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Prehuman industrial civilization on Earth?


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Could a prehuman industrial civilization have existed on the Earth millions of years ago? If it did how could we detect it's existence? 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-an-industrial-prehuman-civilization-have-existed-on-earth-before-ours/

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One of the creepier conclusions drawn by scientists studying the Anthropocene—the proposed epoch of Earth’s geologic history in which humankind’s activities dominate the globe—is how closely today’s industrially induced climate change resembles conditions seen in past periods of rapid temperature rise.

“These ‘hyperthermals,’ the thermal-maximum events of prehistory, are the genesis of this research,” says Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Whether the warming was caused by humans or by natural forces, the fingerprints—the chemical signals and tracers that give evidence of what happened then—look very similar.”

 

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So far the replies assume industry as equivalent to what we see now, why should it be? Weren't the Romans, Egyptians etc. industrious? 

You seem to have solved the nuclear waste problem by personal decree. Or, maybe, you are mistaken.  

If you had an industrial civilization millions of years prior to ours they would have depleted coal and perhaps oil, and I suspect that would be detectable — not finding coal (or much coal) in a regio

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I remember a professor told us that the only trace of our civilization on the long range would be the highways, because large piece of lands are being displaced & drilled by tunnels.

Edited by michel123456
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6 minutes ago, michel123456 said:

I remember a professor told us that the only trace of our civilization on the long range would be the highways, because large piece of lands are being displaced & drilled by tunnels.

That is interesting, I remember reading someplace that bronze statues would last longer than anything else but i often wondered about things like thick polycarbonate plastic or metals like titanium.  They do mention that from the perspective of several tens of millions of years that even the ground would be massively displaced, eroded, folded, and covered up to the point that only traces of things like radioactive or chemical pollutants would be present.  

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25 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

That is interesting, I remember reading someplace that bronze statues would last longer than anything else but i often wondered about things like thick polycarbonate plastic or metals like titanium.  They do mention that from the perspective of several tens of millions of years that even the ground would be massively displaced, eroded, folded, and covered up to the point that only traces of things like radioactive or chemical pollutants would be present.  

You are correct about pollutants but I am afraid on such time ranges maybe the worst pollutant will become ...petroleum.

Bronze statues can last if they are not discovered, because once discovered they will be re-used for making new artifacts.

And tens of million years is too much. A few thousand years is large enough to wipe everything. Say ten or twenty thousands. Even in the span of Human beings you can fit several civilizations. They are "theories" like this. None of them being really serious.

There is a hammer stuck in rock "millions of years" old, but wood cannot last that long. I am not aware of any solid evidence.

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21 minutes ago, michel123456 said:

You are correct about pollutants but I am afraid on such time ranges maybe the worst pollutant will become ...petroleum.

Bronze statues can last if they are not discovered, because once discovered they will be re-used for making new artifacts.

And tens of million years is too much. A few thousand years is large enough to wipe everything. Say ten or twenty thousands. Even in the span of Human beings you can fit several civilizations. They are "theories" like this. None of them being really serious.

There is a hammer stuck in rock "millions of years" old, but wood cannot last that long. I am not aware of any solid evidence.

Oparts are a weird thing for sure. The hammer is bullshit, it's a concretion just a few dozen years old at most but most oparts end up like that when you look close. The only ones that still stand cannot be shown to have been found where they were claimed. Quite a bit like UFOs :ph34r:

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2 hours ago, michel123456 said:

And tens of million years is too much. A few thousand years is large enough to wipe everything. Say ten or twenty thousands.

You seem to have solved the nuclear waste problem by personal decree.

Or, maybe, you are mistaken.

 

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What about nuclear waste - do you guys believe that after 10M years it will still be possible to tell that a nuclear waste site is clearly of an artificial origin? My opinion is that it strongly depends on the circumstances. As far as I know, there is almost nothing that would surely last 10M years. However, even very fragile things can last that long under right circumstances (like a mosquito in amber).

My opinion about OP is then: we know that happy circumstances happen and some artifacts do get preserved for amazingly long time. I therefore find it very unlikely that there was any industrial pre-human civilization - for sure we would find something. We didn't even find fossilized biological remains of an 'animal' that would look like a candidate (and it seems that to make an climate-changing industrial civilization you need quite a sizable population).

Concluding industrial civilizations just from a rapid temperature rise is indeed a 'creepier conclusion'.

 

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For some the half-life is crazy long.

Even if the site is gone the radiation might remain.

Climate change only requires getting to the industrial age though.

