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Ragnarök is the Norse rendition of the apocalypse. A major event during this apocalypse is Fernir devouring the sun. If we assume that the sun and all of its influence disappear entirely for 3 days, this could have serious effects on the environment.

Another side effect of Ragnarök for the purpose of this question is that humanity and all traces of them are wiped out, with the exception of two humans who then repopulate the earth.

Assuming that gods meddle in human affairs from time to time and the possibility of Rangnarök is known to be real (this means that the gods, including Fernir, have been proven to exist), how could humans with knowledge of science similar to ours prove with statistical significance Rangnarök already occurred once a few ten thousand years ago? This should take into account all effects that the absense of the sun would have.

Additionally, could it be shown that these traces were not the result of an original creation?

We know however that we won't be able to do this using astronomy.

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  • $\begingroup$ What does "wiped out" mean? Do they disappear without a trace or do they die and their remains stay behind? What about non-human animals and plant life? Are they affected (directly or indirectly)? $\endgroup$ – Philipp Oct 16 '14 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp they disappear without a trace, along with all direct proof of them ever being there. Animals and plants suffer a less drastic fate, but their numbers are decimized as well. $\endgroup$ – overactor Oct 16 '14 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @overactor Decimated plant and animal life would indicate an Extinction Event due to climatic change - however it's unlikely any scientist would claim Ragnarok was responsible - the evidence would point towards a CME or Gamma ray burst, as no dust or ash would be laid down in sedimentary rock and be more likely than 'Fenrir did it'. $\endgroup$ – Scott Downey Oct 16 '14 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottDowney note that I mentioned that humans know for a fact that Ragnarök is a distinct possibility. $\endgroup$ – overactor Oct 16 '14 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @overactor unless there is proof that Fenrir exists in your universe, no scientist would consider it, even if the general population was convinced it was Fenrir - please clarify to what degree Ragnarök is a distinct possibility in this universe. $\endgroup$ – Scott Downey Oct 16 '14 at 12:57
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Genetic evidence

We know that the Mitochondrial Eve (the closest common female ancestor of all living humans) lived 100,000 to 200,000 years ago and the Y-chromosomal Adam (closest common male ancestor of all living humans) 150,000 to 300,000 years ago. They likely never met. How is that possible? Doesn't matter for this question, but what does matter is that the scientific methods which were used to find this out could also be applied in your world to find out that both only lived 10,000 years ago.

There would also be a very small genetic diversity among humans when all would descend just from the genome of two people and that genome only had 10,000 years to get any new information through mutation.

By the way: According to this source, a single human couple might not be enough to repopulate the earth. A gene pool of at least a few dozen, better a few hundred, individuals is required for a stable population, otherwise the species will inevitably die out after a few generations (the big plothole in oh so many creation myths). But I don't want to kill your whole premise, so let's ignore this problem for now.

Cultural evidence

When the whole world population was reduced to two people, their descendants would likely be concentrated in a very small geographical region for several generations. Only when that area would start to suffer from overpopulation would they start to colonize areas further away. Humans would spread geographically, but this would be a very slow process. That would result in the oldest cultures all emerging in one region and subsequently younger cultures emerging further away.

It would be obvious that human culture emerged from just one point and then spread slowly over the whole planet.

Archeological evidence

When Ragnarök also destroyed all archeological evidence of existing civilizations, it would be notable that no remains of human civilization older than 10,000 years exist. When Ragnarök left ruins behind, it would be notable that all civilizations ceased to exist at exactly the same time, and that it then took several millennias until new civilizations emerged in the same area and that those had no cultural connections to those which were there before.

Fossil evidence

You said that animals and plant-life also suffered from Ragnarök and its aftermath. This would likely mean a mass-extinction event which caused several unrelated species to suddenly become extinct. We know that several such events happened in the history of Earth due to fossil evidence, and for most of these events there are theories (of varying acceptance) why exactly they happened.

Geological evidence

A very interesting evidence for how climate has evolved on our planet is through ice core sampling from polar ice or glaciers. Every year a new layer of polar ice forms, and by looking at each layer we can tell how the climate was in that year. By analyzing particles contained in the ice we can also find atmospheric contaminations.

It is possible to retrieve core samples from hundreds of meters below the surface which provide us with information about the climate over 100,000 years ago.

The Ragnarök event would likely result in the ice layer for that year to be quite unusual.

Bottom-line

It might not be obvious what exactly happened, but it would definitely be impossible to deny that some cataclysmic event happened exactly 10,000 years ago and that this event drastically decimated the human population to very few individuals at one location.

You said in a comment that "they disappear without a trace, along with all direct proof of them ever being there". When this premise is absolute, there is by definition no way to tell the difference between survivors and humans which were newly created at that moment.

