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Where are the fossils of buildings and artifacts from pre-Flood civilizations?

Published: 27 October 2020 (GMT+10)

We recently received this inquiry about the apparent lack of man-made objects deep in the fossil record. Does this absence contradict what creationists would expect given our claim that the fossil-bearing rocks were laid down by the Genesis Flood? Keaton Halley and Shaun Doyle of CMI–US respond.



We were wondering if there are any articles explaining the lack of “fossils” (lacking a better term) of pre-flood cities. We know Cain built a city. And we know they had ironworks. Why do we not find any fossils in these things? Just wondering if there’s been any study in this area.

Thanks for your help,


Hi B.H.,

Thanks for the question. This is a topic about which we would also like to see creationists research and write more. With input from some of our colleagues, here is our take.

The issue of pre-Flood artifacts (buildings, tools, etc.) is related to the question of fossilized pre-Flood human remains. Human fossils do seem to be characteristically or at least generally absent from Flood rocks. We have offered possible explanations for this pattern in places like The Creation Answers Book, Chapter 15: Where are all the human fossils? But not all of the same explanations necessarily apply to artifacts. For example, one possible factor that contributed to the lack of human remains is their ability to flee to higher ground and escape burial. But buildings and other objects not carried by humans would not have been able to flee.

Before we consider some possible explanations that could account for the lack of confirmed pre-Flood artifacts, here are a couple of considerations to put this issue in perspective. First, there are plenty of examples in which two creatures that we know lived at the same time (in some cases, both still alive today) are widely separated as fossils in the geologic record. They are never found fossilized together, yet this clearly does not mean that they were separated in time. Examples include whales and coelacanths, or humans and Wollemi Pine Trees. We have also pointed out that footprints often appear in the fossil record well below body fossils of those same organisms, even though the bodies obviously had to be around to make the footprints! The point is that, even if we do not know with certainty how to explain the absence of some item from particular layers, that’s not a good reason to assume that it did not exist at the time those layers were being formed.

Second, it is possible that some pre-Flood artifacts have been found, but they are treated as rare anomalies that can be ignored or explained away through circular reasoning (e.g., “This must be an intrusive burial because we know humans weren’t around back then”). Some artifacts are claimed to have been found in coal and other deep rock layers, but the difficulty is that the finds have not been carefully documented before removal and, once disassociated from the rocks, it is mostly an argument from testimony, and the ‘reworking’ explanation can be invoked. The Creation Answers Book chapter above mentions some of these alleged ‘out-of-place’ artifacts documented by Cremo and Thompson. John Morris also covers some in his book, The Young Earth, chapter 6. Recently, the Institute for Creation Research even cautiously reported on a mask depicting a human face that was alleged to have been found in coal. Though it lacked provenance and should not be used as proof, it can encourage creationists to be on the lookout for such finds, as perhaps some day more properly documented examples will be forthcoming.

With those caveats in mind, here are some possible reasons for the general lack of pre-Flood cities and tools showing up in the fossil record.

1. The Flood was highly destructive.

Some artifacts may have been pulverized rather than preserved as fossils. If homes were built of mudbricks, for example, they could easily have been dissolved. Granted, this explanation can only go so far, because we know from fossils that the Flood was capable of preserving even fine details of soft-bodied creatures in some instances, though mostly it is hard shells and bones that tended to become fossils. Also, pre-Flood humans made hard things like metal tools, as you point out, including musical instruments mentioned in Genesis 4, and these would be more likely to be preserved. Still, the destructive power of the Flood could at least be a partial explanation.

2. The Flood did not produce fossils from a random sampling of all regions.

There could be many reasons why certain areas were more likely to be destroyed. For instance, ocean currents during the Flood would have been stronger in some parts of the globe than others—leading to differences in destruction and deposition. Just like wind speeds vary with latitude due to the Coriolis effect and other physics, with consistently high winds at mid-latitudes (‘roaring forties’) and very low winds at the equator (‘tropical doldrums’), the Flood’s sea currents would also have varied with latitude. The faster currents at mid-latitudes would have been more destructive, while the slow currents at low latitudes would have allowed sediments to drop out of the water and be deposited. Of course, many other processes were going on simultaneously making for a much more complex picture overall. But it is at least possible that humans were living primarily at mid-latitudes where the climate may have been more equable, and thus their possessions were subjected to more destructive forces, not to burial.

One should also keep in mind that the vast majority (probably 99%) of fossils we find today are either marine creatures (mostly invertebrates) or plants. So, for a land-based creature or object to be preserved as a fossil at all is a relatively rare thing. See also: Order in the fossil record: How can Noah’s Flood explain it?

