How do we know there wasn't an advanced civilization on earth 12,000 years ago?

As others have said, first define "advance" and then once that is define we would have to then define how widespread. Global reach, regional, or say a single valley.

The greater the advanced society and the greater their reach we would likely have something hanging around to point to them. We may in fact do just don't recognize it as such. Or it is buried under so much water and sediment we may never find it.

A small "advanced" civilization, maybe one that even dipped it's toes into copper or bronze making, might have well existed 20000 years ago, but was limited to a single fertile valley or two that got wiped out due to climate change.

I would imagine that if we had the true history of mankind we might have seen several rise and falls of "advanced" civilizations. Each leaving almost nothing behind.

On my personal beliefs, I do believe there was likely a "advanced" stone working culture prior to the last 12000 years. It might even had some pretty advanced agriculture and other tools, but climate change, and time have removed almost all evidence. And what little might remain either we done recognize (oh that is just a natural formation that looks like X) or attribute it to a culture closer in time (oh, that structure was built by Y civilization, for lots of different reasons).
 

DougM

Donor
We have “mysteries” that we have trouble explaining. The large amount of copper dug out of the Lake Superior region before anyone was “known” to be digging in that quantity being an example. And while I am not saying this is an indication of an “advanced” civilization it IS something that shows we are not 100% positive about what happened.
Much of ancient history is simply our best guesses that have been “agreed” upon by the experts of the day and are no “fact” But in reality if subjected to the requirements of proof that other sciences require to move something out of “theory” and into “fact” most of ancient history would fall flat on it’s face. The exact use builder method of construction and many other “facts” about the great pyramid for instance are at best a working theory. Arguably a good working theory but they don’t truly have enough evidence to be called fact.
Please note I am not suggesting a conspiracy or that aliens were involved.
I am just pointing out that it is very hard, bordering on impossible to establish the true “facts” of what happen from thousands of years ago.
We can determine basics. O really pollution and climate and such but to nail down details and facts beyond the generalization is very hard.
We have pretty good information about “Greek Fire” but the formula is lost in time. We have examples of Roman concrete but are not 100% sure about how it was made andwhy it lasts so well.

This is because history is a tricky thing. And the longer ago something happened the harder it is to prove as time destroys evidence. Take a couple of recent mysteries for example. Jack the Ripper will odds on NEVER be 100% known. It has been to long and the “proof” is gone. Even a diary stating “I am Jake the Ripper signed XYZ” will odds on not be 100% provable as it could be a fake or someone from back in the day playing a joke. In fact we actually have a diary that says just that. The next example is JFK he was shot on TV and we still don’t have 100% proof that he was killed by LHO. Add in the odd way Ruby killed LHO and things are muddy. And these two events are from within only 100 years ago or so. Another example is the Holocaust deniers. Or the conspiracy theorists claiming 911 didn’t happen or the flat earth groups.
So if we don’t know and can’t proof things like this then how will we every truly know what happened in ancient history? It could be that a society of a bit more advanced knowledge existed at one point but was ground under the ice age. If this society was small say a small city or two. We may never know if them. Would they have cars or trains? No those would take enough of a population to build them that we would know about them but a city that had say Greek or Roman levels of technology while everyone else was just figuring out how to plant crops? That we could have easily lost to history.
It is not particularly likely but it can’t truly be ruled out, as it is hard to prove a negative
 
When you look at the surviving evidence for long-term civilisation (Catalhuyuk, Gobekli Tepe, Jericho) you have to factor in that a vast amount of land is not around anymore to search for other examples, and that this land may well have been where early civilisations would have chosen to exist. I believe something similar exists with India - the early civilisations are not just the Harappan but something lost under the sea.

12,000 years ago there could indeed have been a city-based civilisation with an early form of writing, that dominated other cities around it. And it could lie under the Black Sea or under the sea off the coast of India.

When you look at Gobekli Tepe one thing that strikes you is that this was the result of surplus population - hunter gatherers were getting in more food than was subsistence, they were storing it in granaries, and the population had time for large works projects.

A more coastal society would be a mix of fishing and gathering, and agriculture may well have been created/discovered in areas now submerged before the first definitive evidence we have for it.

IMHO literally unless aliens WERE flying around using motive power methods undectable to us today, there is no more than a very minimal chance that a civilisation of a level beyond the late Bronze Age could have existed 12000 years ago (but do note that the Bronze Age civilisations could smelt iron where they could find it on the surface).
 
@C: IIRC, Bronze Age civilisations could work iron where they could find it on the surface)
The Pharaonic Egyptians were restricted to meteoric iron, per the remarkable blade found in eg Tut's tomb...

