Sculptor George Stromer with Dr. J.J.
Marky holding the Laguna Skull.
In 1953, Howard was reading the local newspaper, The Laguna
Beach South Coast News, and in it was an article that set him
The article concerned a local sculptor, Mr. George Stromer,
who had been sculpting the heads of prehistoric men, using the
archaeologic skulls as the basis for his approach.
Using an exact copy of these skulls as the foundation for his
work, Mr. Stromer would add what he thought was the clay equivalent
of muscle and skin over top of it, resulting in a hopefully
realistic portrayal of the the original owner of the skull.
He was trying to bring ancient man to life. Howard contacted
Stromer, and offered the Laguna skull to him to model, and Stromer
The model he produced showed more about the artistic thinking
of Mr. Stromer then it did of the reality of the Laguna skull.
While the size of the brain case was approximately correct,
the other features were the product of a fertile artistic imagination.
He produced the likeness of a small-brained man with strong
projecting eyebrow ridges and an unusually large and forward
thrusting jaw. This incorrect model resulted from both preconceived
notions of what a primitive man "should" look like,
coupled with the fact that there was nothing to the actual skull
below the midpoint of the eyesockets with which to base his
But this chance meeting of Howard and Mr. Stromer did more
then produce a fancy sculpture. It set in motion a chain of
events which eventually took the skull to Museum of Man in Paris,
the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, through the hands
of the famous Dr. Louis Leakey, and finally to the high-tech
Carbon 14 Dating facilities of the UCLA Geophysics lab.
The age of the skull was going to be answered
- but not for another 15 years!