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ANT 4930 Archaeological Perspectives on the Anthropocene

Dr. Contreras

Our current moment in planetary history is one in which human activity is the dominant influence on Earth’s ecosystems. Scientific consensus in the 21st century is that this period can and should be distinguished from what went before, terming it the Anthropocene. This course introduces the concept, and explores the ways in which the identification of the Anthropocene is a beginning rather than an end. In particular, it examines the ways in which the concept relies on archaeology: how we understand human impacts on our planet relies fundamentally on what we know about human-environment interactionsin the past. We will consider how archaeology approaches interactions between human societies and their environments, covering the underlying theoretical issues, surveying the methodologies employed, and critically examining the narratives about past human-environment interactions that archaeologists and paleoecologists produce. Drawing on these conceptual tools, we will examine debates about the identification and meaning of the Anthropocene, its origins and antiquity, and the uses of the concept in the present.