On some classical roots of the Anthropocene: where does Mediterranean archaeology belong?

Author(s): Catherine Kearns

Year: 2017


In the long run-up to deciding the Anthropocene’s scientific status there have been few archaeological voices, as many have noted, revealing the proposed epoch’s narrow periodization of human-environment relationships. None seem to be more absent than classical archaeologists, an omission which reflects not only disciplinary cleavages but also tacit conceits about the classical world as paradoxically generative of and divorced from modern geopolitics and human-nature interfaces. From the early arguments of George Perkins Marsh about humanity’s ancient, unintended environmental degradation, to the trending fascination with climatic disasters in old world societies, however, past Mediterranean contexts have been foundational yet ambivalent sources in modernity’s attempts to understand global anthropogenic change. At stake in efforts both to codify or to critically "provincialize" this anticipated era are thus important biases towards specific historical and material records. It is worth considering the Anthropocene’s (and its challengers’) oblique engagements with classical antiquity, given that so much of the rhetoric derives from the nature/culture discourse rooted in western Europe (and America). This paper ponders the Anthropocene’s imaginaries of nature and the human past that look askance at Mediterranean (pre)histories and archaeological evidence, and thus chiefly asks what an ancient Mediterranean critique of the epoch might offer.

Cite this Record

On some classical roots of the Anthropocene: where does Mediterranean archaeology belong?. Catherine Kearns. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430819)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14988