Snag is extensive mining usually leaves traces. The old, artisanal copper diggings in eg the Alps and under Great Orme bedevilled later workers, as the richest seams had been followed down and worked out. Flint pits, 'Grimes Graves' & co, leave enduring scars. Shallow coal miners have found old artisanal shafts, galleries and abandoned tools...

The big problem is the water table. Unless you can drive a lateral adit from a valley to provide gravity drainage, or have an affordable power source for a bucket chain, you're dependent on the weather.

One proviso: If you go back a lot further, to before and after waxing & waning ice sheets re-modelled so much, the landscape looked rather different. Also, with the shift of climate regions, water tables may have been much lower in places, while mountain ice-caps fed all-year streams to areas now parched.
With sea level ~150 metres lower, underground drainage would be totally different. Primary & secondary isostasis could warp lowlands high and vice-versa, again altering drainage. Now-buried valleys, out-burst canyons etc add to the fun...

==
For WIRS' back-story, I cheated a bit. Yes, there was a high-ish, alt-tech civilisation, that over-fracked their essential, but failing thermal tap in their equivalent of our Eifel region. They got a 'chernobyl' when it 'Went Large'. Some hunkered down, expecting the ghastly volcanic eruptions to cease. Didn't happen. Some on the storm-cleansed Atlantic coast kept a modicum of civilisation going. Survivors who'd fled through their 'world gates' with portable alt-tech spawned demi-god legends hither and yon until their whatsits, gadgets and gizmos wore out.
This would be around the time the Minoan culture arose. Curious how that fell to a similar volcanic apocalypse...
;)

FWIW, I've got a really bad 'down' after recovering from that nasty chest infection, and my muse has taken indefinite hiatus...
 
About 22,000 years ago, in the peak of the last ice age, sea level was about 380 feet lower than it is today. Contrary to popular belief, the Black Sea would not be a dry, fertile valley, but a fresh water lake at an elevation equal to the most shallow point in the Bosporus. So, the Bosporus and Dardanelles would be series of waterfalls into a lower Mediterranean Sea. Could there have been unknown civilizations around the Black Sea and the continental shelves? Yes. How advanced? Given the advancement in modern archaeology, it is hard to believe any such society did not leave a trace. If they touched on the bronze age, it didn’t last or they were assimilated, a situation more likely in the Americas. After all, we find Neanderthal skeletons in Europe and evidence of primitive tools by early humans, not handcrafted metals. The isolation of the fauna and flora in lands not discovered by Europeans until the sixteenth century is evidence no society had yet circumnavigated the world, let alone build space ships as some sci-fi might suggest.
 

Zen9

Banned
This rather reminds of the problem with the hairless ape issue. Humans evolving in tidal rock pools and beachcombing is a fairly sound hypothesis, but the evidence would be eroded by the sea leaving no trace. It would be a pure fluke if something is preserved of this.
 
At the rate which paper records are lost, it may be difficult to prove in 10,000 years a highly technical civilization existed now. The stone & clay records may still exist then, and make it look like those civilizations were temporary, until something else emerged much later.
 
When you look at the surviving evidence for long-term civilisation (Catalhuyuk, Gobekli Tepe, Jericho) you have to factor in that a vast amount of land is not around anymore to search for other examples, and that this land may well have been where early civilisations would have chosen to exist. I believe something similar exists with India - the early civilisations are not just the Harappan but something lost under the sea.

12,000 years ago there could indeed have been a city-based civilisation with an early form of writing, that dominated other cities around it. And it could lie under the Black Sea or under the sea off the coast of India.

When you look at Gobekli Tepe one thing that strikes you is that this was the result of surplus population - hunter gatherers were getting in more food than was subsistence, they were storing it in granaries, and the population had time for large works projects.

A more coastal society would be a mix of fishing and gathering, and agriculture may well have been created/discovered in areas now submerged before the first definitive evidence we have for it.

IMHO literally unless aliens WERE flying around using motive power methods undectable to us today, there is no more than a very minimal chance that a civilisation of a level beyond the late Bronze Age could have existed 12000 years ago (but do note that the Bronze Age civilisations could smelt iron where they could find it on the surface).
I think bronze working fall in the very unlikely category, bronze keep well so leave archaeologic evidence and it usual demand a major trade network to get both tin and copper. There’s much which indicate the move from Bronze to Iron Age was caused by the break down in trading routes and not in improvements in technology, as iron in many ways was a inferior material which was harder to work with and easier to get without the great trading networks. So I expect any earlier civilization will have been stone users, but several existing culture show that even with stone tools, they can become very complex.
 
