One of the most well-known features of Hindu time-scales is the cycle of four Yugas, known as Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali. In the Satya (aka Krita) Yuga, almost all humans are good. In the Treta Yuga, most humans are good but some are bad. It's during one of the past Treta Yugas that the Hindu epic the Ramayana took place. In the Dwapara Yuga, most humans are bad but some are good. The Hindu epic the Mahabharata took place in the most recent Dwapara Yuga. And finally, we have the Kali Yuga, the age of evil we're currently living in, where almost all humans are bad. The present Kali Yuga will end when Kalki, whom I discuss here, comes and annihilates the evil people, and then the Satya Yuga will begin again.
Now many cultures and ideologies idolize an imagined past in order to explain or criticize the world of the present. So my question is, have any Indologists theorized that the Kali Yuga was invented in the Kali Yuga? That is to say, have they theorized that the system of the four Yugas was invented at a certain point in time, that that point in time was declared to be part of the "Kali Yuga", and Hindus have been considering themselves to be in the Kali Yuga ever since? Or is the consensus of Indologists that there was a time in history when Hindus considered themselves to be living in some Yuga other than the Kali Yuga?
I have come across Indologists who have advanced a slightly less bold thesis. Most Hindu scriptures, including the Mahabharata and the Puranas, are believed to have been composed in the Dwapara Yuga. So their discussion of the Kali Yuga take the form of prophecy, describing things like the mixing of castes, the abandoning of Vedic Dharma, and the invasion of India by Mlecchas or foreigners. I have seen Indologists argue that such descriptions are not actual prophecies, but rather "retroactive prophecies" written by people who were describing the actual state of the society they were living in, and the faults they found with it.
But have any Indologists gone one step further, and said that the very concept of the Kali Yuga was invented by people to diagnose why their society fell short of the ideas of Vedic society? I suppose one piece of evidence they could use is that the Yuga system is seldom mentioned in the Vedas, and is mainly mentioned in later texts like the Puranas. And also there is a verse, widely believed to be spurious, in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana which says certain Vedic practices like animal sacrifice and Niyoga (which I discuss here) were allowed in earlier Yugas but are prohibited in the Kali Yuga. This could be seen as an indication that people were accustomed to using the concept of Yugas to relegate aspects of Hinduism they didn't like to an earlier age whose customs are presumed no longer relevant to the world as it is.
Note that I am a devout Hindu and a strong believer in the Yuga system; I'm just posting this question because I'm curious as to what secular scholarship has to say on this subject. I'm a Hinduism Stackexchange moderator, but I'm posting the question here because I don't want people there mistakenly thinking that I'm casting doubt on the Yuga system.