The history of humanity is just a speck of dust in the midst of all the vast creation of the world we inhabit today. The so-called ‘primordial civilizations’, that is, those that are characterized by having an autonomous and authentic origin, are Mesopotamia, Egypt, Peru, India, China, and Central America. However, a group of scientists tried to find a civilization before humans on Earth. In the end, it transformed into a lesson about sustainable development and our negative impact on the planet.
First of all, historically speaking, a civilization had to use writing for the registration of their legislation, their religion and their political power, as well as the perpetuation of the memory of their past from calendars or facts related based on certain dates in time.
The first official written document dates from 1,750 BC and is the famous Code of Hammurabi or Law of Talion, of Mesopotamian origin. According to that, we could say that the human civilization is only 4,000 years old, historically, even though humans emerged on Earth millions of years ago.
It’s a matter of what impact a civilization has on the planet it inhabits and what it leaves behind it for the future.
Maybe humans were not the first – Was there a civilization before humans on Earth?
This is what Gavan Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and Adam Frank, professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, have been researching for years when they’ve decided to search for the traces, both geologically and biologically, of a civilization older than humans.
“The construction of a civilization involves collecting energy from the planet to do a job,” says Adam Frank in an article. That is, there is no human progress without an immediate and observable effect on the ecological system.
However, the scientists noticed that the geological record does not reveal anything in this regard beyond the Quaternary period, which is 2.6 million years ago when the Homo Sapiens appeared on Earth.
All traces beyond the Quaternary have been turned into dust and nothing remained. This means that, scientifically, there are no visible traces of an unknown civilization before humans arrived on Earth.
The study pointed out to our own negative impact on the planet and on a poor sustainable development
According to the scientists, all the direct evidence of our lives on the planet would be erased after many millions of years. Therefore, the two thought about what kind of evidence could still remain upon our civilization’s extinction.
In our case, the researchers say, the plastic waste will survive us as it will persist at the bottom of the oceans during geological timescales. The two researchers discovered that the collective activity of humanity today leaves traces that can be detected for the next 100 million years.
In the end, Adam Frank and Gavin Schmidt recognize the practical impossibility of finding any evidence of a civilization before humans.
“Once you realize the need to find low-impact energy sources to slow down climate change, fewer footprints will you leave. Then, the more sustainable your civilization becomes, the less will be the signal that you leave for future generations”, certifies Frank. “Our work also speculates on the possibility that some other planets had destruction and construction cycles driven by fossil fuels. Climate change caused by the use of fossils leads to a reduction of oxygen levels in the ocean. These low levels help unleash the conditions necessary to manufacture new fossil fuels, such as oil and coal,” he continued.
In conclusion, even though they haven’t found a proof of a civilization before humans on Earth, their study showed that what we will leave behind us for the future possible generations will only be marks of our own destruction such as plastic waste, pollution, and the signs of a poor sustainable development plan.