Examples of how human societies are changing the planet abound – from building roads and houses, clearing forests to farming and digging railway tunnels, depleting the ozone layer, extinction of species, climate change and acidification the oceans.
Human influences are everywhere. Our societies have changed the Earth so that it is impossible to reverse many of these effects.
Some researchers believe that these changes are so great that they mark the beginning of a new "human age" of Earth's history, the era of the Anthropocene.
] A committee of geologists has now proposed to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene in the mid-20th century, based on a striking indicator: the highly dispersed radioactive dust from nuclear bomb tests in the early 1
However, this is not the case.
Not everyone is sure that today's industrialized, globalized societies will exist long enough to define a new geological epoch. Maybe we are just a flash in the pan – more of an event than a long, enduring epoch.
Others discuss the utility of choosing a single thin line in the Earth's geological record to mark the onset of human impacts in the geological record. Maybe the Anthropocene started at different times in different parts of the world.
For example, the first agricultural uses in different places at different times resulted in enormous environmental impacts, such as deforestation, habitat loss and extinction, erosion and carbon emissions that change the global climate forever.
If there are multiple beginnings, scientists must answer more complicated questions – when did agriculture begin to change landscapes in different parts of the world?
This is a difficult question as archaeologists usually focus their research on a limited number of sites and regions and prioritizing sites where agriculture was probably the earliest to appear.
It has been virtually impossible for archaeologists to compile a global picture of land use change over time.
Global Responses from Local Experts
To answer these questions, we have established a research collaboration between archaeologists, anthropologists, and geographers to study archaeological knowledge about land use around the world.
We asked over 1,300 archaeologists from around the world to share their knowledge of how ancient people used the land in 146 regions spanning all continents except Antarctica from 10,000 years to 1850.
More than 250 people responded and This is the largest archeology crowd-sourcing project ever undertaken.
Our work has now captured the current state of archeological knowledge of land-use across Europe-the planet, including parts of the world-that has rarely been considered in previous studies ,
We have used a crowdsourcing approach because scientific publications do not always contain the original data required for global comparisons.
Although these data are shared by archaeologists, they are created from project to project in many different formats for large-scale analyzes difficult to combine.
Our goal from the start was to make it easy for anyone to review our work and reuse our data. We have all put our research materials online so they are freely accessible to everyone.
Earlier and Broader Effects on Humans
Although our study provided expert archeological information from around the world, more data was available in some regions – including Southwest Asia, Europe, North China, Australia, and North America – than in other
This is probably due to the fact that more archaeologists have worked in these regions than elsewhere, for example in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
Our archaeologists reiterated that nearly 6,000 years ago, nearly half (42%) of our regions had any form of agriculture, underscoring the global spread of agriculture.
In addition, these results suggest that the onset of agriculture was earlier and more widespread than proposed in the most general global reconstruction of land use history, the history database of the global environment.
This is important because climatologists often use this database of past conditions to gauge future climate change. According to our research, the climate effects associated with land use may be underestimated.
Our survey also found that hunting and foraging were in most cases replaced by pastoral care (raising animals such as cows and sheep for food and other resources) and agriculture places, although there were exceptions.
Reversals occurred in some areas, and agriculture not only replaced foraging, but merged with it and existed side by side for a while.
The deep roots of the Anthropocene
Global According to archaeological data, the transformation of human environments began at different times in different regions and accelerated with the advent of agriculture.
Nevertheless, the largest part of the planet was already transformed 3,000 years ago by hunters, collectors, farmers and shepherds.  To lead this planet into a better future, we need to understand how we got here. The message from archeology is clear. It took thousands of years for the untouched planet to become today's human planet.
And there is no way to fully understand this human planet without relying on the expertise of archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists and other human scientists.
In order to build a more robust geoscience in the Anthropocene, the human sciences must play just as central a role as the natural sciences today.
Ben Marwick, Associate Professor of Archeology, University of Washington; Erle C. Ellis, Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Lucas Stephens, Research Associate in Archeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Nicole Boivin, Director of the Department of Archeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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