The Tangled Roots of the Anthropocene: China from the Late Neolithic to the Song Dynasty

Author(s): Tristram Kidder; Yijie Zhuang

Year: 2018


The Anthropocene is now commonly defined as a geological event, or "golden spike" that begins in the later twentieth century with the detonation of nuclear weapons. While this event-based characterization serves a useful purpose in providing a formal geological definition, it tells us nothing of how humans developed the social, economic, technological, and moral capacities that allow us to affect natural processes at a global scale. Using archaeological and environmental data from China between the late Neolithic (ca. 5000 years ago) and the Song Dynasty (ca. 1000 years ago) we explore how the Anthropocene can be conceived as a process that developed slowly over time and that was conditioned by changing human interactions with the environment that were an outgrowth of shifting social, political and even religious practices and behaviors. This approach emphasizes that the Anthropocene is not the inevitable outcome of human technological progress but is, instead, the result of long-term transformations of human engagements with power, wealth and production.

Cite this Record

The Tangled Roots of the Anthropocene: China from the Late Neolithic to the Song Dynasty. Tristram Kidder, Yijie Zhuang. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443997)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 70.4; min lat: 17.141 ; max long: 146.514; max lat: 53.956 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20818