Creation geologist Tim Clarey has been doing research into the six megasequences which comprise most of the Phanerozoic (fossil-bearing) record.1 These are packages of sedimentary deposits ideally characterized by coarse-grained rocks like sandstone at the bottom, followed by a fining upwards to shale and limestone, and capped by erosion surfaces on top and bottom.2 Clarey’s work has shown that practically no terrestrial fossils appear in the lowest three megasequences, which extend from the Cambrian up to the Carboniferous. So one should not expect to find human remains or artifacts in these deposits, because when they were being emplaced the Flood was not yet burying anything from the land.

Moreover, Clarey suggests that human settlements were located in the pre-Flood ‘uplands’ alongside most living mammals and angiosperms (flowering plants), which would correspond with the uppermost megasequence, the Tejas (which roughly corresponds to the Cenozoic). Clarey explains:

Much of the Tejas megasequence likely represents material washed off the highest pre-Flood hills that became ‘backwashed’ onto the Zuni strata as the Flood waters began to recede (Day 150+). Fossils in the Tejas megasequence also contain increasingly more angiosperms and mammal fossils compared to the Zuni deposits, indicative of higher terrains. These areas were apparently wiped free of all life, removing even the pre-Flood soil and any rock layers that might have existed there.3

In Clarey’s reconstruction of pre-Flood geography, “The pre-Flood high hills include the major shield areas of Canada, Greenland, Brazil and Central and Western Africa.“4 As such, today’s major Precambrian shield areas were denuded of all Flood sediments (and probably a lot of crystalline basement rock, as well) as the Flood receded from the earth. The Tejas is the depositional record of that denudation. As such, the Tejas has unique features among the megasequences that would make it ill-suited to preserving human artifactual remains:

Animals may have been buried closer to their place of origin as the Floodwaters were rising (Sauk through Zuni megasequences) until Day 150 was reached. The water and sediment likely engulfed the animals nearly in situ as the water level increased. But the Tejas depositional pattern appears to have been different. It was apparently the result of a reversal in flow direction as God began to remove the waters from off the continents after Day 150. This not only transported the flora and fauna from off of the highest hills, it spread those deposits outward toward the continental margins. Animals and plants that lived in areas that are now exposed crystalline rock (Precambrian shields) were transported great distances and deposited on top of the Zuni strata and sometimes older exposed strata too.5

Unlike in other megasequences, in the Tejas human artifactual remains would’ve been truly scattered, and thus would be much more likely to be destroyed, and much harder to find if they did survive.

3. Given the volume of Flood deposits, Pre-Flood artifacts might be the proverbial needle in a haystack.

The world is a big place, and it could be rare to find any human artifacts even if they are buried somewhere in the fossil record. We do not know how large the population size was before the Flood, but the Bible tells us that the world was then full of violence (Genesis 6:11), so wars and murders may have limited the population size. If humanity’s numbers were small, this would have limited the amount of material culture they produced as well. The Creation Answers Book chapter referenced above mentions that 10 million hypothetical bodies spread evenly throughout 700 million km3 or rock would amount to only 1 person for every 70 km3. The same principle can be applied to artifacts. It’s hard to estimate how many artifacts or buildings there may have been before the Flood. The pre-Flood people had about a millennium and a half to develop their technology, and the Bible tells us they were sophisticated enough to have made objects out of bronze and iron (Genesis 4:22) and to have built a giant Ark. But they were not as developed in technology as we are today. When the Bible says that Cain “built a city” (Genesis 4:17), for example, one should not think of a modern metropolis. The Hebrew term ‘ir can just mean a walled settlement—in this case, walled for protection from his kinsmen who might want to avenge their brother Abel. In any case, compared to the volume of the fossil-bearing Flood rocks, existing artifacts at the time of the Flood may have been relatively modest in size and few in number.

But even if the people were large in numbers and widely dispersed around the globe, and even if they had produced loads of buildings and artifacts, it still might be difficult to locate any surviving objects today amid such a huge search space. Ignoring the lower three megasequences based on considerations above, that still leaves the upper three, which are all most likely Flood deposits (including the ‘Cenozoic’ Tejas megasequence). The upper three megasequences actually represent the vast majority of the material in the Phanerozoic sedimentary record. Even if we count just the Tejas, that still comprises just under a third of the entire sedimentary rock volume of the Phanerozoic, and more than the first four megasequences combined. So any man-made objects could still have plenty of places to hide.

