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Society of American Archaeology


For more than a decade, a movement has been gathering steam among geoscientists to designate an Anthropocene Epoch and formally recognize that we have entered a new geological age in which Earth’s systems are dominated by humans. Chemists, climatologists, and other scientists have entered the discussion, and there is a growing consensus that we are living in the Anthropocene. Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen (2002a, 2002b; Crutzen and Stoermer 2000) coined the term, but the idea that humans are a driver of our planet’s climate and ecosystems has much deeper roots. Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani wrote of the “anthropozoic era” in 1873 (Crutzen 2002a), and many others have proposed similar ideas, including journalist Andrew Revkin’s (1992) reference to the “Anthrocene” and Vitousek and colleagues (1997) article about human domination of earth’s ecosystems. It was not until Crutzen (2002a, 2002b) proposed that the Anthropocene began with increased atmospheric carbon levels caused by the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century (including the invention of the steam engine in A.D. 1784), however, that the concept began to gain serious traction among scientists and inspire debate.


Copyright © 2014 Society for American Archaeology. Reprinted with permission.

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