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Suppose that at least 65m years ago, the dinosaurs (or, for that matter, another species) would have sufficiently developed to build settlements with houses, roads and the like.

Would archaeologists be able to identify remains of these structures 65 million years later? Or would erosion, tectonic shifts and the like erase any possible traces? My idea is the following: One can argue on grounds like too small brains that dinosaurs did not have a 'civilization' and hence did not leave buildings. But can one argue against that on archaeological grounds?

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    $\begingroup$ Largely answered at earthscience.stackexchange.com/questions/20036/… Basically there's no evidence for cut stone, fired pottery, or other tool use or other chemical signals in the paleontological record. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2022 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for accepting my answer. Maybe a geologist could qualify it or have a different opinion, but we have a lack in geologist answering and I wanted to give this interesting question one as a graduated in geology that hasn't worked a lot stratigraphy. I am practically sure cities as New York would leave a trace stratigraphers could see in the logs (but not a village or a small city), but I can't give a more complet explanation about that $\endgroup$
    – user27958
    Dec 11, 2022 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ Archaeologists have troubles to obtain a record from ancient Pleistocene because early diagenesis destroys everything. I am practically sure for +65myr the archaeological register would be completely non-existant even we would see something in the logs and started to dig as if it were a mine (or we would take the register with pipes). Diagenesis would have destroyed roads and buildings if I am not wrong. $\endgroup$
    – user27958
    Dec 11, 2022 at 11:45

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"Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack."

That said, there is no evidence of any intelligent civilization prior to humanity. If dinosaurs, or for that matter, some other species, had achieved our current human level of civilization, only to be wiped out by an asteroid collision with the Earth, there would be evidence that that high level civilization had happened. We wouldn't see the huge deposits of coal and oil dating back to the Carboniferous and the huge deposits of iron dating back to the two billion year old oxygenating of the atmosphere, all of which we are currently exploiting. We would see strange bands of iron embedded in very thin and narrow but very long rock formations (i.e., 65 million year old freeways). We don't see any of that. A dinosaur equivalent of our current level civilization can be ruled out.

On the other hand, if dinosaurs or some other species had only achieved the equivalent of pre-pottery Neolithic civilization when the first towns were being built by humans (about 10000 years ago), only to be wiped out by an asteroid collision with the Earth, there might well be no evidence of that. It has been hard enough for archeologists to find the rather faint signs of those 10000 year old civilizations, and that's mostly because those archeologists know where to look. Finding signs of an equivalent 65 million year old civilization where no one knows where to look would be nigh impossible. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

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The register would have been mostly non-existent and there would be no inference of how the cities were or how the culture of the dinosaurs was, as even the cities had been buried by sediments quickly before erased by erosion, the diagenesis would have destroyed the records later.

The only cities that could have resisted should have been buried by a volcanic eruption and then not demolished by tectonics.

If the cities had been as big as New York, detailed seismic profiles would show its trace in the cases the layers had evolved to be part of a sedimentary basin and the conditions wouldn't have evolved to burial metamorphism; there are a lot of intact Mesozoic sedimentary basins in the Earth, even they are folded by orogeny pulses.

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We found many dinosaur fossil tracks around the world, and they all have one thing in common: they are tracks of bare feet.

We invented shoes about 10,000 years ago, a few millennia before building cities.

So, if the dinosaurs had developed enough to build cities, they definitely would have worn shoes and we would see these shoes in fossil tracks.

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    $\begingroup$ (This is not meant as a very serious answer.) $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2022 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ The first "city", Jericho, was built 11000 years ago. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2022 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen This is the age of the first settlement, but its "city" status is disputed (hence your quotation marks). Anyway, 10000 years is actually the age of the most ancient shoe we found, but their invention could be older, they just didn't survive until today (which could be true for cities, but they are less likely to decompose than bark). $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2022 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ That's a very interesting observation, thanks! So there might be indeed a chance to observe traces of civilization over such a period of time. $\endgroup$
    – E. Sommer
    Dec 13, 2022 at 17:06

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