Did Dubois hide Wadjak Man?

Wadjak 1 Gish (1985) and many other creationists have claimed that Eugene Dubois, discoverer of Java Man, hid the existence of two human skulls, called the Wadjak skulls, that had also been discovered on Java. This claim is demonstrably false; there are three separate publications by Dubois which mention the Wadjak skulls (Fezer, 1993).

(Wadjak 1 (shown) was discovered in 1888 by mining engineer B.D. van Rietschoten. Wadjak 2 was more fragmentary and was discovered in 1890 by Dubois.)

Lubenow admits the existence of these publications, but argues that they were governmental reports not intended for public or scientific scrutiny. As such, they do not count as part of the scientific literature, and Dubois is still guilty of having, in effect, concealed the existence of the Wadjak skulls.

Following is some email correspondence from prominent paleoanthropologist C. Loring Brace, responding to this claim.

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 17:33:37 -0500 (EST)
From: "C. Loring Brace" <clbrace@umich.edu>
To: Jim.Foley@symbios.com
Subject: Re: Sinanthropus/Pithecanthropus

Dear Colleague,

[two paragraphs deleted]

As for Wadjak, the first skull was given to Dubois by the mineworks owner van Rietschoten. Dubois described it in a letter to Dr. Ph. Sluiter (director of the library and Museum in what was then "Batavia") which was published in the Naturkundig Tijdschrift van Nederlandsch-Indie [1] vol. 49 (1890) pp. 209-211. This was read at the Directors' Meeting in March 14, 1889. The journal was not a major phenomenon like Nature or even the publication of the American Museum of Natural History, but it was widely distributed and available in Europe and America. Our library here at Michigan has it, and I first read the University of California's copy years ago (or perhaps even the one in Peabody at Harvard).

That was what sent Dubois to Java from Sumatra where he had been for the previous few years, and, after getting there, he contributed regular quarterly reports to the Verslag van het Mijnwezen which Hrdlicka translates as the Government Mining Bulletin. I do not know how this gets subsumed under Education, Religion and Industry [2], but it was a technical report that focused on matters of mineral resources although it also included natural history in general and paleontology in particular. In his report, titled in each issue "Palaeontologische onderzoekingen op Java," he mentioned the van Rietschoten find in the 2nd kwartaal 1890 on p. 19 noting that it was of "another race than the Malay". In his report for the 3rd kwartaal, 1890, he described his find of Wadjak II on page 15, noting that it, like Wadjak I, indicated the presence "in Java in earlier times of a human race that can be compared with modern Australians (or Papuans)" (p. 15).

Then he repeats this in the Jaarboek van het Mijnwezen in Nederlandschen Oost-Indie 20(2):60-61 in 1892. All of these reports, although not major publications, should indeed be counted as a legitimate part of the scientific literature. They are available in major libraries all over the world, and have been referred to repeatedly by the people who have continued to make further analyses of the Wadjak material. Keith [3] was not very good at citing the primary literature and could not use German (let alone Dutch) as a scholarly language. I have had to read Dubois' accounts by struggling to deal with the spelling/sound shifts that transform it into German, but, when I have doubted my translations, I have checked them with a colleague who is fluent in Dutch. Dubois clearly felt that his "Pithecanthropus" material was of major significance, and he documented what he considered to be its Pliocene age in fully creditable fashion. By the faunal content, he clearly showed that Wadjak was late Pleistocene which, he thought, made it relatively unimportant which is why he did not devote much attention to it until after World War I. Wadjak and 'Pithecanthropus' had nothing do do with each other in his mind or in the views of any paleoanthropologist, and the attempt to see something sinister in his treatment of Wadjak is based on equal parts ignorance and malice.

I hope this can be of some use to you.

C. L. Brace

Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 16:01:21 -0500 (EST)
From: "C. Loring Brace" <clbrace@umich.edu>
To: Jim.Foley@symbios.com

Just one final addition:

All those references to Dubois' papers on Wadjak I sent you were consulted by Hrdlicka in his Skeletal Remains of Early Man, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collection No. 83, 1930. It was Hrdlicka's references that sent me back to find the originals which were not hard to locate. This is the classic way that scientific documentation proceeds, and, if nothing else, should illustrate in unassailable published fashion that Dubois' work was part of the ongoing and publically available scientific literature. Hrdlicka's work, of course, is one of the classics of the field.

With kindest regards,

C. L. Brace

Footnotes are by Jim Foley, not C. Loring Brace.

1. Best translated as "Journal of Natural History of the Dutch East Indies" (now Indonesia). Judging from its name, it is not, as Lubenow stated, a bureaucratic report to a government department.

2. Lubenow had claimed that "This publishing was nothing more than Dubois's quarterly and annual reports to the Director of Education, Religion and Industry of the Dutch East Indies...".

3. Sir Arthur Keith, a very prominent scientist in the first half of this century. Keith may have been the inspiration for the creationist claim that Dubois hid Wadjak Man because it would have discredited Java Man as a human ancestor:

"... we cannot question his honesty; the Wadjak fossil bones were discovered under the circumstances told by him. There can be no doubt that if, on his return in 1894, he had placed before the anthropologists of the time the ape-like skull from Trinil side by side with the great-brained skulls of Wadjak, both fossilised, both from the same region of Java, he would have given them a meal beyond the powers of their mental digestion. Since then our digestions have grown stronger." (Keith, "The Antiquity of Man", 1925; quoted by Lubenow)
Keith's comment, however, makes no sense. There is no obvious reason why the Wadjak skulls, which were found in totally unrelated sediments with a far more modern fauna than that of Java Man, should have affected its interpretation in any way. The more plausible explanation for Dubois' subsequent silence about the Wadjak skulls is that, because they were fully modern skulls found in a fully modern fauna, they were much less significant than the Java Man skullcap and Dubois simply never got around to studying them.

Neither Keith, nor any other scientist as far as I am aware, has ever said that Java Man and Wadjak Man were found "at the same level", as often stated in creationist literature. This claim seems to be have been invented by creationists.


Gish D.T. (1985): Evolution: the challenge of the fossil record, El Cajon, CA:Creation-Life Publishers.

Fezer K.D. (1993): Creation's incredible witness: Duane T. Gish, Ph.D. Creation/Evolution Issue 33:5-21.

Lubenow M.L. (1992): Bones of contention: a creationist assessment of human fossils, Grand Rapids,MI:Baker Books.

Creationist arguments about Java Man

Duane Gish and Wadjak Man

Wadjak Man, by Peter Brown

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