We can rule out some sort of advanced industrial society as they would have permanently altered Earth's climate and environment leaving tell-tale signs. If the human species went extinct tomorrow it would be obvious, scientifically, that an advanced industrial civilization once existed

One the other hand a semi-sedentary civilization that had a seasonal village that was abandoned due to climate change and subsequently buried either by ocean or desert is possible
 
Archeologists like Graham Hancock posit that prior to the last Ice Age there is the likelyhood that a relatively advanced civilization existed.

Now while it is hard to prove something like that existed, is there anything to say it couldn't?

Is it not possible out of isolation we could have seen a relatively advanced culture prior to 8,000 years ago?
Graham Hancock is ummmmm. Not an Archaeologist. And is full of hokum.

And as many other posters have said, it really does depend on what you mean by "advanced". Certainly there has not been another industrial civilization on Earth in the last 360 million years, we can be fairly sure there's not been one since the Cambrian period as well. We can also be pretty sure that there have been no bronze age or later civilizations in the last 100,000 years or so (I may be underestimating this by the way, but I'd rather err on the side of pessimism over our ability to spot the remains). It's also pretty unlikely that a neolithic farming civilization ever existed in the last 75,000 years as well, population densities (as attested by physical remains and also genetic evidence) from all evidence appear to have been far too low to support such civilization.

Before the Toba super eruption, population densities may have made Natufian-style proto-agriculture advantageous. It's doubtful though. Even 10,000 BC, the world population was at least 2x the population of ALL humanoids (so Homo erectus and neanderthalensis as well as the familiar Homo sapiens) pre-Toba super eruption.

This could be a major reason that agriculture sprang up so fast and so relative complex after the Ice Age
Ummm. Last I checked the archaeology, in the Middle East at least, agriculture neither springs up fast and gains complexity in fits and starts over thousands of years.

Other agricultural cradles are more poorly understood - so we have really no idea how Papua New Guinean agriculture developed. At all. But what we do know of other centres and the wide occurrence of various kinds of semi-agriculture and managed wild environments modern hunter gatherer tribes have been observed engaging in, it is very likely that all agriculture did develop in the last 13,000 years.

We don't really have good evidence for this, but I do think that the history of tame (not domestic) and managed animal populations and gardening of wild plants likely stretches into at least the mesolithic, if not the Palaeolithic. It seems doubtful that full agriculture arrived any earlier though, since even if the main population centres were drowned, we should see their outposts. Instead what we see is after the Toba eruption c. 75 kya, human population plunges and takes thousands of years to reach the population densities of the Mesolithic, at which point, agriculture is invented in many areas all across the globe in a relative eyeblink of under 8,000 years.

At the rate which paper records are lost, it may be difficult to prove in 10,000 years a highly technical civilization existed now. The stone & clay records may still exist then, and make it look like those civilizations were temporary, until something else emerged much later.
Paper and electromagnetic computer storage may be perishable, but the scale of human civilization has left indelible evidence on the landscape that archaeologists could see and make sense of for hundreds of millions of years. Mines, canals, reshaped landscapes, roads, cities, garbage dumps (which are a VERY odd kind of deposit), plastics!

People no idea that the Indus Valley civilization existed until the nineteenth century.
Yes, and people had no idea of general or special relativity either, or knew about the Big Bang, or knew that they lived in but one galaxy of many in a universe too vast to imagine.

We've come a long, long way since the 19th Century and have enormously more knowledge of the Earth's surface.

On my personal beliefs, I do believe there was likely a "advanced" stone working culture prior to the last 12000 years. It might even had some pretty advanced agriculture and other tools, but climate change, and time have removed almost all evidence. And what little might remain either we done recognize (oh that is just a natural formation that looks like X) or attribute it to a culture closer in time (oh, that structure was built by Y civilization, for lots of different reasons).
That's very doubtful. I've asked actual archaeologists about this and they've been pretty confident that they could tell artificially worked stone that was newer than 1 million years. At least, if it were in any quantity (which stone tools, even when made by a small population always are in their main population center, and enough stones to build a palace or a road will be plenty).

fasquardon
 
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Paper and electromagnetic computer storage may be perishable, but the scale of human civilization has left indelible evidence on the landscape that archaeologists could see and make sense of for hundreds of millions of years. Mines, canals, reshaped landscapes, roads, cities, garbage dumps (which are a VERY odd kind of deposit), plastics!
I'm pretty sure someone will argue aliens left all that.
 
As said already in length, it depends entirely on what "advanced" means, but presuming a conservative definition for sake of realism I myself remain skeptical that one would be likely to find a pre-12,000 year old civilization, or at least one substantially so. Paleontological techniques are of course ever-developing, but the leaps and bounds made since the last big unknowns are increasingly thorough in what they measure. For example you have modern methods of stone/sediment analysis and ice core sampling, which allow for (albeit somewhat tenuous) reconstruction of such factors as atmospheric composition. A civilization that grows enough to be, say, burning a lot of organic material as fuel (in this case for fires and presumably metalwork) would generate a distinct footprint, even if a minute one, no matter where that culture emerged.

