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Andre Jul10-05 10:10 AM

Lost Ancient civilisations
 
That's always a hot topic, sometimes leading to less scientific ideas and indeed it's hard to keep it on the straight and narrow path. If only we knew which path that was; hence heated debates. The aim of this thread is to find that path and stay on it, although I realise that this ambition is rather far fetched.

Anyway, the essential question here appears to be:
Quote:

Quote by andre
If ancient H sapiens ~200 Kya, was anatomically similar to the modern version, how come that he apparently never seem to bother developing complicated civilisations, whilst the modern men needed only some 4-6 Kya to accomplish that.

Moonbear added some valuable notes.
Quote:

Quote by Moonbear
But my understanding, which may be wrong, is that formation of stable civilizations accompanied the transition from nomadic hunter/gatherer societies to stable agrarian societies. The key to forming the agrarian societies would be the ability to domesticate animals. Not just any animal can be domesticated easily, as we know from the difficulty of raising and breeding zoo animals or other wild-captured animals in captivity.

So, assuming my premise is correct that the accepted consensus is that animal domestication occurred along with the formation of stable civilizations (as opposed to nomadic tribes, which may leave little evidence of their presence due to the short time spent in any one location) I would be tempted to argue that formation of civilizations had less to do with a dramatic change in the communication/language/skills/intelligence/social organization of early humans and more to do with the discovery of/increased association with a species of ungulate that could be domesticated, or at least tamed, sufficient to begin living around the captive herds rather than following herds as they migrate.

But the question still seem to stand, why didn't that happen 5-10kya, or something, after the appearance of H. sapiens? SelfAdjoint has a good point too:

Quote:

Quote by selfAdjoint
Yes it could be that what was thought of as a transition in humanity was actually just due to the better preservation of more recent paintings and fragile artifacts like bone needles and flutes. There could have been a lot of kit that just couldn't survive for 100,000 years.

And it's evidence that count. Not our imagination of course. Now it's getting really delicate but I agree there are a few (more or less disputed) features that may point to unknown ancient civilisations indeed.

Like:
http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~yf5f-wtn...i/moai6_04.jpg
http://www.civilization.ca/civil/egy...es/arch25b.jpg
http://www.marsearthconnection.com/cuba.html, discussed here

So, what else is there to say? Could there have been unknown civilisations like the Egyptian, Greek or the Roman empires but say anywhere around 150,000 years ago, give or take some 50,000 years?.

selfAdjoint Jul10-05 11:14 AM

I absolutely don't agree that our previous thread had anything to do with "lost civilizations". The modern human species spent a long time in the lower stone age, with a stone kit that didn't change at all for thousands of years. Then came the Cro-Magnon cultural explosion, which was way pre-agriculture and pre-domestication, except dogs. Like 25,000-35,000 years ago versus less than 10,000 years ago for neolithic with domestic animals and/or agriculture. After 10,000 years ago you have towns in the fertile crescent and its surrounding uplands, and also in Egypt and the Indus valley. Nothing unknown or lost about that.

Moonbear Jul10-05 11:37 AM

Quote:

Quote by selfAdjoint
I absolutely don't agree that our previous thread had anything to do with "lost civilizations". The modern human species spent a long time in the lower stone age, with a stone kit that didn't change at all for thousands of years. Then came the Cro-Magnon cultural explosion, which was way pre-agriculture and pre-domestication, except dogs. Like 25,000-35,000 years ago versus less than 10,000 years ago for neolithic with domestic animals and/or agriculture. After 10,000 years ago you have towns in the fertile crescent and its surrounding uplands, and also in Egypt and the Indus valley. Nothing unknown or lost about that.

Right, we weren't talking about lost civilizations, but the development of civilizations. What I wasn't certain about was what we were defining as a civilization. I based my comments on the assumption that by civilization, we mean forming stable settlements, not necessarily the cultural developments that preceded that. But, it's possible that civilization here is being defined as a shift in culture, such as development of stone tools or cave paintings rather than a shift from a nomadic/migratory existence to a more permanent settlement centered around agriculture.

