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In my world

In the setting I'm working on, it's been several million years since the world has been almost completely wiped out after some mass extinction (whether it's caused by World War III or some natural disaster, I'm still debating with myself about.). The survivors of this apocalypse live on and evolve into the classical fantasy races we have (elves, orcs, kobolds, etc.) I want to hint to the audience that it's Earth without just outright saying that it's Earth.

I have one or two hints already. The elves and orcs only have four toes (evolutionary biologists believe that we're going to lose our small toes in a couple million years), almost all the fauna and flora have been replaced with other animals (giant deer taking the place of horses, rabbits becoming goat-like livestock, and bats becoming the dominant airborne animal during both night and day), and I even taking geography courses to see how the continents will shift in the next few million years so I can write the terrain properly.

So my question is: How do I hint it to the audience that that's what it is without practically telling them that the world my characters are in is Earth in the future?


Leave some ruins of modern civilization, unique enough that people who pay attention will realise what it is just from a description, and do something about those. Like, maybe there is a large corroded copper torch sticking out of the ground in the place that New York moves to, or the butresses of a large wall present in where china moved to. You can probably hint at Mount Rushmore by mentioning a mountain with faces in it. It all depends on where in the new world layout your story is taking place, and what famous landmarks might still be visible there after millions of years.
Thanks. The story is set in the eastern part of the United States, mainly Virginia and northern Florida. I actually was considering putting Mount Rushmore in at one point, as well.


Myth Weaver
If the technology level is high enough and there is an academic interest, you could have people know about "the grey stone layer", "the rust layer" or "the radioactive layer". In a similar way that we know about ancient impacts and other natural disasters from the geological record. If they can pull out a fern leaf [frond?] from 500my or dinosaur feather from 75my; maybe someone could discover a fosillied car number plate?


You'll need to have some way of making it that the apocalypse that lead to this new world also prevents the survivors from trying to recover to modern standards. Maybe part of the apocalypse was a massive solar flare that caused a world-wide EMP, meaning that all technology breaks. You've said that the story is set millions of years in the future(makes sense if you want evolution to happen, so don't change that), but it only took a couple million years, if even that, for humans to evolve from having zero clue how to make fire to the stage we're at now. The survivors would already have a significant advantage over the first humans, and if the right people survive, technology as we know it could bounce back within decades. The biggest threats they'd have to deal with would be the radiation zones left by the meltdown of nuclear power plants(and possibly nukes if you go down the solar flare route).
Kind of with Skip on this. Is it like the Shannarah series where it's kind of important to some of the plots or the Prince of Thorns one? After millions of years, what's left of modern civilization isn't likely to be much more then what Joe said, just another new layer buried beneath it all and some hot spots that have been likely turned into evil no go zones due to how they kill.
In my story, my protagonist is transported to this new world without knowing that it's still Earth. He just believes he's been taken to an alternate world. His main goal throughout the story is finding a way back home. However, he's devastated when he finds out that he's been home the entire time, knowing that everyone he cares about, his family, friends, all long dead and fossilized.


toujours gai, archie
I suppose the Statue of Liberty is right out. ;)

After millions of years it's going to be tough to have any artifacts survive. Maybe something in an underground cavern? Because even the constellations would be different.
What would be recognizeable to readers as 'earth in the millions of years later after X event' leaves a lot of room for some radical speculation.

If you're studying geological deposits and such, and want to hint at a specific region, study the mineral composites and offer it as a big clue. For example, most opals come from Australia. Coal deposits and shale, natural gases, would occur in forner densely organic areas. In millions of years, the Appalachians will have likely eroded to larger foothills, the Ozarks to rolling hills, and the Rockies and Grand Canyon to something vaguely similar. Perhaps deeper canyons, if global warming doesn't interrupt the formation of snowmelt waters to continue the erosion deeper into the bedrock. You can anticipate where the tectonic plates are shifting, and give an honest guess on where deposits and minerals will go.

In millions of years, people might notice soil deposits of where the last 'recognizeable' traces of civilization were. My big clue to offer is simple: Plastics.

The people in your story would have no idea what the peculiar substance is: it burns and catches fire, turning into black goo and sooty smoke. But, it only softens when put in hot water. Cracks, but can be softened and reshaped. Can hold an edge, and can be flexible. Maybe plastic shopping bags are coveted. Not edible. Brilliantly colored, unlike anything existing in the natural world. Broken bits of former tech and toys could be more prized than gems or precious metals.. They might try to mine the earth to recover it, drilling down deep into old garbage dumps and landfills.