Could ancient civilizations have existed before those we know of?

  1. Hi all,

    Do you think it's possible that some civilizations existed perhaps 5-10,000 years ago that had literacy, mathematics, philosophy, perhaps democracy and such? All those things that ancient Greece get a lot of credit for.

    I discussed this with my friend who responded that if they were that advanced they would also have had advance architecture which we would find evidence of today. But I think that would depend on the material they used to built with. Maybe that has all eroded over time.

    In other words, is it possible that we have had philosophers and scientists much greater than Plato and Aristotle who wrote about algebra, and perhaps even calculus, but we just haven't found the evidence?
  2. jcsd
  3. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    The Great Pyramid at Giza is believed to have been completed about 4,600 years ago.
  4. Yes. But my point is that we are well aware that an Egyptian civilization existed at that point. I'm wondering if it's possible that civilizations have existed that we are not aware of at all.
  5. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    So there's two different questions there:

    1. "Could ancient civilizations have existed before those we know of?" Certainly, yes.
    2. "Could advanced, ancient civilizations have existed that we don't know of?" Yes, though not as likely and depends on what you mean by "advanced".
  6. Excavations at the Jericho site in Israel have revealed an 8 meter tower and walls up to 4 meters thick possibly dating from 9,000-10,000 years ago. It's generally considered to be the oldest city in the world, although there is some question as to the actual age of the oldest known structures.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  7. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    IIRC ancient Sumer is regarded as being the oldest recorded civilisation. However it really depends on what you mean by "civilisation". There have been hunter gather societies for tens of thousands of years that have occasionally built settlements and the like.

    As for science that was discovered independently possibly. There have been cases where some ancient society was credited with a discovery that another ancient society already knew but to generate the kind of philosophers and scientists that were seen in ancient Arab and Greek societies requires a civilisation that allows some of the people time to just sit around and learn.
  8. Dotini

    Dotini 756
    Gold Member

    I'm sure many of you have heard of the important discoveries at Gobekli Tepe?

    Here is an audio interview of science writer Charles C Mann, who has twice visited the dig at the 11,500 year old monument. He was able to spend a good deal of time with the archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, in charge of the dig for many years, and reveals heretofore unpublished insights into its even greater antiquity and achievements.

    Foremost of these is evidence of a proto-written language. This is found among the finely carved images, mainly animals, but also symbols such as waves and crescents found upon the huge rings of stone pillars. These are thought to work mnemonically, and may collectively constitute a language. They are studying it.

    (This is a long interview. The part under discussion is found about 45% the way through)

    Respectfully submitted,
  9. It seems that this was a ceremonial site, not a functioning city. It was some distance from a water supply according to your link. Jericho appears to have been a true urban center. There was and is a reliable spring there that has sustained habitation since Neolithic times.

    Nevertheless this is a remarkable discovery, particularly the evidence of a possible written language. As far as I know, Sumerian cuneiform is currently thought to be the oldest writing (ca 3500 BCE).
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  10. Dotini

    Dotini 756
    Gold Member

    Yes! The Tower of Jericho. With its base diameter of 8 meters, and even with the uncut rubble masonry lower portion, I imagine this tower might have once stood over 25 meters tall, if Irish round towers are anything to go by.

    The ditch (moat?) around Jericho was impressive too: 8.2m x 2.7m x 600m excavated from the solid bedrock.

    Respectfully submitted,
  11. bummer, I just spent an hour writing up a pretty good post (you should have seen it) meanwhile I guess my session ended and I had to log in again, the post never showed up.
  12. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    It's a bummer when that happens. Write it again :)
  13. tiny-tim

    tiny-tim 26,016
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    maybe it was all in Antarctica, and it's now buried under miles of ice :wink:
  14. Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  15. The basic problem with this discussion is the definition of terms.

    To be accurate use these words as the ancients conceived them.

    Civilized meant you were a slave owner
    Democracy was an association of slave owners.
    Sometimes the slaves were owned by individuals, sometimes by the State or other corporate body.
    Barbarians were those neighboring tribes, your "civilized" society has not yet enslaved.

    Being a "civilized" male, provided one with the leisure time to develop the arts and
    sciences. The technology they developed was limited to theoretical amusements, toys,
    sometimes State engineering projects or temporary military use.

    We must not confuse using machines with being civilized. We are barbarians who use machines. We settled that argument at Antietam, Vicksburg, Atlanta and Gettysburg.
    When the armies of the "civilized" Americans were defeated.

    The ancient civilizations that we acknowledge, all left unmistakable scars in their mines and roadways and other sources of the raw materials they consumed. Just as our modern society has and is doing to the geography. Did you think those railway cuts, strip mines, tunnels, highways, will just evaporate after us?
  16. Just as we currently live amongst ruins in our oldest cities - is it not possible the "ancient civilizations that we acknowledge" did the same thing and we can't tell the difference?
  17. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Old civilizations tended to build on top of older civilizations, burying them underneath.
  18. That's my point - perhaps building materials were recycled or ruins covered and remain undetected by us.
  19. Democracy? Yes. People don't like to constantly fight with each other. Literacy? No. Written language has only been invented a few times. I suppose there glyphs though, so maybe some type of writing, but probably not too complex. Mathematics? I would not be surprised if neanderthals had commerce, etc. and had some kind of number system. After all, some dogs can count. Philosophy? Maybe. What's exactly is philosophy? Calculus? I would be surprised. It's just so abstract, even for someone living in a state of the art grass hut.
  20. And stone masonry is more trouble than it's worth.
  21. It's clearly easier to clean a block or re-shape it than to cut another.
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