humanity evolved before?

was reading about the new fossil of a (possible) early hominid on bbc, and on a graph they showed that homo sapiens has been around for about 2 million yrs.
The question is this, given how far we’ve advanced as a civilization in the past 3000 yrs, is it at all possible that humanity has evolved more than once? (Say before the Ice ages).
What is the mathematical odds (or probability or whatever) for this being possible given that we’ve had the same mental capabilities for 2 million yrs or so. And if possible, why would it be so hard to prove or disprove?

No, Homo sapiens has not been around for 2 million years. Anatomically modern humans have only been around for something like 100,000 years.

And the question is mis-asked anyway, since civilization isn’t evolution. I blame Star Trek for this confusion.

In fact, civilization tends to halt physical evolution by keeping marginal members of society (the congenitally deformed) alive and breeding, whereas in a less civilized species such individuals (and their maladaptive genotypes) would be left to die.

This is not necessarily the case: The Hawaiian civilization was noted for feeding obviously malformed infants to the native sharks, and the Greek Spartans would similarly eliminate young perceived to be unhealthy. However, the general trend holds.

ok, sorry bout that. (I was thinking the evolution in terms of society/culture rather than genetic) but lets just switch the term to civilization then. Its still 100 000 yrs with the same equipment. (vs the advances in the last what… 10000 yrs?)
Is it possible or not that humanity has advanced before and we just dont know it?

Graham Hancock thinks it might of happened. His theories have been blasted by the majority of experts in the field however.

You can have a look

It does seem unlikely that there have been previous “advanced” civilizations which were then destroyed. I’m not saying it’s impossible of course.

It just seems like there’s no evidence. I mean, where are the ancient steel artifacts, or plastics. Granted that those are not necessarily required for a civilization to advance but even the artifacts that have been found are all fairly primitive.

Certainly there was enough time for homo sapiens to develop to our current technological level more than once…but then again, maybe not.

Consider: for a large part of human history the worldwide population appears to have been fairly small.

Assumption: Technological advancement is primarily a means of supporting a larger population by means of increasing/accelerating production of food, clothing, housing, etc.
Then, until numbers of people started growing really large, particularly in urban areas, older lower level tech. was generally sufficient.

This is just speculation on my part so if anybody wants to take it apart, please be gentle.

Im not trying to find a reason for ET’s or Atlantis or any such thing.
Im trying to find out if it is POSSIBLE for human beings to have developed a relatively advanced society (say along the lines of the Romans, or even the renaissance), before the last Ice age. If not, why? What proof is there against this.

Well, consider what evidence one would need to prove the existence of a pre-homo sapiens technological civilization. What would constitute technological advancement? The ability to cast bronze? To smelt iron? Bronze and iron artifacts would survive an ice age, so where is the evidence? Some kind of ancient Atlantis would have required a durable building material, signs of which should still be obvious. Graham Hancock contends that these ancient civilization are now submerged (a conveniently weaselly hypothesis), but that doesn’t explain why an advanced civilization wouldn’t climb aboard their vehicles (I presume they’d have the wheel, too) and migrate inland to avoid the flooding. I find it hard to imagine a technologically advanced culture that couldn’t manage to leave any evidence of its existence. If they didn’t have bronze, iron or the wheel, how “advanced” could they have been?

Without such evidence, one may as well theorize that life on Earth was created by magical space pixies, who were clever and mischevous enough to remove all traces of their presence.

Photopat: true that the population has been small, but we grew now, why not before?
As for finding things, thats actually one of my questions, has anyone ever looked where such things MIGHT be found? Given that if there existed anything pre ice age, would it not have been obliterated by the ice? (After all, if those things can gauge out the great lakes, what chance does a couple of buildings have?)

We can pretty much trace what humans (in general) have been up to for the last hundred thousand years. What is it that you mean by relatively advanced civilization? What kind of evidence are you looking for? There is much evidence that great civilizations rose and fell over those years.
There are stone age hunter-gatherers living at the very same time as computer users.

