack" discoveries continued to be reported after the Taylor Site's recognition as dinosaurian. Tridactyl patterns exist in the 1987 trails, too. Some supposed footprints are also erosional marks, and the "bauanthropus" depressions which presumably represent places where a dinosaur appendage grazed the mud (Hastings, 1988). Again, there were no human prints.

Glen and I found the limestone undisturbed by excavations at the reported site for Clifford Burdick's "mantracks." I saw one of these and a "cat track" (Morris, 1980, pp. 2, 122) at Carl Baugh's Creation Evidences Museum: chisel or centre punch markings were visible, apart from obvious anatomical errors (Armstrong, 1987). Such forgeries are still used to solicit funds, and the books which present them as genuine (for example, Whitcomb and Morris, 1961; Dougherty, 1984) remain in print without any disclaimers or hints of doubt. A photograph on the cover of Carl Baugh's "Creation Evidences in Color" booklet, which I obtained from his museum, shows Thalassinoides (crustacean burrow casts) outlined in ink, as a human footprint.

The dinosaur trackways are spectacular, worthy of exploration apart from any search for non-existent "mantracks." Most have been attributed to Brontosaurus (properly, Apatosaurus) and Tyrannosaurus (in Morris, 1980; Dougherty, 1984), though neither genus is known from the Lower Cretaceous Comanchean Series of Texas. Sauropod trackways were most likely left by a small brachiosaurid known as Astrodon or Pleurocoelus. Theropod tracks, both digitigrade and plantigrade, could represent several genera but especially Acrocanthosaurus, alternately called allosaurid, megalosaurid or spinosaurid (Langston and Perkins, 1983; Farlow, 1987). A rare third type of track is thought to be from a bipedal ornithopod such as Iguanodon. About 500 dinosaur tracks are visible at the state park, and 120 at Taylor Site alone.

Glen Rose Formation is a sequence of limestones interbedded with maris and shales, rich in clues to the ancient environment: apparently a subtropical, and tidal flat and estuary between 100 and 120 million years ago. Mud cracks indicate that the track-bearine strata used to dry out at low tide and probably for some longer durations. Algal mats in some beds represent hypersaline intertidal settings. Freshwater influx was suggested by our discovery of one Viviparus snail, in marl. The marls between track-bearing limestones are filled with fossils of mussels, oyster beds, burrowing clams, and snails; serpulid worm patch-reefs encasing carbonized brace roots from mangrove-like trees; spheroidal algae, or possibly sponges, called Porocystis. A thin storm deposit of small clam shells (the Corbula layer) overlies the main Porocystis and serpulid concentrations. Pycnodont fish teeth are found in both strata; the pycnodonts probably nipped reefal organisms, crushing calcareous shells in beaklike jaws laden with teeth.

Most of the fossils are marine. Mud cracks, crustacean burrows, algal beds, serpulid patch-reefs, and oyster beds in growth position suggest longterm deposition, militate against flood geology interpretations. Storms, tides, and localized events account for the exceptional strata which were rapidly buried. Although John Morris reasoned that closed clam shells indicated sudden inundation (Morris, 1980, p. 151) these were burrowing clams already surrounded by mud. His reference to a conglomerate of rounded limestone pebbles, in the same paragraph, is surely a misreading of the Porocystis abundance. We traced rumored horse and deer footprints to partly exposed oyster beds and cross-sections of burrowing clams. Scallop shells and pholads (rock-boring pelecypods with delicate shells, called "angel wings") occurred at one outcrop.

Apart from false "mantracks" and the other items mentioned by Hastings (1988), Baugh's Creation Evidences Museum contains nodules misinterpreted as human and monkey skulls, dolomitic concentrations in weathered limestone as an "impacted snake fossil" and countless other oddities which mislead honest creationists. Calling the Moab skeleton Cretaceous (Hastings, 1988), when the formation it supposedly came from was really Jurassic, reminded me of the self-defeating advertising for a Glen Rose restaurant which listed sumptuous buffets, but said "better than that, come in for coffee with your friends and plan your day." Actually, the skeleton had been dated at a few hundred years (Hastings, 1985, 1986). Dinosaur bones excavated upriver, near the county line, are displayed (the ischium is labelled "femurs," and pubis is designated "ilium" in the coloring booklet). Baugh's 1987 discoveries, intended to collapse the geologic timescale, include a supposed Cambrian trilobite and allegedly human incisor: both were pycnodont or closely related fish teeth from the McFall Site, marine fossils normally found in the formation (Armstrong, 1987). The guide told me that they would have excavated the skull, too, but the landowner wouldn't let them; no bones could be found at the tooth site.

A "human hand print" at Baugh's museum turned out to be solution weathering markers, known as karren. A Yshaped bone was called the forehead horn of a newly discovered dinosaur (Unicornosaurus) and correlated with the unicorn of Job 39:9 in the King James Version. The horn supposedly folded back like a jack-knife blade! I confirmed suspicions of the correct identification at my next salmon supper: this was a neural spine from a fish large enough for Jonah. Specimens labelled "dinosaur claws" were teeth from predatory fish.

