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Although it seems to be the understanding Elizabeth Shaw and Weyland that the Engineers created human life, the first scene on the apparently pristine planet where the Engineer's body dissolves and seeds the water with his DNA seems to strongly imply that it was all life (on Earth, probably) that was formed due to the Engineers' intervention, even plants.

This then would mean that the Engineer species is literally billions of years old. Is this idea addressed in novelizations, etc.?

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    Valorum gives the canon answer of course, but my guess is that the screenwriters just screwed up with the date...
    – Hans Olo
    Sep 22, 2019 at 16:49

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The original script indicates that the Engineers seeded their DNA into the world in the year 12,000 BC

Life was already present in abundance and their contribution was (presumably) mutagenic, transforming existing life rather than creating it from scratch.

FADE IN: EXT. EARTH - DAY (12,000 B.C.)

The world turns below us, vast and slow.

A RUMBLE. A shadow sweeps over the land. We move with the shadow. We cast the shadow. Landscapes slide by. Reduced by altitude to abstractions: river deltas, forests and flood plains. A raw natural world. No trace of civilization.

The shadow glides over mountains and glaciers. Across an ocean and a pale beach. Over lowland plain at the foot of a VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN it stops.

EXT. LOWLAND PLAIN - DAY

THREE FIGURES walk out of the shadow.

They are men - and yet not men. Their skin is snow-white. Their features heavy and classical - as if Rodin's Thinker had risen from his seat. Their smooth heads are earless and hairless. Their glittering eyes entirely black.

Against the stark land their height is impossible to judge.

They are ENGINEERS.

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    Since nearly modern human life existed at that point, that would indicate that Shaw and Weyland are actually wrong about what the Engineers did. There is of course the more Doylist expanation that the writers didn't think about the timeline that carefully.
    – JoshuaZ
    Sep 22, 2019 at 14:40
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    The problem with many Science-Fiction movies is that the story tellers often don't understand science very well. Sep 22, 2019 at 16:12
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    @RBarryYoung: I suspect that it is often producers/directors of films who don't know their science (or perhaps care about it) -- I would guess writers often research their subject. I recall someone telling Spielberg during Jaws that shooting an oxygen tank won't cause an explosion but he insisted (and I think rightly in that case) that explosion would be more cinematic (and Simpsons really took this to heart).
    – releseabe
    Sep 23, 2019 at 3:21
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    @JoshuaZ - Not just 'nearly modern' but completely modern. Someone from 12000 BC would be indistinguishable from someone from 2000 AD.
    – Valorum
    Mar 10, 2023 at 7:31

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