It’s not that there’s proof against it, it’s that there’s no evidence for it. We’ve done a lot of digging around in all parts of the world. If there had been any major pre-Ice Age civilizations around, we’d have found something of theirs by now.

Ferrous beat me to it. There’s no proof against it, necessarily, other than the absolute and total lack of anything resembling evidence for it.

In the same vein, there’s no evidence whatsoever against the possibility that primates evolved into near-pre-human forms on their own, but then these late-stage protohumans were all whisked away by a giant alien vacuum cleaner and replaced by homo sapiens who had been developed and tested elsewhere by extraterrestrial engineers, making an apparently seamless bridge between the pre-human and fully-human forms.

Basically, you can make up outrageous hypotheses all day long, and as long as there’s no concrete evidence to disprove them, it’s possible, however unlikely, that they’re true. But don’t get confused and start to believe that these far-fringe stories then get the benefit of the doubt, merely because there’s no evidence to dispel them.

Logically, though, it seems self-evident that a previously achieved level of civilization would most likely have left at least a shred of proof of its existence. There are no shreds. The smart person, therefore, discounts its possibility.

Ever hear of Occam’s Razor?

Is there a square inch of the earth that hasn’t been searched? (Only a fraction of the earth was covered with glaciers, BTW.) People are still finding previously unknown sites, like the one in the upper Andes recently, but that’s one of the most remote areas on earth. And it’s not like the Incan civilization was unknown before.

The world has been scoured over and over again. No artefacts have ever been found that anyone outside of the crackpot literature would claim for civilization.

There have been several threads recently about proving a negative, all of which seem to have devolved into philosophical hair-splitting. Pfui, as Nero Wolfe would say. This is exactly what it means in real life to be unable to prove a negative. And why it is so important to have some positive proof before a claim is made.

but just to play the Sci-Fi geek, conspiracy guy Devil’s Advocate… what if- for some reaon or other- a civilization didn’t want to leave a trace??

For example, what if our modern day society keeps on the path its on, and really really screws itself (germ warfare, nukes, ozone, deforestation, air polloution, global warming, pick a couple) and decided its time to UNLEARN all of the pandora’s boxes it had opened, and to give humanity a hance to star tabla rasa? Would it be possible to cover up our existence to future civilizations?

I know its more Science Fiction than science, but its interesting to think about. There was a ST:TNG ep that had a similar idea, where in the Enterprise discovered a civilization that didn’t want to be found, so they had to erase all of the crews memories of the encounter, which of course they didn’t do perfectly, which lead Picard and the gang to become very suspicious about the cover up, and accidentally discover the civilization again. One of my fave eps, and has always mede me think about this very question.

Yeah i know… geeky…


Actually, to repeat a point I made that appears to have been lost in the Great February Board Death, I think it is fairly straightforward to disprove the notion that people had civilizations that arose and receded without a trace.

The simple question to ask is “What did they eat?”

We already know the earliest crops that humans cultivated and when and where they first were cultivated. We have identified their predecessor wild plants and we know how they developed. In order to posit some super society that developed and then receded, we need to figure out what they ate.

We know that as societies developed in the known history, they expanded, bringing their crops (and domestic animals) with them. If there was a superior society that has since vanished, even if their cultivated crops reverted back to an earlier, pre-domesticaed stage, they should have been distributed across the entire range of the earlier society, yet no pre-cultivar food plant was distributed across much of the world.

What we call “civilization” is our agrarian (and post-agrarian) phase. We have recorded history pretty much for the duration of agrarian practices, prior to which we were hunter-gatherers.

What you would be positing is that there had been a previous period during which our species planted things in the ground and tended them rather than living as hunter-gatherers.

Why would we have done such a thing? Hunter-gathering is just a fancy way of saying “We ate what was already there”. It was abandoned only where and when the food supply was insufficient without doing the cultivation thing. Farming is labor-intensive.

