The onset of the Anthropocene
When Humans Dominated the Earth: Archeological Perspectives on the Anthropocene
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2013
Pages: 8 - 13
Source ID: shanti-sources-80706
Collection: Anthropocene and the Environmental Future
Abstract: A number of different starting dates for the Anthropocene epoch have been proposed, reflecting different disciplinary perspectives and criteria regarding when human societies first began to play a significant role in shaping the earth's ecosystems. In this article these various proposed dates for the onset of the Anthropocene are briefly discussed, along with the data sets and standards on which they are based. An alternative approach to identifying the onset of the Anthropocene is then outlined. Rather than focusing on different markers of human environmental impact in identifying when the Anthropocene begins, this alternative approach employs Niche Construction Theory (NCT) to consider the temporal, environmental and cultural contexts for the initial development of the human behavior sets that enabled human societies to modify species and ecosystems more to their liking. The initial domestication of plants and animals, and the development of agricultural economies and landscapes are identified as marking the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch. Since this transition to food production occurred immediately following the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary, the Anthropocene can be considered as being coeval with the Holocene, resolving the contentious “golden spike” debate over whether existing standards can be satisfied for recognition of a new geological epoch.