 

Is also possible for whole continents to be lost. I don't think it probable all evidence of a wide spread civilization could vanish but there are possibilities.

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If you had an industrial civilization millions of years prior to ours they would have depleted coal and perhaps oil, and I suspect that would be detectable — not finding coal (or much coal) in a region where the geology told you you should. Mining tunnels filled in with the wrong material, inconsistent with the surrounding rock.

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So far the replies assume industry as equivalent to what we see now, why should it be? Weren't the Romans, Egyptians etc. industrious? 

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39 minutes ago, swansont said:

If you had an industrial civilization millions of years prior to ours they would have depleted coal and perhaps oil, and I suspect that would be detectable — not finding coal (or much coal) in a region where the geology told you you should. Mining tunnels filled in with the wrong material, inconsistent with the surrounding rock.

The Article does touch on that idea but they do not elaborate.

Are fossil fuels a one time event on a planet?

I know Thomas Gold proposed that oil comes from biology reworking geology and that oil reservoirs slowly refill over time.  

The modern idea is that geology reworks biology and that oil reservoirs do not refill but some do, abet very slowly.  

IMHO the further back you go the less likely finding some evidence of Homo reptilia becomes. I don't think any evidence would last over 100,000,000 years of upheaval, continental drift, meteorite impacts, super volcanoes, flood basalts, and the like. 

34 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

So far the replies assume industry as equivalent to what we see now, why should it be? Weren't the Romans, Egyptians etc. industrious? 

 A civilization equal to ours is pretty much what the article is speculating about and non human. 

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6 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

 A civilization equal to ours is pretty much what the article is speculating about and non human. 

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That'll learn me to read the entire thread, apologies, but that means the speculation is falsifiable as explained above. We've mapped the tree of life (mostly) and there's plenty of room for a type of industry that's not human, just not our type of industry.

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40 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

So far the replies assume industry as equivalent to what we see now, why should it be? Weren't the Romans, Egyptians etc. industrious? 

The term "industrial civilization" refers to a society that has transitioned  from relying mainly on human or animal power to do work to using powered machines.  It doesn't mean that pre-industrial civilizations weren't "industrious" or weren't civilized,  just that they didn't use powered machines.   

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30 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

The Article does touch on that idea but they do not elaborate.

Are fossil fuels a one time event on a planet?

I know Thomas Gold proposed that oil comes from biology reworking geology and that oil reservoirs slowly refill over time.  

The modern idea is that geology reworks biology and that oil reservoirs do not refill but some do, abet very slowly.  

I was under the impression that our coal was very old. More than a few million years to give us a new supply.

And if you go back too far, then they don't have any coal, and perhaps never get to be much of an industrial society.

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4 minutes ago, Janus said:

The term "industrial civilization" refers to a society that has transitioned  from relying mainly on human or animal power to do work to using powered machines.  It doesn't mean that pre-industrial civilizations weren't "industrious" or weren't civilized,  just that they didn't use powered machines.   

Still works for Roman and many other civilisations, since they used water to power their machines. 

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4 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Still works for Roman and many other civilisations, since they used water to power their machines. 

Direct water power is still considered pre-industrial and I should have included it in my post.  Basically, the dividing line between industrial and pre-industrial is the start of the industrial revolution.

 

19 minutes ago, swansont said:

I was under the impression that our coal was very old. More than a few million years to give us a new supply.

And if you go back too far, then they don't have any coal, and perhaps never get to be much of an industrial society.

Coal started forming in the Carboniferous Period 390-360 million years ago.   There are also coal deposits from the Cretaceous age 65-114 million years ago. 

Coal goes through stages in formation.  First forming brown coal (Lignite), then the black coals, (sub-bituminous, bituminous, anthracite )   With anthracite being the highest quality.

Any industrial civilization prior to ours would use the highest quality of coal available to them, which in turn, would reduce the amount of anthracite deposits around for human use.  Any significant use of coal by some pre-human civilziation would have left evidence in the coal deposit records that we would have noticed.

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15 minutes ago, Janus said:

Direct water power is still considered pre-industrial and I should have included it in my post.  Basically, the dividing line between industrial and pre-industrial is the start of the industrial revolution.

 

In the context of this thread, I suppose you're correct, but philosophically, where are the goal-posts? 

