In late November of 2008, I was in Dubai to speak at the International Conference on Ancient Studies, held in the Raffles Hotel there. I gave a talk about my book Forbidden Archeology. Afterwards, a member of the audience asked me a familiar question. “If human beings like us have been present for tens of millions, hundreds of millions, of years, as you say, then why is most of the evidence that you present confined to stone tools, and things like that? What about evidence for high technology or advanced civilization?”
That is a good question, one that deserves an answer. One thing to keep in mind is that I believe human civilizations have risen and fallen many times over those many millions of years. So there may have been times in the distant past when civilizations like ours existed and long periods of time when the human populations were smaller and lived in ways we would consider more primitive. So what would happen to the remains of the advanced civilizations like ours during the times of depopulation? We tend to assume that our skyscrapers and machines are very durable and long lasting. But this is not really true. Scientists who study these things understand that many of our monuments and machines will not last very long when exposed to the uncontrolled forces of nature.
This scientific truth has been brought home to a wider audience by television documentaries like Life After People, which aired on the History channel early in 2008. It turned out to be the most popular show ever on History. A similar program, called Aftermath: Population Zero, aired on the National Geographic channel in March 2008. The premise of these programs is simple. Let’s assume that human beings disappear from the earth today. What would happen to the physical remains of our civilization over time, starting from day one? Author Alan Weisman has also explored what would happen to the physical remains of our civilization if human beings were to suddenly become extinct in his book The World Without Us, which generated its own television special.
From these sources we get a picture like this. Within about 75 years, most machines, such as cars and airplanes and boats, except perhaps in some very dry places, would be corroded beyond recognition.
Plants would start growing in the cities. Without maintenance, roads would be covered with plants, and would be broken up, and gradually disappear. Unchecked wildfires would burn through many towns and cities. Because dams and levees would no longer be maintained, they would gradually break down. Thus there would be flooding of many cities, especially in coastal cities and cities on rivers and streams. That would include most cities. Wooden houses, if not burned by fires, would be consumed by rot or termites. Plant growth and rains would gradually destroy masonry and bricks. Paints that protect steel structures would wear away, exposing the metal to oxidation. The steel frames of concrete buildings would gradually rust away. Within a few hundred years, bridges would fall into the rivers. Skyscrapers would collapse into rubble, which would be subjected to floods, fires, earthquakes, as well as degradation by plant life. By about 1000 years from now, our huge urban centers like New York would be unrecognizable. Heaps of rubble would be covered by plant life and forests. There would be almost no signs of a past human civilization. After 10,000 years, the only sign of a human presence might be stone structures like the Pyramids of Giza. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes will remove most signs of human habitation from huge areas of the earth, as will earthquakes and volcanoes. New ice ages will also scour the earth with glaciers. Extend these processes over tens or hundreds of millions of years, and we can understand that not many visible signs of our high tech civilization would be left.
This may be one reason why much of the evidence for extreme human antiquity that I talk about in my book Forbidden Archeology consists of stone tools and things of that sort. Of course there are some exceptions. For example, in 1871, William E. Dubois, a researcher for the Smithsonian Institution, reported on a copper coin-like object found in a well boring at Lawn Ridge in Marshall County in the state of Illinois in the United States. The round copper object had on one side two human figures and an inscription in an unknown language. The report was published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1871, vol. 12, no. 86, pp. 224-228). The case is also discussed in the book Sparks from a Geologist’s Hammer (1881) by A. Winchell.
From these sources, my research assistant and I were able to get the drilling record of the well boring, which consisted of a list of the strata the boring had gone through to get to the level that yielded the coin-like object, at about 114 feet. At that level the deposits are of clay, which could explain why the coin was preserved. A coating of clay would protect the coin from oxidation. We wrote a letter to the Illinois State Geological Survey, inquiring about the age of the deposits at that depth of 114 feet. We were informed that the deposits were from the Yarmouthian Interglacial period, between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago. This is quite astonishing, because according to the currently dominant theories, humans like us did not exist at that time. Actually, the first coins are supposed to have been used in the eighth century BC in Lydia, in what is now Turkey. Similar coins are supposed to have come into use around the same time in China and the Indus Valley. But the discovery at Lawn Ridge shows that coins may have been used long before that, as much as 400,000 years ago. Of course, coins presuppose a civilization with a developed economy and government.
But it is a fact that many of the cases I talk about are from the category of stone tools. I should point out that stone tools can be just as much a sign of a human presence as a computer. For example, the stone mortars and pestles found in Early Eocene formations (about 50 million years old) in the California gold mines are a kind of artifact attributed by archeologists only to humans like us, not any kind of apeman. These discoveries were originally reported to the scientific world by Dr. Josiah D. Whitney, the state geologist of California, in his monograph The Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California, published by Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology in 1880. And some of the artifacts are still in the collection of the Museum of Anthropology of the University of California at Berkeley.
But let’s imagine that 50 million years ago, people in California were using not only stone mortars and pestles but also laptop computers, skyscraper buildings, and automobiles. What would remain after 50 million years? Not much. Most of our high tech stuff would not survive very well over the course of millions of years. Stone tools are much more likely to survive the ravages of time. So even though humans with high technology may have been existing at the same time as more primitive people 50 million years ago, only the stone tools may have survived.
I am not saying that there would be no signs at all of high tech civilizations in the record of the rocks, but I am saying they might not be as common or as easily recognizable as we might think. A few years ago I was monitoring some exchanges by archaeologists on an internet discussion group. I did not participate in the conversation myself. They were discussing this question: What if there were a human civilization like ours that existed 100 million years ago? What signs of it would we see today? They concluded we would not see very much, perhaps just some thin bands of multicolored gravel. And we would not even notice them unless we were specifically looking for such things.
This is a big problem. Scientists tend to find what they are looking for. And today not very many scientists are actually looking for evidence of high tech civilizations in the distant past. So one purpose of my work is to inspire a new generation of archaeologists, paleontologists, and geologists to start looking for these things. If they did, then perhaps when they encountered some strange looking band of gravel, they might test the materials and perhaps find mineral compounds that do not occur naturally, thus showing the existence of ancient people who had the technology to make such compounds.
I look at the evidence presented in my book Forbidden Archeology as just the beginning. In any case, questions about the level of human civilization, be it high or low, presuppose the existence of human beings. Whether we look for evidence of high-tech human civilizations or low-tech human civilizations, the first thing is that human beings had to be there. And at least I have shown that humans like us have existed for hundreds of millions of years on Earth. As for all the details about their levels of technological advancement over those vast periods of time, that is a topic for further research.
Michael A. Cremo is author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archaeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race. His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see www.humandevolution.com).