The kind of stuff inferred in *** [url=“http://www.straightdope.com/columns/010126.html”]What’s up with the “cocaine mummies”?*** is something I and apparently a lot of others have a certain fascination with (which might explain why people are quick to believe it, though I suspect it is tainted evidence). It’s certainly possible that there were ancient civilizations that we know nothing about, there are some we know very little of today.
I personally think that mankind beyond the hunting & gathering mesolithic lifestyle sometime before our warm spell in the current ice age. There’s very little archeological evidence for it, which is a major strike against the idea (though glaciers could have destroyed a lot of evidence), but I think language and culture of modern man raises some suspicions.
Homo sapiens has been around for 300,000 to 500,000 years, depending on who you ask. The modern form, homo sapiens sapiens has been around 150,000-130,000 years. Even those who suport the “Out of Africa” hypothesis (that holds that the ancestors of the modern human first appeared in Africa about 150,000 years ago, and then spread through Europe and Asia, replacing existing populations of archaic homo sapiens) accept that most of the Old World was populated by beings with brains in the same size range as ours (some bigger) for maybe a half-million years, supposedly stuck as hunter-gatherers up until the climate started warming up about 20,000 years ago, when they hunted a couple of dozen species into extinction and then started growing their own food by about 10,000 years ago. Was this really the first time we made that mental leap and became more than primitives? I’d have no problem with the idea (everything has to start SOMETIME) except that all languages seem to have evolved from one language about 40,000 years ago.
That doesn’t make much sense to me. Although hunter-gatherers can move around a lot (pretty much have to) you’d think that there would be dozens or hundreds of ancient languages, divided up into thousands of dialects - people would have to be spread thin, and would only have contact with other tribes along their migration routes. A lot of linguistic drift can happen in 150-500,000 years, and we would see languages so radically different from each other that their common ancestor was untraceable. The rise of civilization 10,000 years ago would not have wiped out all the old languages - it wasn’t the case of one culture developing agriculture and other neolithic technology and conquering the rest of the world, it seemed the ideas spread separate from the culture, river valley civilizations started popping up all over the place, Mesopotamia, the Nile, on the Indus, in the Yellow River valley. Each had their own language and culture, distinct, yet definitely related to one tens of thousands of years earlier, before the last time the glaciers retreated.
This post is getting longer than I planned, there was more I was meaning to say, but anyway, why is it considered a crackpot idea to believe that there may have been fairly advanced civilizations before the ones we know about? Is it because some people associate lost civilizations with Atlantis myths, Von Daniken, and wacko occultists? Is it simply due to the lack of evidence that nobody is seriously looking?