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    $\begingroup$ Beat me to it, I was writing up pretty much the same exact thing. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Oct 16 '14 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ Could you be a bit more clear about how this Ragnarök could be distinguished from a possible original creation? $\endgroup$ – overactor Oct 16 '14 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ @overactor you mean if the Adam and Eve were survivors of a previous civilization or suddenly created out of nothing? I don't think it would be possible to tell the difference. Well, they might have talked about the previous civilization when they were alive and their children might have written it down, but there is no reason to believe that they didn't just made it up or that whatever higher power created them also crated them with these false memories. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Oct 16 '14 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ That's...hard to do without scouring the planet of all...well...everything. But it is mythology, so sure, why not. Are we also including evidence of animals that may have been killed by humans? Human tools leave distinct marks on animal bones... $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Oct 16 '14 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ Well then, there's something resembling evidence. It'd be really hard to nail down, and scientists may resist the idea, and think that maybe they dated the remains wrong... But if you find the fossilized remains of things killed by humans (and thus bearing the marks of being killed by tools) and can prove that they are older than 'Adam' and 'Eve' then you can conclude that some form of tool using civilization lived back at that point. And...that's about all you can conclude. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Oct 16 '14 at 13:17
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I'll just add a couple of other things to Philipp's answer which would be noticeable after thousands of years, even if all trace of humans is scoured from the globe. Of course, this depends on how far the "scouring" actually goes -- if the scouring process also includes undoing the effect humans have had on nature, then of course it's going to be harder to detect (up to impossible, for a complete reversion to a pre-human state).

Missing resources

All of the resources we've extracted might stay gone. That's mammoth amounts of iron, copper, gold, silver; probably most of the easy-to-exploit deposits of all of these are largely gone. There's an awful lot of coal left, but most of the easy deposits of oil are gone too. A future geologically sophisticated civilization would be able to see that, theoretically, there should be a lot more of all of these resources, and more to the point, they should be in much easier to find deposits.

Holes

Like, actual physical holes. Open-pit mines are enormous, and even after thousands of years enough regular mineshafts would still be around to create questions. And modern cities are artificial a long way down: hundreds of feet in some cases. Completely removing them would result in pits hundreds of feet deep and miles across. Most cities are on rivers or the coast, so these would be a lot easier to silt in, but geological surveys would reveal that there had been big holes there.

Biological changes

Humans have made significant changes to lots of different species. Domesticated plants and animals are found all over the world, despite originally coming from geographically constrained places. It would be a puzzle to biologists to explain why virtually identical species of, say, sweet potatoes and bananas are found throughout the tropics, despite their closest relatives being only found in South America and New Guinea, respectively. The same is true for cows, horses, pigs, rice, maize, beans, potatoes, coffee, and a hundred other species.

To say nothing of how Norwegian rats are found on every island larger than a few square kilometers.

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  • $\begingroup$ We can burn coal and oil and transform them into useless forms, but iron, copper, gold and silver are elements. Conservation of Matter says they can't end up "gone". $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Jun 21 '16 at 20:58
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There is - believe it or not - a loophole that could show give solid evidence that Ragnarok happened. It involves a black hole (or a very massive body).

One of the coolest effects of general relativity is that mass and energy can bend light. It's known as gravitational lensing, and it often is shown as this:

enter image description here

You can bend the light to any angle. So all you have to do is put a massive object somewhere in the cosmos. Position it so that the light from the Sun reflected off of Earth will bend around it and come straight to Earth (this is nearly impossible because of the motion of the Earth, but hey, perhaps there's a solution). If this was done in the past, we could "look back in time" and see the solar system in the past. If we found a severe irregularity, such as the complete lack of an image of Earth - or an actual image of Ragnarok - we could tell that something had happened.

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  • $\begingroup$ I haven't heard of gravitational lensing being used to look at your own past image (I still think it's a great idea), do you have any sources of this actually being possible? Also wouldn't that require to look at it at the exact right moment (meaning you only have a window of 3 days and the massive object has to be exactly at the right distance 5k Ly)? $\endgroup$ – drat Nov 23 '14 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @drat Oh, it's almost impossible. We'd have to have an object positioned at just the right point in space moving in just the right direction at just the right time. It's far from likely that all the necessary conditions would exist. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 23 '14 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 No, it straight up is impossible, for the same reason that putting a big optical mirror at 1 light year away would not work. Any imaging equipment is fundamentally limited by quantum effects like diffraction. So, you would not reasonably resolve the Earth or whatever. $\endgroup$ – Valentin Aslanyan Aug 31 '18 at 15:53
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Much easier to disprove then to prove as mass extinction can not be hidden. lets take the other aspect; "If we assume that the sun and all of its influence disappear entirely for 3 days...". The absence of gravity, being one of those influences, would cause the Earth to leave its orbit, and the reappearence of the Sun three days later would not correct the problem, so we could not be here now to debate the matter. Ergo, it didn't happen that way. You could say that some God pushed the Earth back into its orbit but then you are relying on mystical interference without a physical basis, which would screw up any attempt to come up with scientific explanations for the universe, preventing the formation of a scientifically competent society in the first place. In science - any proof that a theory is wrong means that the theory is wrong.

If you want to change your starting point to "If we assume that the sun and some of its influence disappear entirely for 3 days..." then you need to specify which influence dissappered. Remove light or heat etc. and it would show in the growth record, though you would need very advanced science to find it. Combine it with a mass-extinction event and the evidence would be obvious. The same applies to any other influence you can identify.

Any society that develops a knowledge of science similar to ours must eventually chose between living in a natural world understandable by science and a super natural world requireing gods to explain.

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    $\begingroup$ The entire solar system would be thrown into chaos. Just looking at Earth, it would fly straight for three days, so that when the Sun reappears (assuming it was motionless with respect to the solar system's centre of mass) it would lie at a much farther position than usual. The result would be a vastly increased orbital eccentricity. And then there is the question of the effect the gap in the solar wind and solar magnetic field would have on the Earth's magnetosphere: it would be slapped real hard. Which is sort of okay if you're not a technological society to start with. $\endgroup$ – Urhixidur Oct 16 '14 at 16:59

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