Conditions in some area of the world would have had to have driven people to start up the farming thing, building towns and whatnot, defending them, creating social systems, experiencing/causing the population explosion typical of agrarian settled populations, expanding to control large territories, invented written languages, recorded knowledge and history, developed architectures and sciences and so forth, …and then disappeared, their artifacts vanishing, and even their habitat changing so that future humans residing in the area would find food plentiful enough to subsist as hunter-gatherers (or else so unfriendly as to drive people away altogether). That’s a pretty tall order.

Then fuck 'em. The useless selfish bastards don’t deserve to be remembered, or theorized about. Their ancestors discovered things and then the ungrateful last-generation swine decided no-one else should have them, just because they lacked the maturity to use the discoveries wisely? Screw that.

Star Trek: TNG was an incredibly preachy and sanctimonious show when it came to direct (as opposed to symbolic) commentary on 20th-century life. It had about as much maturity as the crazy guy on the corner shouting about microwave ovens being the tools of the devil. Sadly, the writers pandered to such attitudes, claiming 20th century problems exist because 20th century people are uniformly stupid and/or evil. This same touchy-feely attitude is keeping alive the belief that some idyllic Atlantis once existed that had high technology and complete peace and happiness. It’s standard utopic navel-gazing.

Incidentally, that particular episode had nothing to do with commentrary on the misuse of technology. It was just a half-assed technobabble attempt at an offbeat premise. It was more of a ripoff of X-Files than anything else.

Bryan: You do realize this is GQ in a board full of ceritified geeks, don’t you?

I mean, bashing ST:TNG is something normally reserved for places with flame-retardant moderators.

mmHEY, I can geek with the best of them. I’ve seen all the TNG episodes and bought books and written fan fiction and even won a workmanship award for best latex mask at Toronto Trek (I wore a tuxedo and waved a baton - I was Toskanini).

TNG’s 20th-century bashing (or, to be accurate, the 20th-century bashing of some of TNG’s scriptwriters) and interest in Atlantis-esque lost civilizations stem from the same premise, in my opinion. There is (and has been for some time) an anti-technology undercurrent in western culture, to the point where people speak of one of the following as preferable to the present:
[ul][li]An idyllic past where life was simple (nostalgia)[/li][li]An idyllic future where all problems are solved (utopia / TNG)[/li][li]A distant past where all problems were solved with knowledge that has been lost (Atlantis)[/li][/ul]

All three of them annoy me, since they ignore major problems like nostalgia forgettting about the Black Death, utopia somehow programming out basic drives like lust and greed, and Atlantis not leaving a trace of its existence.


To continue the hijack, I have to defend the first Trek to pull the series up from the space opera mire TOS placed it in.

TNG was a bit idyllic (OK, it was sap-a-plenty), but it presented a good future where people solved their own problems with intelligence and human compassion. As opposed to Kirk, Picard could be counted on to think things through, not just go in with phasers blasting. Picard’s strategies made sense and his methods were justifiable. He lead a crew of fully-rounded characters, not just stereotypes and tokens, and his crew could be counted on to call him on orders driven by emotion more than intellect.

I’ll agree that some of the episodes were iffy, but every series does that from time to time. However, the general tenor of the show was a good one: Humanity, after nearly destroying itself with war, pulls itself up by its bootstraps into a new age of reason and compassion, where normal human energies are channeled into discovery instead of fighting. The Federation has enough power to destroy itself many times over, but it never would: It is a unified force in the galaxy, spreading its way (not always the best way, but the way humans understand) to the outer reaches. I think it was a rather positive series that presented science, and rational thought in general, in a good light as a way to live peacefully.

Now that I’ve said my peace on TNG, I think I can agree with you that the anti-science trend of the West is disturbing. It is not limited to fiction, sadly: Crystals and energy channeling and magnetic nostrums are sadly prevalent as alternative ‘medicine’, and defended by saying ‘Western == Unnatural! Nature == Good!’, ignoring such natural beauties as anthrax, polio, wet beriberi, and smallpox. The schtick of ‘rediscovering lost wisdom’ makes me ill, and the various insults to logic they use are gag-worthy.

Here ends the hijack, lest it be moved to the Pit.