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

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Malone, May 6, 2019.

  1. rfmcdonald Well-Known Member

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    Cultures and maybe even civilization are not limited to humans, even. Other smart species do seem to be able to transmit knowledge fr one generation to the next, sometimes for reasons not obvious to us. I am reminded of the habit of some West African chimpanzees to throw stones, almost ritualistically, at a particular tree.

    If we are talking about advanced civilizations, anything close to the industrial level, then the odds are quite good that they would have been found by now. Samples of ice accumulated over millennia in Greenland and Antarctica preserve records of atmospheric conditions, including man-made pollutants. Similarly, the scars made by industrial civilization in its extraction of resources are readily visible. Had there been even a civilization comparable to 18th century Europe, say, some time in human history, this civilization would have been revealed by now.
     
  2. rfmcdonald Well-Known Member

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    If that was a case, if these were last survivals of an ancient civilization, it would be worth wondering where the devastated core could have been.
     
  3. Detlef CMII

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    Wouldn´t a "highly advanced prehistoric civilization that was on a similar or higher technological level than we are today" leave a "footprint" in the ice core drillings from Greenland or the Antarctic? The last I´ve read they´ve drilled ice cores dating back 128,000 years.

    I see two problems here.
    And I admit I only write this reluctantly since I too found the idea of a former advanced civilization fascinating. But...
    1. That theoretical "highly advanced civilization" quite logically developed from earlier less developed civilizations? Which probably mostly used stone buildings? So where are the remains of these stone buildings? They can´t be all below the sea today if that civilization was really that advanced? They can´t be all totally destroyed by an ice age? Some remains surely would have survived? A highly advanced civilization surely wouldn´t be restricted to just one region of earth?
    2. It´s the same with mining or quarries.
      We do for example have archeological evidence that humans have started mining ore in the Harz mountains in Germany more than 3000 years ago. Archeologists found traces of tool usage in mining ore and they found slag. A hint that someone was refining copper.
      There are quarries in Egypt that are even older.
      I could accept that traces in quarries might be lost after 20,000 years because of wind and rain. But mines? Unless you propose that every single mine was totally flooded there is just no way that every trace of tool usage would be erased.
    We can now use satellites to re-discover ancient structures (2,000-3,000 years old).
    Surely an "highly advanced civilization" would have left at least some foundations of buildings?
    And any foundation 20,000 years old would surely be different enough from a foundation 2,000 years old?
    At least different enough to tell scientists that this newly discovered structure doesn´t fit?
     
  4. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Nope! Even if everything humans built weathered completely (and not all of it would, we have huge amounts of trash and human remains scattered all over the planet, some of it will fossilize or be otherwise preserved), what was left would be some very odd combinations of various minerals and elements that there's no natural explanation for. Things like highly concentrated rare earth metal deposits (highly unusual because those REALLY like diluting into rock - most rare earths aren't actually rare, they're just super spread out), weird fields of calcium-bearing minerals with iron oxide veins running through them in grid shaped patterns (the remains of reinforced concrete), strange smears of all kinds of ferrous and non-ferous metals all mixed together under a layer of tar (or slightly separated if the fossil garbage dump is really old, if the fossil garbage was subjected to heating you might get the tar fractioning into oils). Mine shafts would leave traces even after 10s of millions of years. Nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors leave a distinct signature on an entire geological period (strange isotopes abound, which is why we'll never be able to carbon date anything that grew after 1950). And the way that we've dug out virtually every fossil fuel site on land (and many that aren't, people have even gone after under sea coal) is distinct for at least 360 million years, probably longer.

    Also humans, even stone age ones, have had a huge impact on the ecology of the planet and animal diversity. We have no reason to suppose that any previous human civilization, or any other species' civilization, would not do the same as intelligent creatures benefit from killing off large predators, are likely to change the rules of the game too fast for large herbivores and will benefit enormously from controlling how and where plants grow. Likely, a mass extinction event is inevitable when the first intelligent species evolves on a planet.

    Oh, and intelligence evolving is highly likely to cause violent changes is climate, because again, they can change the rules of the game for life on earth really fast. It doesn't even need to involve industrial civilization. Even before humans industrialized we were leaving signs of change as violent as the giant rock that killed the non-avian dinosaurs.

    One or two anomalies which those that came after us couldn't explain would be all very well, but modern humans will leave such a massive mountain of evidence of having been here, no-one is going to miss the signs for a very, very, very long time.

    That's nuts. I always wondered why Romania had a few ancient sites that are tantalizing, but we know little about... Now I know!

    fasquardon
     
  5. catalfalque Wandering Historian

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    One question though - we talk about deposits in the ice, but is this not from a global level of civilisation? If there was a localised one that was lost, would this show up in the same way?