Anyway, those are some of the possibilities. Hopefully, with more study, other creationists can develop these answers further. But we hope the above helps to point you in the right direction.


by ,

References and notes

  1. Clarey, T., Carved in Stone: Geological Evidence of the Worldwide Flood, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, Texas, 2020. Return to text.
  2. Davison, G., The Importance of Unconformity-Bounded Sequences in Flood Stratigraphy, Journal of Creation 9(2):223–243, 1995. Return to text.
  3. Clarey, ref. 1, p. 323. Return to text.
  4. Clarey, ref. 1, p. 324. Return to text.
  5. Clarey, ref. 1, p. 324–325. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

How Noah's Flood Shaped Our Earth
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Flood Fossils
by Vance Nelson
US $32.00
Hard Cover
Rock Solid Answers
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $20.00
Soft Cover
Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $16.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Mark P.
I think it should be mentioned that the continents shifted or split at some point during the flood such that what was top surface in many areas subducted while lower areas rose. It is entirely possible that a city even back then and its stone structures would have subducted and not been visible under the oceans or under extreme sediments today. This is exactly why coal and oil is found far below the surface as otherwise it would’ve rotted on the surface and not been around today! Finally, I have read but cannot cite the source that certain structures have been found under water particularly the English channel and in areas of the Mediterranean. If those were ice age structures when the sea level was lower that is one explanation but there exists a possibility those were pre-flood.
Keaton Halley
In the CPT model, it was largely the pre-Flood ocean floor that was subducted. Cities found offshore would still be on top of sediments from the Flood, so they are not pre-Flood, but more likely Ice Age as you say.
Norman P.
Empirical observation amply supports the Genesis narrative, though plenty of hard questions remain - as they do for other parts of the Bible. But as Jesus said, 'Wisdom is justified of her children'. I tend to think that, since the Fall, God has so scrupulously ordained that we should know him by grace through faith alone (and that based on his word), that He has not left 'signs' that pander to our curiosity of unbelief. However, there remains, of course, a vast evidence of his divine providence, as seen in the Creation, and in the prophetic testimony of the rocks. Otherwise, the only sign given to us would be the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-42).
A second reason for the apparent absence of pre-Flood artefacts might be due to God's determination to utterly destroy every vestige of that corrupted world civilization. Was it not the same with Sodom, and the Cities of the Plain? And will it not be the same again in the future, when He creates a New Heaven and a New Earth? (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Revelation 21:1).
My thoughts above are meant to enhance the cause of enquiry, not to undermine it. Love to all in Jesus.
Keaton Halley
Thanks for offering some additional helpful points. I would distinguish, though, between signs and evidence, since signs are miraculous, and evidence need not be. We can have much evidence that God's Word is true and still need faith, because these two are not mutually exclusive. The Bible contrasts faith with sight, not evidence.
Thomas R.
It’s has already been mentioned in the article, but it bears repeating, and emphasis.

The earth’s surface is approximately 182 million square miles.

That is HUGE compared to the extremely minuscule amount of remains that could reasonably be found anywhere within reach of modern human excavation.

This enourmous size also explains very well why we should not expect to find a cow, for example, buried alongside T-Rex.

It also explains why the Bill Nye argument, that everything should essentially be mixed up like a slurry so that we could find cows and dinosaurs together, is completely unrealistic and unscientific in its reasoning.
It completely ignores real physics and real world geometry, including the biosphere.

Make no mistake, 30 minutes of debris floating in the ocean is more than enough to completely separate it from debris that was just a few hundred yards away on land before inundation.
Bill P.
I very much agree with the 1st reason you gave for a lack of human fossils. I've been on mountain tops both on the east coast and west coast. I've served in the U.S. Navy 45 yrs. ago and have seen many lands with all the different shapes they are formed into because of this judgement GOD sent on the earth because of the continuing evil in men's hearts. I think it's a miracle that we find any fossils at all. Noah warned the people of the earth of the coming judgement. Jesus The Christ Himself warned us of the judgements coming in the near future and they were and are both mocked. We have fossils of animals, foot prints of animals and humans, layer upon layer of sediment around the world that only water and volcanic eruptions can form and a ridge of mountains that go around the earth underwater like a seam on a baseball. With all of that we still have people hunting for the Garden of Eden (which did exist at one time), and they still hunt for that asteroid that was suppose to have killed off DINO 65 million yrs. ago. When are people going to admit that evidence in front of their eyes show that GOD created the heavens and the earth and can rip it apart with HIS own hands if HE desires. When are they going to repent and humble themselves before HIS only begotten Son Jesus Christ to seek His Grace and Mercy and escape the coming judgement that will be worse than the one of Noah's Day. Do not underestimate HIS power and glory or HIS Grace and Mercy. The souls of those who lost their life in that flood will be witnesses against the people today who mock and scoff The True and Living God Who created the heavens and the earth. They will tell the mockers "you should have listened and believed. Give honor and praise to HIM who lives forever.
Thomas R.
One of the aspects of the Flood that almost never gets brought up is the separation that would happen during the first 40 days. Torrential rains would send every land dweller into hiding, and then they would stay there for much of the remaining days of rain. It would also kill many, many creatures, including people, before the end of the 40 days was even up. Starvation would ensue, along with local flooding before the land was actually inundated with oceanic water. Mud slides would abound, and therefore “premature” burial of plants, animals, people, artifacts, and dwellings.

