How does human history fit in with the Torah's timeline? (This is not about why the universe and Earth look so old.)
There is extensive evidence of a human population and human civilizations from well before 4000 BCE (i.e. 6000 years ago, there were more than two humans). Human fossils (that is to say Homo sapiens as opposed to other hominids that existed around and well before this time) and artifacts dating back as far as 200,000 years have been found in Africa, Eurasia, and Australia, and more recent artifacts and fossils (still tens of thousands of years old) have been found in the Americas. Egyptian pyramids (and proto-pyramids) were built both before and after the time of the Mabul (Noah's flood) (confirmed by carbon dating) as well as other Mesopotamian and Indus writing forms that are found to be both from before and after the time of the Mabul, as well as proto-Chinese characters that pose evidence of a single evolving culture that spans pre-Creation, pre-Flood, post-Flood, and modern day China. These are just some examples I've found when attempting to research early human history. I can edit this question with sources detailing as much evidence of this as is requested (Update: some of the evidence is at the bottom of this question post[*]), or I can reference you to Google to find encyclopedia articles and scholarly journals or the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program or something, or we can proceed with the assumption that this is in fact almost universally accepted as confirmed and consistant records of human history.
Anyway, I'm having a hard time reconciling this account of human civilization that, which extends well before Creation and continues steadily even through the time of the Mabul, with the Torah, which has Adam and Chava as the first humans and emphatically says that all the earth, the highest mountains, were covered, and all human life was wiped out besides those eight individuals on the ark. Here are the possibilities I can personally think of or that have been suggested to me with varying levels of support from authoritative sources, but none of them so far work for me:
Archeologists and anthropologists (as well as geologists, physicists, cosmologists, biologists, geneticists, and any other line of empirical scientific knowledge that separately and consistently supports it) are part of a massive anti-religious conspiracy. However I think such a massive conspiracy theory is untenable and has not been demonstrated.
Archeologists and anthropologists are all a victim of misinformation as during and before the Mabul, life on Earth was so different as to systematically confuse all methods of dating. However this also doesn't make sense to me, as a systematic alteration of evidence that still leaves all lines of evidence pointing in the same way is implausible, and it also is inconsistent with evidence of an old universe that is external to earth. And what's more, if you can only rely on dating from post-Mabul organic matter, then consider this: If the pyramids were exclusively of a post-Mabul society, you should find neither king lists about pre-flood kings of Egypt nor the C14 dating of organic matter found in or with the pyramids which date to before the flood. One way or another the pyramids are from before the flood (and civilization there and around the world continues like normal).
Hashem wanted to make everything look completely natural so he made Earth with a history. However, while that might be in line with the premise of my question, that doesn't really do anything to reconcile the idea with what we know about the Torah and Judaism. It's also a little troubling because maybe Hashem would similarly want to make the Exodus from Egypt natural in reality but miraculous in text, and so we shouldn't necessarily expect there to be external evidence of that either. Worse, you cannot say this without painting Hashem as deceitful unless it can be clearly demonstrated from the intended meaning of Talmudic or similar sources that Adam wasn't the first man and that the Mabul didn't wipe out any civilizations. And to my knowledge that is not the case. The closest I've come to that was hearing a reference to 974 worlds or generations before ours, but that is insufficiently clear, and when I tried to dig deeper all I found was a Beraisa in Chagigah 14a about them being generations that were not created, but instead that their souls are the wicked among actual generations. And I have also seen reference to Zevachim 113 to say that there is precedent to say the flood was not completely global, but all it brings is a single opinion that makes the exception only for Eretz Yisrael and even then says that everyone there died. That is to say, even in this interpretation, which is just based on a textual inference (and doesn't reject the meaning), all cultures, and most evidence of most of the world, would still have been destroyed in the flood.
