Was there modern technology before the Flood?
Were the people before Noah rude savages or had they managed to build a complex, industrial society?
It is impossible to answer this question definitively, since the Bible gives us very little detail about the times before the flood. But there are a few hints.
Genesis 4:17-24 records the genealogy of Cain. In 4:22 the author explains that Tubal-Cain forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. What is intriguing here is the simple fact that iron making did not become common in the ancient near east until after 1200 BC. Archaeologically, it is possible to delineate the past into periods of time based on the sorts of materials out of which tools were principally made. Thus, in Palestine, the time breaks down as follows (all dates are BC):
Pre-pottery Neolithic A c.8500-7500
Pre-pottery Neolithic B 7500-6000
Pottery Neolithic A 6000-5000
Pottery Neolithic B 5000-4300
Early Bronze I 3300-3050
Early Bronze II-III 3050-2300
Early IV/Middle Bronze I 2300-2000
Middle Bronze IIA 2000-1800/1750
Middle Bronze IIB-C 1800/1750-1550
Late Bronze I 1550-1400
Late Bronze IIA-B 1400-1200
Iron IA 1200-1150
Iron IB 1150-1000
Iron IIA 1000-925
Iron IIB 925-720
Iron IIC 720-586
Thus, it is clear that this time line must lie after the flood, because if the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10-11 were complete, then the flood must date to about 2500 BC, putting Tubal-Cain even earlier than that -- probably still in the stone age according to archaeological evidence. He shouldn't even have been working with bronze, let alone iron.
However, the genealogies in Genesis are demonstrably incomplete; a flood in 2500 BC contradicts powerful and conclusive archaeological evidence. There is also the odd fact that Abraham would have been fifty years old when Noah died, and Shem would have outlived Abraham -- both highly improbable -- if the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10-11 are complete.
This means, therefore, that the flood must date to a period before 8500 BC; how far in the past, it is impossible to be definite about. However, if Tubal-Cain is any indication, then technological development prior to the flood was rapid and different from what we see by the archaeological evidence, which we assume is all post-flood.
Conservatively, if there were no gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5, then there are at least 2000 years between Adam and the time of Noah. Consider, that these people were living to an average age of more than 900 and that they were all speaking a single language. Then consider that the industrial revolution occurred only in the middle of the 19th century, with the introduction of the steam engine. How much progress have we made in only about a hundred and fifty years?
It seems like a strong possibility, therefore, that the people before the flood were highly developed technologically, perhaps even more developed than we are. This is not as fanciful as it might seem. Consider some of the clues:
a. No other ships the size of the ark were built until the end of the 19th century.
b. The question of how Noah and his family could care for the million or so species of land animals that would have had to be on the ark is explainable if they carried the animals as frozen embryos or if they were carried in some sort of suspended animation. Otherwise, there would be some difficulty in having enough room and food to last a full year, to keep all those animals in good health. While a million animals would fit crowded into tiny cubicles, without any room to move, it is questionable that they would survive for a full year. Certainly you can get a lot of sheep in a boxcar, but you leave them for a year crowded like that, even if they have food and water, it is not likely that they would survive.
As to why none of the pre-flood advanced technology survived, consider: if you and your family were the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust, how much of modern civilization and technology could you reproduce? Could you mine metal, refine it, mold it and build a car from scratch? How about a computer?
Noah and his family survived the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust -- in fact, for all we know there might have been one just before the flood. Radiation poisoning and the resultant genetic damage would go a long way in explaining why human life spans, which before the flood averaged over 900 years, declined rapidly to their current levels after the flood.
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