Archaeology in the Age of the Anthropocene: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Author(s): David Wright

Year: 2018


The 2016 decision by the Working Group on the Anthropocene of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) to designate an Epoch based on a Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) fixed at AD1950 is significant for managing global ecological systems moving forward. There is no serious scientific debate on whether humans have impacted the global ecology, but regardless of the ICS decision to anchor the so-called "Golden Spike" to the advent of the nuclear age, humans are known to have profoundly altered landscapes at deep timescales. Three examples are presented from the African continent: the Middle Stone Age (Pleistocene) of northern Malawi, the Neolithic (early Holocene) of the Sahara and Iron Age (late Holocene) of northern Cameroon in which the concepts of boundaries and potential impacts of human activity are challenged. Human impacts on ecological systems are qualitatively analogous to other keystone species, but quantifiably larger based on our control of fire and other forms of coppicing as landscape management tools. Although coppicing may not meet the GSSP standard, its accumulated global effect on landscape species composition has altered earth's environmental matrix as significantly as nuclear weapons.

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Archaeology in the Age of the Anthropocene: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. David Wright. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443999)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20509