I think if creationist archeologists, paleontologists, etc are going to look for Pre-Flood artifacts, they should probably start looking underneath collapsed forests, and probably very deep in the rock layers, or even under the perimeters of mountains where upheaval has turned top layers upside down.
Michael B.
Other items to note: God said for the waters to abound or swarm with life and you get a similar impression for the birds and for the land animals; so it seems these began with good populations where He created only a single human couple to begin the process of populating the earth.
I also am thinking that wood may have been a primary building material during that time before the flood created so much of our modern building materials.
Lastly, people also instinctively grab onto things floating to help keep them afloat; this would keep them above the initial turbidite flows and if kept up at the surface when they drowned the odds of being buried go way down as they are more likely to just bloat and float for quite a while before decomposing and sinking.
Just some musings...
Your Brother in Christ,
Don S.
I may be wrong on this, but fossils (in general) require sedimentation which requires flooding. According to the scriptures there may not have been rains and floods before Noah's flood. Therefore, fossils which are rare today would have an almost impossible chance of forming until after the flood. Am I wrong?
Keaton Halley
In The Creation Answers Book, chapter 12, we point out that the Bible never says that rain (or rainbows) did not occur before the Flood. People draw this conclusion based on several passages which fall far short of proving the idea. It seems very implausible given the laws of physics. Click the link for further explanation.
Richard P.
I don't know about pre-flood fosils, but there are plenty of pre-flood artifacts around. They're often referred to as out-of-place artifeicts or "OUPARTs". There are many books and websites dedicated to these, but needless to say, like much in the secular world, the Christian must approach them with discerment. Klaus Dona is something of a curator of these artifacts and whilst he doesn't hold a Christian worldview, he is mocked by mainstream science like a Christian, so give him points for that. He seems a genuine chap. It may be interesting to look him up.
Another person is an Indian chap called Praveen Mohan who looks at ancient technology in India. He shows that there was clearly great but different than today, technology in ancient times, although his speculation is a bit "Ancient Aliens" which you'd all be aware the secular world seems to pivoting to, away from evolution, which is thoroughly de-bunked by now. Methinks thinks this undeniable ancient technology, which is found all around the world, was provided by the fallen angels and used by the Genesis 6 Nephilim, who were worshipped by our ancient ancestors, well the line of Cain at least.
Jean P.
My thougbt is that the Lord in His wisdom buried them all under the 7/8ths of the world that is still covered by the Flood waters.
Keaton Halley
Perhaps, but keep in mind that there is less sediment on the seafloor than on the continents. See: Sea-floor sediment and the age of the earth. And one would need to explain why the artifacts exclusively ended up there.
Bruce J.
One reason for the lack of evidence of pre flood remains is in the central Queensland coalfields. There is not just one coal seam covered by overburden, but 5 coal seams with overburden between each of the seams of coal. Was a large and deep valley filled with trees and overburden five times? Some mining companies are taking the first, second and third coal seams. In some cases a drag line is taken down to remove the overburden. The boom of some draglines is 65 m long. A medium sized car can fit in the bucket of some drag lines. There is no careful sifting of overburden or coal. Production rates of between 1 and 7 million tonnes of coal per annum don't allow for that. The mining companies are not looking for flood evidence, only coal, and they are only interested in the cheapest extraction rate.
Fred C.
This is a great discussion. The power of moving water at the intensity level of the Flood would be able to pulverize most bodies and building materials. Given the tendency for humans to settle along river banks, valleys, nice ocean waterfront spots or forests, it is clear they would be extremely vulnerable to rushing water mixed with all the debris it scraped from the surface. Thus obliterating everything to dust (from dust to dust... by water. Mmh, interesting) But the metallic object remains a question in my mind and keeps me looking everywhere I go.
Keaton Halley
Pre-Flood metallic objects are certainly worth looking for, and we're open to their discovery.
G. S.
Following from Michael B's comments;

Organic material of any mix and in any state of decomposition, being taken by unrestricted ocean currents forming enormous vortices could easily deposit such material into deep fissures in the crust formed by the destructive geologic forces in play.