    How does the data work for periods when, probably, only scattered communities in the Near East were working bronze? Is that visible in the ice, or only once it becomes more widespread?

    How can it be shown differently from volcanic and natural fires when it is low level in terms of quantity?
     
  6. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    I'm not sure if a pre-industrial civilization would show strongly in ice cores. Though if it did, it would indeed look different than volcanic gas in the ice bubbles. Wrong chemical signature, very wrong isotope mix, different pattern over the years and decades. Instead of volcanic ash, you'd find traces of soot. It would also be distinct from wildfires. It would have the wrong pattern over years and decades. We know this because at least local glaciers (like in the Alps) have been used to study this sort of thing in their immediate vicinity.

    As far as localized civilizations go... You and others before you have mentioned them a few times in the thread. My question is, how can any civilization remain localized? Why would people farm if they could just move their excess population to the valley next door and hunter-gather over there (keep in mind, for most of human history, the world population has been under 1 million - before 11,000 BC, there was plenty of land for everyone)? Hunter-gatherer living is far superior in terms of health and leisure time than early agriculture. If for some reason some ancient people adopted agriculture anyway, why would such a civilization remain localized? Historically, agricultural populations have been able to grow rapidly during good times, so why doesn't this localized civilization spread like a weed as it outbreeds the neighbouring hunter-gatherers? If they hit the bronze age, where are the mining outposts? Zinc, tin and copper are all rare metals (tin is one of the rarest elements in the universe), and historically people mined pretty much every accessible deposit in their reach. If they hit the bronze age, where are the bronze tools? Heck, where are the stone tools such a civilization would produce? A city would encourage innovation, and even if they never got past the neolithic, they'd produce a wide array of stone tools, and their neighbours would pick up the ideas for some of those tools even if the civilization itself never expanded (which is pretty much ASB). People have been trading for at least 70,000 years (and I suspect trade goes much further back) so we'd be seeing the products and fashions of an urban civilization scattered along the trade networks, and whatever resources the civilization imported (so for a bronze-age civilization, zinc, copper, tin and arsenic ores, metal, metal tools - they'd be sooo much better than stone tools).

    The only way I can see a localized civilization forming is if it is a pre-agricultural fisher-gatherer community like the Haida in North America. Even then, I expect you'd see a rise in sophistication of their hunter-gatherer neighbours as the urbanized people exported more advanced technology and would have exported population (though less so, I imagine, than agriculturalists would, since a group of families can't just move out, claim an area and start farming, no, they'd likely be limited to inter-marriage and slave trading with their neighbours, but over thousands of years, even limited population export really adds up).

    fasquardon
     
  7. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Microscope & chemistry set, & knowledge of techniques for micro samples.
     
  8. rfmcdonald Well-Known Member

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    I know that the Greenland ice caps apparently preserve traces of air pollution from the era of the Roman Empire and contemporary China. A civilization of comparable scope somewhere in the world would likewise produce a signal.

    In another direction, the post-1492 mass death of the populations of the Americas, and the regrowth of wilderness in once-populated areas, does seem to have played a major role in the Little Ice Age as carbon dioxide got sucked up. This is despite the fact that the civilizations of the Americas were not that technologically advanced, at most on a level with Sumeria, and occupied only a portion of the world. A mass dying would surely leave traces.
     
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  9. Jürgen Well-Known Member

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    That because when we see a population collapse we the field being left fallow, this means as they turn into forest they suck carbon out of the atmosphere, this lead to the atmosphere trapping less heat. Voila we a cold period.
     
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  10. trurle bored blue collar worker

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    Likely just a near-coincidence, no causal relation. Little Ice age was well underway by 1492. Also, the CO2 level did actually start to recover from 1500 AD, well before the peak of epidemics in Americas.
     
  11. Nik Speaker To Cats

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    "Before the last ice age" the sea levels were higher than they are today.

    Yes, but each advance of the ice lowered sea levels, each thaw raised them. Over and over. Such 'gardening' may erase a LOT of potential evidence. I'm reminded of eg Grand Canyon's 'Great Unconformity' from when massive glaciation planed vast swathes of land down to deep bedrock...

    IIRC, technically, we're in an inter-glacial interval. If you go by the Milkanovich cycles, we're due a down-turn. At least in 'geological' time-scales...

    Given current CO2 levels, probably won't happen without a new 'Maunder Minimum' (*) plus a collapse in AGW emissions.
    Or a couple of really juicy volcanoes, 'Decade without a Summer' stuff causing dire die-offs, widespread dystopic scenario...

