Human impacts to global ecosystems are some of the biggest challenges faced by societies today. Indeed, anthropogenic impacts to Earth are so significant that scientists have called for the designation of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which humans are now our planet’s dominant geological force.
Archaeological deposits retain evidence for intensifying anthropogenic impacts through time. These include a range of widespread markers from cultural artefacts such as lithic, ceramic, glass and metal artefacts and associated technological debris, to the remains of domesticated plants and animals. The development of new methods are also making it possible to discern potential microscopic and molecular markers such as faecal dung spherulites, collagen peptides, and pollen from domesticated or translocated species, charcoal from anthropogenic burning of landscapes, and pollutants. As archaeological deposits grade into recent ones, the debris of industrial societies also occurs, including visible plastic and microparticles and fossil fuel residues. Lake, ice, river and marine cores similarly preserve diverse markers of increasing human impact, from biomarkers to contaminants such as toxic heavy metals.
While this broad range of markers records signatures of long-term human activity extending from the deepest Amazon to the far reaches of the Arctic, there is as yet limited systematic research aimed at elucidating the global ubiquity and distribution of anthropogenic markers and their changes through time. This is particularly true for terrestrial records. As the discipline most closely concerned with terrestrial, sedimentary records of human activity, archaeology holds significant potential for assessing global anthropogenic sedimentary signatures, including those most relevant to defining the Anthropocene.
This workshop aims to explore the feasibility of implementing a global study to systematically track and record markers of human activity from the past to the present day. It will bring together a group of multidisciplinary scholars from such diverse fields as archaeology, geology and Earth Sciences to explore the feasibility and practicality of a global scale study or set of studies, drawing on both existing datasets and new field data. The workshop will bring together Max Planck Society and external researchers, including researchers from the Anthropocene Working Group, for a two-day series of presentations and discussions at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.
NOTE: The workshop is now fully booked.