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Did prehistoric civilizations ever exist on Earth?
Topic Started: Apr 15 2018, 06:50:24 PM (117 Views)
The Chronicler
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Bionicle fan of GoF
I came across a rather interesting article yesterday.
https://www.yahoo.com/news/civilization-earth-humans-143659305.html

Basically, it's about how we could possibly find any evidence of a past civilization that advanced at least as far as we have. The question was initially meant for the search for alien life, but the suggestion that some other prehistoric species right here on Earth might have also developed civilization millions of years ago is quite compelling. We need only to look at our own ongoing impact on this planet to determine what kind of evidence we might find of other civilized species, and the answer is that while there are very few things that could remain after millions of years, it would also be very difficult to definitively identify them as traces of a civilized species. Probably the most likely evidence we could ever find would actually be the impact they had on climate, and considering what kind of conditions are favorable for producing the fossil fuels that could power an industrialized civilization, it's even possible that there could actually be some kind of cycle of the rise and collapse of civilizations over tens or hundreds of millions of years, which I find quite remarkable.

What do you guys think of this?
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rhombus
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The Friendly Parallelogram

This is certainly an interesting possibility that I have seen mentioned a few times in popular culture, but not really explored in scientific literature. If a species made it to sapience without significant tool use then we would have little sign of their existence or, at the very least, very little indication of their intellectual abilities. However certain artifacts (such spear tips and arrowheads) could have left remnants which could be identified millions of years later, especially if constructed from graphite. Anything more advanced than that, such as industrial-age technology and settlement, could have left even more significant signs of habitation, including signs of climate change and remnants of fossil fuel use (including an unexpected depletion of the expected amount of fossil fuels in the ground) and as we have not found those that probably indicates no prior civilization rose to that level before humanity. This is born out in part by the findings in the linked study, where they indicate:

Quote:
 
“Impacts to warming and/or carbon influx (such as increase runoff, erosion, etc.) appear to be qualitatively similar whenever in the geological period they occur,” [...] “These changes are thus not sufficient evidence for prior industrial civilizations.”


That being said a proto-civilization without the use of fire and only primitive tool use should not necessarily be ruled out, as the evidence of such a civilization would be minimal after tens of millions of years.
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The Chronicler
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Bionicle fan of GoF
Just found another article on this subject:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/could-intelligent-life-have-existed-on-earth-millions-of-years-before-humans/2018/04/20/9b13e7ac-433a-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8ff585c5c09e

I think the point of this study is not that there actually is such evidence to be found here on Earth (as interesting at that would be for science fiction), but rather how likely we could find such evidence of past civilizations on alien worlds, using our own civilization as an example of what kind of evidence we should look for.
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