    Perhaps throw in a nasty quake that weakens, threatens to breach the 'Three Gorges' dam, flood entire plain, totally re-route Yellow River etc etc. Not quite 'Vlad Tepes' scenario, but consider the mere million people recently evacuated from the Indian cyclone. Now 'Go Large', really, really large...
    And, yes, be NOT there...

    ==
    (*) IIRC, the 'solar' folk are arguing the 'deep cycle' models with all the vim & vigour of AGW stuff, but with less parades and more math. Upside, the various models' predictions diverge 'real soon'. Either Sun returns to 'business as usual' within a decade or so, or it don't...
     
  12. Detlef CMII

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    Well, Queen Edward II³-(IV+II²) talked about a highly advanced civilization. A local civilization just a bit more advanced than the rest of the world probably wouldn´t show up in ice cores. I´m not an expert but that would be my guess.

    However....
    Let´s not forget about trade.
    We do have archeological evidence that 31,000 years ago flint found in one location (Northern Moravia) was turned into tools and hunting weapons by people living 300 km away (Krems near the river Danube in Austria).
    We also have archeological evidence that copper mined in Cyprus and Greece turned up in Southern Sweden in the early Bronze Age (1700-1500 BC). These copper exports almost disappear in the middle Bronze Age (1500-1000 BC). During the time of the "Sea People" in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. You now see more copper exports from Sardinia and Southern Spain to Sweden.

    What I´m trying to say is that even during the Stone Age and early Bronze Age you can identify trade routes first over hundreds of miles in the Stone Age and later in the early Bronze Age from the Mediterranean Sea to Sweden.
    The number of copper and tin "exporters" is quite limited in Europe. Even back in the Bronze Age.

    A local civilization with for example bronze weapons quite likely would go and "spread civilization". As in, conquering or assimilating their stone age weapons neighbors. Conquering your neighbors is what happened in the Bronze Age <shrug>.

    But let´s assume they didn´t do that. They stayed a city state.
    They would still be willing to trade copper and bronze goods (maybe not weapons). Say coat clasps or the like.
    Found quite often in Bronze Age graves. So definitely a sign of status. Selling just that would have been a monopoly for a time.
    We should have found pieces either of mines (origins) no longer known (now under sea) or pieces produced to standards no longer known?
     
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  13. NHBL Long Time Member, CMII

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    If a civilization uses nuclear technology extensively, there should be evidence that lasts a long long time, in the form of materials with highly skewed isotope ratios. Also, glass and ceramic are essentially rock, so they won't biodegrade. They can be crushed, but I think they'd fossilize relatively well in sedimentary formations.
     
  14. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    yah trade network aren't really a sign of anything for example there was a mass trade network in North America where previously archeologist thought there wasn't really anything there was a massive trade network from Alaska to mexico that was quite vast but using the classifactopn this thread is using for coviilation there were no bronze civilisation or copper civilisation, the only stone one were only 2 and all mexico and close to meosamerica
     
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  15. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    What are you talking about?

    The more advanced groups traded with their less advanced neighbours, and even if we'd never found the cities of Mesoamerica, we could tell that there were city dwelling people by the trade goods we found in those groups that neighboured the civilized region. And Mesoamerican groups definitely were willing to spread their civilization violently or otherwise. The region inhabited by city-dwelling empire-building peoples in Mesoamerica was spreading as time went on.

    fasquardon
     
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  16. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    what I didn’t say that I was saying there was a mass trade network in North America stretching to osia America and using this thread classfsction for a long lasting civilization that we be able to see long after they were gone long after there were none except maybe the osiaamerica civilization
     
  17. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    When have people been talking about mass trade? Where is osia America? And what do you think people mean when they talk about "civilization"? For my part, "civilization" means what it says on the tin - city living. No more and no less.

    fasquardon
     
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  18. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oasisamerica .
     
  19. DougM Well-Known Member

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    I guess it depends on what you call advanced. 16 century Europe was pretty advanced compared to 90% of the history of humanity as we know it. But if left for a few hundred years (let alone thousands) you would be hard pressed to find evidence of them.
    As for leaving behind clues in mines and such that is hard to say. It is not like we have good evidence of what an area looked like when some miner started digging up copper in a given area in 100 AD. Today we assume that the mine was started when we expected it to be but we don’t really know that every dug out of the ground was dug out in a specific time frame.
    And we do have odd mines around. In the Great Lakes copper area we have a good chunk of copper dug up with no record of when or by whom.
    So while it is doubtful it happened it is theoretically possible that a relatively low population of say 14th century technology could have existed and we just have not put the facts together or the evidence is lost
     
  20. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

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    It's possible that the particulates they generate from burning could be trapped in ice cores. Therefore, it would be possible to detect the fact that they existed, even if it was hard to actually find them.