There are also biological factors to consider - were climate conditions at those times even stable enough to allow the development of an agricultural society? Ag as we know it seems to have had its early roots in probably the most stable stretch of the Holocene that we know of, which hosted in general greater rainfall and more stable temperatures across much of the temperate world. At ~12,000 years ago, the Levant was still appreciably green and Lake Chad was one of the largest in the world; that environment is one of the more conducive to novel agricultural development than even a few thousand years later.

Also you have the issues of legacy. Would a crop species honest by an early civilization have gone extinct without it's cultivators? Given how tenuous a lot of early agriculture was in that regard (wild and semi-domestic members of a given domestic species generally mingled a lot in the time of nomadic pastoralism, and crops were often still able to go feral), this is also a bit questionable. If they hadn't died out wholly, then at the least they would have left genetic markers in nearby populations of wild members of that species in the same general area, which would be discernible through study. While I don't think anyone has picked through genetics of anything in specifically that way yet, the fact remains that no-one has found anything particularly obvious.

There is still the argument for an isolated, small-scale sedentary civilization developing somewhere that simply doesn't exist anymore, which is probably the most likely (but still not overly so). In that case the proposed Black Sea and Indian ones are options, though I am not too familiar with them. A sort of weird possibility of this sort is for something having happened in what is now in the Sahara. Around 22,000 years ago it was a large plain environment rather than an inhospitable desert (which is interestingly enough the historic norm for the region - its present super dry state is an aberration from a geological standpoint). It's very possible that whole lakes and ecosystems around them have completely disappeared as a result of the desertification, which in theory could include some super early civilization. Then again, unless this was based in a particularly large littoral, the aridity of even a plains Sahara doesn't seem like it would be able to support an early development of agriculture.
 
Of course given 10,000 aliens may have have made a mess here themselves.

Its really difficult to predict what folks ten large down the line might think. Archaeology as we know it may not be a discipline. The juxspositions of the evidence might cause folks to conclude the planet was coasted in plastic bags by a civilization that kept records on clay tablets.
 
Advanced is a relative term. The natives of the Papuan highlands prior to the 1930s were still a Stone Age Culture with a sophisticated agricultural package. The Inca and the their predecessor cultures were for all intense and purposes a lithic culture. Now as to any "advanced" culture 12k years ago. I see no reason why a lithic based culture could not have a very sophisticated system of observational astronomy. Along with an extensive pharmacology based on natural resources. Golbeki Tepe has been mentioned. What about the circular structures found in the Aegean Sea by Robert Ballard.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://nautiluslive.org/blog/2010/07/02/stone-circles-bottom-aegean-sea&ved=2ahUKEwjuoeLK24riAhVHVK0KHdvFBusQFjAAegQIAxAB&usg=AOvVaw1XOh9gxbckjxaVrE99Rrne&cshid=1557276740934
Based on the depth they were found at I believe they are estimated to be at least 9 to 10k years old
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=#&ved=2ahUKEwjuoeLK24riAhVHVK0KHdvFBusQwqsBMAp6BAgJEAg&usg=AOvVaw0VTJzWxrN8ZFOD4xbU2nov&cshid=1557277064765
I suppose the usual explanation will be some sort of religious structure or astronomical site. Maybe there is a simpler explanation. Could these simply have been large communal living spaces. The outer stone ring acting as a foundation for long wooden beams supported by a central post in a stone supporting structure. Of course any wood would have long been decayed. Unfortunately the area is off limits to diving due to the sunken warships that are designated as war graves along with unexploded ordinance.
If these structures were basically communal living structures then we have to be looking at a fairly sophisticated hunter gatherer culture living in a rich environment that would allow year round habitation. Plus I would not rule out an early pastoral culture. Maritime Cultures. Boats have been around a long time. But any evidence is going to be hard to find. Fairly large vessels can be built without metal fasteners. Double hulled canoes. Sowen ship building technology. How far back do the hide boats of the Inuit go.
If there was a culture that was regional or even globe spanning something will show up eventually.

There is one thing that I would like to hear a good explanation for. The alignment of structures to the cardinal directions is pretty common. Not always, but pretty common. Yet there are groups of structures that align to a series of points along 47° West from the Northern end of Greenland to just South of Greenland. These structures are in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
https://mariobuildreps.com
While I have doubts about the author's idea the alignment issue is thought provoking
 
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