As referenced in part of my discussion on theory #3 above, this Earth had hundreds of "worlds" living on it before hand and Hashem destroyed them all in preparation of this world. However, while I have heard this claim, I couldn't find anything to back up that such worlds were literally created in a sequential natural form that mirrors the observed natural formation of the solar system and life. The best I found (which is not to say it is good) is an article from Aish that takes the words of Rav Abahu and allows for a vague inference that they did exist on a previous version of this planet that was destroyed to the point it was formless yet still maintains a coherent line of archaeological evidence of human civilization. But that doesn't make much sense. Or perhaps Aish meant that in some early period of the sixth day there were (somehow and for some reason? I couldn't really follow what they were trying to say) precursors to humans without souls. I'm not sure that there's any basis or explanation for the practical distinction for that. (I'm also incredulous to the possibility that Hashem would in this way need to make so many living beings and people only to kill them in the process of making Earth, especially when only to recreate everything in six days anyway.) In any event it only could explain the difference between the first six days of creation with human history older than 6,000 years ago without addressing the events that followed like the Mabul.
A suggestion by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, who says time, from the point of view of Earth, slowed down dramatically from the point of view of Hashem (who is assumed to have the same time perspective as background radiation), and it is in some particular way calculated that the first day of creation was exactly 8 billion years, the second day 4 billion, and so on. And that this supports an old age of the universe and the formation of the solar system and life over long periods of time. However as far as I can tell, from a perspective of physics, Schroeder is alone in this understanding, and as far as I can tell the same can be said of the Torah perspective. And it would go against the principle that the Torah is written in the language of man. And it contradicts the more recent improvements to the estimate of the age of the universe. Schroeder made his calculation around the turn of the century, a clear demonstration that he just was working backwards and has no actual basis. His calculation also contradicts the order and time that various aspects of the universe, solar system, and life developed. And as is the case with suggestion #4, this only addresses human history before 6,000 years ago, so this also fails to answer my question.
So as you can see I'm having trouble figuring this out. What is a good explanation to deal with human history as stated in the Torah and human history as implied by the physical evidence? Presumably such a reconciliation must exist, and though I've seen many suggestions, none really appear to hold water (no pun intended).
Update: It appears that the best answers have basically argued by changing what the Torah meant, saying it is in some way allegorical. So, yes, this would resolve the contradiction in theory, but I cannot accept those answers without addressing specific improvements: I require a citation from specific people that clearly say this, preferably older answers based on messorah and not answers that were forced to bend around a context of archeological evidence. I need you to demonstrate why your approach is acceptable, in the face of the apparent meaning and tradition, how you know that such a large reinterpretation is acceptable in light of some rishonim like the Rashba and Meiri explicitly not allowing this and even the Rambam being very tempered and suggesting you must believe that Adam was the first man (as discussed here). (If you reference people like Slifkin who bend Torah around science, go further and quote the relevant things they've said along with the older sources they're basing themselves on that allow for such bending.) I also need you to explain where the cutoff is (Are nations descended from those on the ark allegory too? At what point does the genealogy transition to fact?). And I do not require, but would appreciate, at least some kind of feasible theory to explain what the point of those allegories might possibly be.
[*] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_oldest_buildings_in_the_world#By_age for buildings predating the flood (anything older than c.2270 BCE). See http://archive.archaeology.org/9909/abstracts/pyramids.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10345875 re egyptian history extending before the flood confirmed by C14. See http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Jun/66806.htm re C14 dating early writing in China to c. 6400 BCE. Archeology indicates Elam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elam existed since 5000 BCE with written records from 3000 BCE. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11086110 discusses arrowheads that were 64,000 years old, found buried under ancient sediment. (This question takes for granted that sediment and the earth can be that old, as it would be a whole other thing to bring evidence of an old Earth.) See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v421/n6925/abs/nature01383.html for evidence of Indigenous Australians radiometrically dated to at least 20,000 BCE. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform with citations showing cuneiform in various forms from the Middle East dating well before the flood. It is clear that various archeological dating methods all show the same thing. I welcome anyone who finds this insufficient to do further research. Mainstream archeology unanimously agrees on this history, and the geological evidence (which would be another extensive set of references) also makes more sense in context of a (relatively) old human history. Unless there is a compelling argument for why all of archeology is wrong, I am not asking if these people existed before Creation and through the Mabul, I'm simply asking how can this be reconciled.