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When creationist Clifford L. Burdick published in 1950 a short article entitled "When GIANTS Roamed the Earth: Their Fossil Footprints Still Visible!" in the Seventh Day Adventist periodical Signs of the Times, he opened a can of worms still not contained. He brought public attention to an issue that had been fairly local up to that timethe claim that human and dinosaur tracks are found together in the same strata and that the human tracks were made by biblical giants.
A. W. McCann (1922), Byron Nelson (1931) and George McCready Price (1935) had previously revived nineteenth century Seventh Day Adventist "Flood Geology," which claimed vaguely that humans and prehistoric animals had lived together before Noah's flood had reshaped the earth about 4800 years ago. However, they lacked the direct evidence that Burdick thought he had found.
Burdick was originally inspired by a 1939 Natural History magazine article by Roland T. Bird mentioning the discovery of fake giant human footprints from Glen Rose, Texasprints that had been carved in the Cretaceous rock. Burdick began his search for these prints in 1945 and managed to locate them in a small museum in Arizona. Refusing to believe that they were carved, he enthusiastically discussed them with his creationist colleagues. In 1961. photographs taken by Burdick of the tracks appeared in The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Moms. This book, hailed by the creationists themselves as the watershed of the modern "scientific" creation movement, helped spread the Paluxy mantrack claims.
Following the appearance of The Genesis Flood, individual creationists and creationist teams began visiting the Glen Rose area looking for new "mantracks" (as they came to be called). Notable among these was Stanley Taylor who, after a 1968 search, returned in 1970 with a full crew and produced the film Footprints in Stone. This film gave the mantrack claims an even larger audience and further interest was aroused. As a result, the Institute for Creation Research began their own explorations in 1975the same year that Erich Von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods?, sent a cameraman from Europe to film the tracks in order to support his own "ancient astronaut" claims.
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The latest in this series of investigators is the Reverend Carl Baugh. He began digging sporadically at the McFall site, upriver from Dinosaur Valley State Park, in 1982. In a 1983 Bible-Science Association audio tape, Baugh announced his discovery of 44 "human" footprints at the McFall site, some in left-right-left sequences and some stepped on by "Tyrannosaurus rex." Most had eroded or dried out, becoming invisible within an hour or so of discovery, thereby making examination by others impossible. (See Table.)
From such discoveries as these, Baugh concluded that the mantracks were made by people "wading in water, probably searching for clams" between high tides in the "Cambrian" Paluxy area. Then, at high tides, these people returned to temporary safety on the Llano Uplift (Baugh, 1983b), which, incidentally, comprises a distance of about 100 miles each way!
Baugh also carelessly attributed all three-toed (theropod or ornithopod) dinosaur prints in the region to Tyrannosaurus and sauropod prints to Brontosaurus, indicating perhaps that he was misled by the fiberglass models of Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus on display in Dinosaur Valley State Park. These models were placed there by Arco Oil Company as representatives of two of the suborders of saurischian ("lizard-hipped") dinosaurs which actually made prints in the Paluxy region (Theropoda and Sauropoda, respectively). The models do not represent the actual dinosaurs known locally via skeletons or tracks and there is no model of an ornithopod. Glen Rose Cretaceous deposits predate the Late Cretaceous appearance of Tyrannosaurus by millions of years and postdate the Late Jurassic appearance of Brontosaurus by a much longer period of time.
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Elsewhere (Bartz, 1982b), Baugh spoke glibly of coexisting saber-toothed tiger tracks at the McFall site, bear tracks at the park, and mammoth tracks and fossils in the general area. He called these "Paluxy Enigmas" that pose problems for scientists who wish to reject the notion that humans and dinosaurs coexisted at the time of Noah's Flood. But, in fact, these statements made his arguments sound even weaker than those of other creationists, since Baugh was describing a Fred Flintstone bestiary of famous fossils that are not associated with the Paluxy River area, were not contemporary with each other, and, more importantly, have not been in any way accurately identified by him. His claims would have at least sounded better if his fossil name-dropping had been anything close to accurate. In any case, Baugh declared that his findings made a shambles of the evolutionary sequences built up by supposedly closed-minded scientists who "refuse to look at the evidence" (Baugh, 1983b).
In 1982 and 1983 we accepted the challenge to look at the evidence firsthand. We began as people fully supportive of evolution and we emerged in similar condition. Nonetheless, we sought out as much creationist evidence as we could find, with the intention of rigorously analyzing the data and claims. Others before us had examined some of these claims (Bird, 1939; Neufeld, 1975; Zuidema, 1979 and 1981; Weber, 1981; Godfrey, 1981; Slaughter, in Kirsch, 1982; Langston, 1983), but we wanted to cross-check previous analyses and to draw these and our own on-site research into a report accessible to educators, students, theologians, and others confronted by scientific creationist claims.
We examined as many mantracks as we could, not just those recently publicized by Baugh (1983a, b) and his associates. We measured and photographed alleged mantracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park, a cement-covered "mantrack" in Glen Rose, dinosaur tracks and mantracks at the Thayer Site near New Braunfels, as well as tracks at the McFall site where Baugh has been excavating. We analyzed creationists' published measurements, photographs, and arguments. We sampled a good cross-section of current and past mantrack claims, interviewed local creationists and mantrack skeptics, and consulted with paleontologists familiar with these sites. Two of us, Dr. Hastings and Dr. Schafersman, visited the sites many more times and interviewed creationist excavators, including Baugh.
Later, after we had completed much of our study, creationist Russell Arndt heard a presentation of our findings and said, in effect, "OK, maybe none of the tracks you saw were mantracks after all, but they will be found there; you haven't seen Dr. Baugh's most recent discoveries, have you?"
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This is a common argument. Every pseudoscientific claim we know of falls back on this kind of argument (and the related question, "Were you there when it was discovered?"). Only logic and common sense can answer such objections, because believers can always stay at least one "manstep" ahead of skeptics. So, rather than attempt the impossible task of replying to every mantrack claim, we have tried to discuss the biological/anatomical, geological, cultural, and illogical nature of the claims in general and how they can be evaluated according to the rules, instead of particularistic, anecdotal opinions.
We wish to thank Lee Mansfield, the Somerville County Museum, and many kind Glen Rose residents. We also thank Dr. Warm Langston, Jr., Dr. Walter Coombs, Dr. Neil Gomberg, Dr. Paul Godfrey, Dr. Eugenie Scott, Dr. Miles Richardson, Dr. Eric Delson, Frederick Edwords, Dan Lorenz, and Dr. Pia Nicolini for their assistance on various aspects of the project.
An anonymous benefactor provided funds through this journal for August 1982 work and partial funds for the 1983 video documentary production of The Case of the Texas Footprints.
Comments and interpretations are the responsibility of the authors and editors, not the organizations or consultants noted above.
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.