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 If there were an industrial (intelligent by human standards?) civilization 55.5 million yrs ago it is relatively safe to assume they would have established themselves along the Coast considering most life exists in or near water. Sea level rose dramatically the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Depending on sea levels prior to the increase any potential evidence/settlements could be under water currently. I think an enormous amount of previous human history is underwater as well. I also suppose it is also possible an industrial civilization would have used dirty other than Coal & Oil, like Methane, which could explain the lack of disturbance to Coal and Oil reserves. That said there is scant evidence to support any theory for the spike in temp 55.5 million yrs ago. Aliens coming down and heating the earth seem likely as a industrial civilization triggering climate change. 

1 hour ago, swansont said:

I was under the impression that our coal was very old. More than a few million years to give us a new supply.

And if you go back too far, then they don't have any coal, and perhaps never get to be much of an industrial society.

Yep. 

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The conditions that would eventually create coal began to develop about 300 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. During this time, the Earth was covered in wide, shallow seas and dense forests. The seas occasionally flooded the forested areas, trapping plants and algae at the bottom of a swampy wetland. Over time, the plants (mostly mosses) and algae were buried and compressed under the weight of overlying mud and vegetation. 

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/coal/

 

 

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The fossil record to the best of my knowledge doesn't contain beings before H. Sapiens that have brain cavities large enough to have brains big enough to conceive machines, or hands with opposable thumbs to swing hammers. Now don't tell me industrial beings would be smart enough to avoid getting fossilized. First of all, we humans preserve our dead on purpose, and second of all, DARWIN AWARDS, ' nuff said.

If human civilization on earth ceases to be a thing, and another race of intelligent beings look at our time on earth, it will be noticeable for a plethora of reasons. The rate of carbon emissions into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution is unprecedented in the History of Life on Earth. We are in our own right a mass extinction event, driving animal and plant life that is not adapted to human cohabitation or parasitism to extinction - which will be evident in the fossil record as well as our waste and our machines. Even if only a hundredth of a percent make it into the fossil record, we would leave behind more 'machine fossils' than we've found dinosaur fossils... ever. I would expect something similar from any industrial civilization that might have preceeded us.

 

Something that would definitely be found are all the murder weapons disposed in the rivers of our civilizations, because they are pretty much immediately covered by sediment - ideal conditions for preservation for anyone studying the Anthropocene in a few million years

 

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8 hours ago, YaDinghus said:

The fossil record to the best of my knowledge doesn't contain beings before H. Sapiens that have brain cavities large enough to have brains big enough to conceive machines, or hands with opposable thumbs to swing hammers.

"Citation" please brain size is only loosely related to intelligence, some fish have brains bigger than humans in brain/body size. Considering so few animals get fossilized, something like one in 10,000, this number gets smaller the further back you go there could could many things in the past. Ooparts, while not generally taken seriously, do sometimes defy explanation.  

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Now don't tell me industrial beings would be smart enough to avoid getting fossilized. First of all, we humans preserve our dead on purpose, and second of all, DARWIN AWARDS, ' nuff said.

Over geologic time burying our dead would be moot and the desire to bury them could just be a human quirk. 

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If human civilization on earth ceases to be a thing, and another race of intelligent beings look at our time on earth, it will be noticeable for a plethora of reasons. The rate of carbon emissions into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution is unprecedented in the History of Life on Earth. We are in our own right a mass extinction event, driving animal and plant life that is not adapted to human cohabitation or parasitism to extinction - which will be evident in the fossil record as well as our waste and our machines. Even if only a hundredth of a percent make it into the fossil record, we would leave behind more 'machine fossils' than we've found dinosaur fossils... ever. I would expect something similar from any industrial civilization that might have preceeded us.

Unless of course we are many millions of years in the past of these hypothetical beings, plate tectonics will wipe out the traces of our existence. The time factor is paramount in this 

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Something that would definitely be found are all the murder weapons disposed in the rivers of our civilizations, because they are pretty much immediately covered by sediment - ideal conditions for preservation for anyone studying the Anthropocene in a few million years

 

No, such things rust quite quickly over geologic time scales and being subducted into the mantel would erase them completely... 

I have heard it asserted that bronze statues would last the longest if not subducted. Can you imagine a future civilization coming across a centaur statue and trying to make sense of it? 

Edited by Moontanman
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11 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

Can you imagine a future civilization coming across a centaur statue and trying to make sense of it? 

They'd struggle, a human-sized mouth that could deliver enough calories to feed a horse by eating grass or raw oats.

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

They'd struggle, a human-sized mouth that could deliver enough calories to feed a horse by eating grass or raw oats.

Maybe, like humans, they would assume there were omnivores, hooves to not a plant eater make... 

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1 minute ago, Moontanman said:

Maybe, like humans, they would assume there were omnivores, hooves t do not a plant eater make... 

But stomachs do.

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