My "downtime" following an eye injury on August 25 led to a speculative, intuitive hypothesis based on observations. Carnosaur tracks predominate the site, in contrast to the four percent of skeletons representing that type of dinosaur; plantigrade tracks are common; the area had been a tidal flat, and all the recently misinterpreted fossils came from fish: therefore, I suspect that carnosaurs probably stalked fish in tidal pools, crouching as they did. The "bauanthropus" marks might even be where prey had struggled. Glen had perceived the probability of crouching carnosaurs, and written more cautiously than my independent, visionary assessment (Kuban, 1986a&b).

The day before leaving Texas, I enjoyed a morning at Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch, also near Glen Rose. The first African animal to beg for alfalfa concentrate through the car window was a single-horned addax, one of the most likely candidates for the unicorn! Sunday's closing hymn, back in Calgary, almost brought laughter because it referred to going "through the deep waters," so soon after I had waded up to waist-deep in the Paluxy. Later reflection led to correlation between what we did and Jeremiah 6:16-we had gone to the crossroad, sought ancient paths, and walked in them.

Although the allegedly human evidence was weighed and found wanting, like Beishazzar's reign (Daniel 5:27), the saga will continue because people are taught that the scenarios are proved in the Bible. They are welcome to their interpretation. However, unethical promotion methods and false accusations to the effect that opponents wrote without checking the evidence so carefully examined, together with confrontationism, are violations of the biblical commandments. All are practiced in the name of biblical adherence, Christian apologetics.


Armstrong, John R., 1987. CreationlEvolutim Newsletter 7 5:21; Geolog. 16, Part 4.

Cole, John R. and Godfrey, Laurie R. (eds.), 1985. "The Paluxy River Footprints Mystery-Solved," CreationlEvolution XV (special issue).

Dougherty, Cecil, 1984. Valley of the Giants (7th ed.).

Farlow, James O., 1987. A Guide to Lower Cretaceous Dino8aur Footprints and Tracksites of the Paluzy River Valley, Somervell County, Texas. (Waco, TX: South Central Geological Society of America, Baylor University).

Godfrey, Laurie R. and Cole, John R., 1986. "Blunder in Their Footsteps," Natural History, August, 1986, pp. 4-12.

Hastings, Ronnie J. 1985. "Tracking Those Incredible Creationists The Trail Continues," Creation/Evolution XV, pp. 5-15.

Hastings, Ronnie J., 1986. "Tracking Those Incredible Creationists The Trail Continues," CreationlEvolution XVII, pp. 19-27.

Hastings, Ronnie J., 1987a. "New Observations On Paluxy River Tracks Confirm their Dinosaurian Origin," Journal of Geological Education 35 1:4-15.

Hastings, Ronnie J., 1987b. "Tracking Those Incredible Creationists-The Trail Goes On," Creation/Evolution XXI, pp. 3041.

Hastings, Ronnie J., 1988. "The Rise and Fall of the Paluxy Mantmcks," Perspectivess on Science and Christian Faith, September, 1988.

Kuban, Glen J., 1986a. "The Taylor Site Man Tracks" (and review of ICR Impact Article 151), Origins Research 9 1:1, 7-13.

Kuban, Glen J., 1986b. "A Summary of the Taylor Site Evidence," Creation/Evolutim XVII, pp. 10-18.

Kuban, Glen J., 1987a. "Elongate Dinosaur Tracks," in Proceedings of the First International Symposium an Dinosaur Tracks and Traces (Albuquerque, NM: 1986).

Kuban, Glen J., 1987b. "Color Distinctions and Other Curious Features of Dinosaur Tracks Near Glen Rose, Texas" in Proceedings of the First Intenational Symposium on Dinosaur Tracks and Traces (Albuquerque, NM: 1986).

Kuban, Glen J., 1988. "The Texas Mantrack Controversy." Monograph in preparation, to be published by Glen Kuban, P.O. Box 33232, North Royalton, Ohio 44133.

Langston, Wann, Jr. and Perkins, Bob F., 1983. "Trace Fossils and Paleoenvironments, Selected Cretaceous Localities, North-Central Texas," AAPG/Dallis Geological Society Field Trip Guidebook.

Milne, David H. and Schafersman, Steven D., 1983. "Dinosaur Tracks, Erosion Marks and Midnight Chisel Work (But No Human Footprints) In the Cretaceous Limestone of the Paluxy River Bed, Texas," Journal of Geological Education 31:111-123.

Morris, John D., 1980. Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs and the People Who Knew Them. (Minneapolis: Bethany House and Creation-Life Books).

Whitcomb, John C., Jr. and Morris, Henry M., 1961. The Genesis Flood. (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing CO.).