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The history of mankind is just a speck of dust in the midst of all the vast creation of the world that we inhabit today. Endless human civilizations have passed through it for approximately 6,000 years. Those known as ‘mother civilizations’, that is, those that are characterized by having an autonomous and authentic origin, are Mesopotamia, Egypt, Peru, India, China and Central America. They are so called because the later ones received cultural loans from them to establish themselves as such.
But what are the defining features of a civilization? In the first place, that it is historical, that is, that its citizens use writing to register their legislation, their religion and their political power (kings, states), as well as the perpetuation of the memory of their past from calendars or events related based on certain dates in time. The first official written document dates from 1750 BC and is the famous Code of Hammurabi or Law of Talion, of Mesopotamian origin. With which, we could say that historical humanity is only 4,000 years old, almost nothing if we look back at the geological, biological and astronomical time of our planet.
But here a high-profile question arises among the scientific community: how do we know that we are the only civilization that has ever existed on our planet? Maybe we humans weren’t the first. This is the question that 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 investigating for years.
It all started when the latter began to study global warming from an “astrobiological perspective”. This led him to analyze the results of the industrialization of any civilization prior to ours observable in the impact on the climate. Like the age we are in now, overpopulation and industry leave a clear and evident imprint on the geology and biology of our planet. Starting from this premise, Schmidt and Frank have investigated the possible consequences on climate and nature that a hypothetical industrialized society could have before the one we live today.