Are there indications of more permanent settlements pre-dating agriculture? Were there non-nomadic hunter-gatherers? If so, this would completely toss out my ideas about needing to stumble upon appropriate species for domestication (plant or animal) as critical for formation of civilizations.

wolram Jul10-05 11:48 AM

Originally Posted by andre
If ancient H sapiens ~200 Kya, was anatomically similar to the modern version, how come that he apparently never seem to bother developing complicated civilisations, whilst the modern men needed only some 4-6 Kya to accomplish that.

Could it that there simply was not enough of them, and those that did exist,
"may be in small groups", defended there patch from intruders.
What was the life span back then 30, 40 yrs ?
An what about the gene pool ?

Andre Jul10-05 11:59 AM

Hold it, my question was
Quote:

If ancient H sapiens ~200 Kya, was anatomically similar to the modern version, how come that he apparently never seem to bother developing complicated civilisations.
Which would imply that we should be certain that he didn't do that in the first place. I simply challenged that. There seems to be no need to wait hundreds of thousands of years with domesticing stock, invent fire and/or the wheel, steel and concrete. But there must be evidence first before you can start up the scientific method.

selfAdjoint Jul10-05 04:42 PM

Quote:

If ancient H sapiens ~200 Kya, was anatomically similar to the modern version, how come that he apparently never seem to bother developing complicated civilisations.
Quote:

Quote by Andre
Which would imply that we should be certain that he didn't do that in the first place. I simply challenged that. There seems to be no need to wait hundreds of thousands of years with domesticing stock, invent fire and/or the wheel, steel and concrete. But there must be evidence first before you can start up the scientific method.

It's not as if we don't have plenty of sites from these people. Maybe their fine arts didn't survive, but there are no domesticated animal bones, surely no trace of the wheel, or towns, and as I keep repeating the stone implements were crude and unchanging for thousands of years. You ain't going to turn that into a civilization by any real defnition.

Something happened to those people around 35,000 years ago that doesn't show up in their physical remains.

Nereid Jul10-05 08:33 PM

How did permanent human settlements, of more than a dozen or so families, first form? When? Why?

As SA has already indirectly mentioned (and Moonbear directly), it seems to be related to domestication of plants and animals (hunter-gatherer social units needed - and still need - a fairly large territory to avoid starvation). That begs the question of what was domesticated (first), when, and how. One can also get a handle on this by looking at places where there never was (apparently) any domestication.

IIRC, at least one popular book explores the factors that lead to large settlements once domestication of plants (especially cereals) got going - it was a sad day (apparently it lead to social stratification, much more work, lower life expectancy, and so on), but once on the treadmill, the only 'way back' was population collapse (a.k.a. mass starvation).

So why did domestication take so long, even where all the conditions were favourable?

[edit: added attribution to Moonbear's post]

Andre Jul11-05 03:16 AM

Domestication, how? The easiest way would probably be caring for orphans. No knowledge about this but on Animal Planet TV, Iíve seen a lioness taking care of a baby gazelle under natural conditions. So what chances are there that a primitive females, who maybe just lost a baby, cared for a young orphan animal after a successful hunt?

Quote:

the only 'way back' was population collapse (a.k.a. mass starvation). the only 'way back' was population collapse (a.k.a. mass starvation).
I believe that archaeology and history give an abundance of serious regressions. How many empires have collapsed? Olmecs, Inca, Phoenicians? How about the sea people, the dark middle ages, etc. What happened to the Moai Statue builders of Eastern island?