This material, sooner or later being covered over and encased by overlaid deposits of cementing mud and sediments, and already being under great pressure, cooks anaerobically in the geologic heat to form coal, oil and gas, of varying types. In time the overlaying material solidifies, often not before a dome is formed above the fermenting material and sometimes the overlaying material is permeable, leading to different outcomes.

So, based on the genealogies of Matthew 1, I kindly offer that you are possibly pouring your Great (X 100),.... Auntie Agatha into your gas tank. And maybe her bones and her jewellery and other human artefacts are to be found in the sludge at the bottom of an oil well.

Now crude oil can be very corrosive stuff. But who knows? And who has ever looked? And who would dare?
David P.
They're all still there along with thousands of other fossiled dinosaurs, birds, trees etc that evolved over millions of years as science has consistently and irrefutably proven to everyone all over the world - except for a quaint and puzzling collection of creationists who for reasons that defeat me seem to have remained adherents to Bishop Ussher stuck in the 17th century. The rest of us have listened, learned and moved on.
Keaton Halley
The reasons which you say puzzle and defeat you are all over this website. For example, readers should consider our 15 Questions for Evolutionists and the problem of genetic entropy. Many of my CMI colleagues were once evolutionists who have since listened, learned, and moved on.
David S.
Halley's Bible Handbook documents archeological digs at Kish and Fara along the Euphrates Valley which found a clean water laid "flood layer" (no artefacts) and a different cultural artefacts below, e.g. wheels with copper nails, painted pottery etc. Wondered why CMI never featured this? Interestingly, I brought back a peice of clay pottery on the ground at Ur, Iraq, which is on a high hill. A layer of salt now covers the surface of it. Must have been submerged under salt water!
Keaton Halley
We actually have touched on this minor Kish flood, but this was a local event whereas the Genesis Flood was global in scope. The actual Flood laid down much of the fossil-bearing geologic record, while this Kish flood was a much more restricted event that post-dates Noah's Flood.
Bonnie H.
This is an interesting verse. I am not an original language scholar. Is there anything in this verse that indicates he will cause the traces of man to be erased more than animals? It says he will blot out yet save. Man is mentioned twice, but not the animals. Is there any original form here that indicates he will blot out man more?? I don’t know I am not a scholar. Just wondering. “So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭6:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬
Shaun Doyle
Some have suggested this, since the word for 'blot out' can have connotations of 'wiping away' as one wipes off a dish. But the word probably isn't meant to imply such a specific form of death/destruction, since it does refer to animals as well as humans.
Christopher H.
Many of the ruins which exist today were likely built before the flood. Possibly the great pyramid of Giza, the pyramid on the Silk Road, Baalbek, Gobleki Tepe, Machu Picchu, Puma Punku, (pardon my spelling) and others. There are many ancient blocks that seem to have been cast from liquid stone, with holes or slots for metal framing. Similar to concrete and rebar today. The metal either rusted away or was gathered by people after the flood. Ruins would be ideal for gathering material to rebuild cities after the flood.

There are far too many out of place artifacts to sweep under the rug. A quick internet search for ancient high technology brings up plenty of evidence. Unfortunately these ooparts are attributed to aliens. The popular show "Ancient Aliens" offers an atheistic explantion for the ancient machines and advanced city buildings, some of which exceed our ability to reverse engineer. The obvious answer is that aliens didn't build them, people did. Our ancestors were not ape-men, but geniuses.

There are city ruins on the bottom of the oceans near Japan, the Caribbean, the East Atlantic, and other places. These could have been pre-flood also.

A number of archaeologists mention the ooparts. Jonathan Gray is a Christian whose books are too quickly scoffed at. I don't agree with his theories 100% but he presents an enormous amount of evidence for pre-flood technology. His book "Dead Men's Secrets" is worth a read. Ron Wyatt is another Christian archaeologist. He found rivets in the Noah's Ark site in Turkey. The rivets were made from titanium and aluminum. These metals require electricity to produce.

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