Have those statues or other features like that ever been dated? Now, this would seem to be useless in the past, since that would only reveal when the rock was formed. However, nowadays there are several dating methods that show exposure to light (opto-luminescence) or cosmogenic radio-activity, (10Be/26Al, 36Cl, etc). This could give an indication when the statues would have been sculpted.

everneo Jul11-05 04:51 AM

Developing a civilization has something to do with the ability of the society of sustain the progress. A lot of factors like war, natural disasters, beliefs of the society etc could destabilize a budding civilization in its infancy. But it was also possible that an advanced civilization faced a calamity of largescale, their place forsaken and buried deep in the sands of time until someone discovers it.

Andre Jul11-05 05:11 AM

Tales of children
 
Quote:

Quote by everneo
But it was also possible that an advanced civilization faced a calamity of largescale, their place forsaken and buried deep in the sands of time until someone discovers it.

Curiously enough that discussion seems to be at least 2350 years old:

Plato

Quote:

Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children.
Not claiming anything but just pondering; haven't we seen the streams of heaven somewhere else?

Nereid Jul11-05 06:30 AM

If it is domestication of at least some plants and animals (i.e. just domesticating one species may not be enough) is the prerequisite for permanent settlements of any significant size, which itself is a prerequisite for developing agriculture, then we've morphed Andre's question to something like "why did Homo sap. take so long to get around to domesticating {insert list here}?" where 'so long' is at least 50 k years, and maybe as many as 150 k years.

Perhaps there were climate triggers for domestication? Or that domestication wasn't possible with the animals and plants in Homo sap.'s home, so had to wait until enough members of the species migrated to locales where there was a favourable combo?

Andre Jul11-05 06:53 AM

There are more variables though. How about fishing. Some river deltas could have yielded an abundance of fish around the year. The invention of the fishing net or another fishing device may have been the most important start of a more permanent settling.

selfAdjoint Jul11-05 09:52 AM

Long term fishing communities are easy to spot, by the mounds of fish bones they have discarded over time. Unlike hunting communities, they can't move around, but are stuck at the shoreline features where coastal fish are found.

Andre Jul11-05 10:34 AM

Sure, we have excellent and detailed examples here around the North Sea, especially Danmark, late Pleistocene. But it the problem is when paleo-sea levels appear to vary almost a kilometer (and not the nice 127 meters of the ice age), from ~700m down concerning the Cuban megalithic site, for what it is worth, to +150m for the South Chinese sea and Beijing <80 kya

arildno Jul11-05 12:22 PM

Quote:

Quote by selfAdjoint
Long term fishing communities are easy to spot, by the mounds of fish bones they have discarded over time. Unlike hunting communities, they can't move around, but are stuck at the shoreline features where coastal fish are found.

This is not wholly true, there exist exceptions to your for the most part correct rule:

At Iceland (and probably the Norse settlement in Greenland), they prepared the bones into a mush and ate them as well.
Thus, you find very few fish-bones there.
This is how they did it:
They made a large vat of milk in which fishbones were placed after they'd eaten the fish. After some time in the milk, the fishbones became soft and could be eaten.

It is a meager diet, but in a culture bordering on starvation, everything that can be eaten is eaten.

hypatia Jul11-05 03:31 PM

The first farming, appeared in [the Middle East ] the Fertile Crescent some 12,500 years ago, and shortly thereafter in China. These places had the greatest variety of wild plants and animals suitable for domestication. Only a tiny fraction of wild plants and animals were both useful and possible to domesticate.
Location may have something to do with it being possible to make a community, some areas of land simply did not have the types of grains and animals to experiment with.

Andre Jul12-05 02:37 AM

Assuming that "12,500 years ago" is carbon date then it would convert to ~14,200 calendar years, putting it into the "Bolling Allerod stadial" or regional the African Wet Period, when the Sahara and Middle East were forested. I yet have to see the first paper explaining why the Hadley cell mechanism, which causes the deserts around the solstices, was not working in that period.

hypatia Jul12-05 07:13 AM

I've not seen one either, I guess I have would assume there were too many changes going on with the earth for it to become stable enough for the cell to form. Or perhaps things like ElNinos were far to strong.
And of course, weather conditions, would have a role in what plants and animals could survive long enough to be domesticated.


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