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A map that reconstructs the history of land use on Earth over the last 10,000 years and that allows us to observe in an image the birth and expansion of extensive and intensive agriculture, the appearance of grazing, the long decline of hunting. and collection and, finally, the emergence and rise of urban societies.
It is the result of a work carried out with the contribution of 255 archaeologists from around the world, who have participated in the creation of the largest archaeological database on land use on Earth within the framework of the ArchaeoGLOBE project.
In this project, led by Lucas Stephens and Erle Ellis, from the University of Maryland (USA), CSIC researchers Ferran Borrell and José Antonio López-Sáez, from the Milá y Fontanals Institution (IMF-CSIC) in Barcelona, have participated. and the Institute of History of the CSIC, in Madrid, respectively.
The results, which were published this week in the journal Science, reveal that humans began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems 3,000 years ago, much earlier than previously proposed.
The ArchaeoGLOBE project It is a great collaborative effort to pool and synthesize archaeological knowledge on human land use throughout history throughout the planet and thus establish the global impact that human activities have had on terrestrial ecosystems.
A profound transformation 3,000 years ago
"Human societies have transformed and managed the landscape over thousands of years, altering the patterns of biodiversity, the functioning of ecosystems and the climate," say the authors. That transformation began with hunter-gatherer societies and intensified with the emergence of intensive agriculture and cities.
The results obtained indicate, says Ferran Borrell, a scientist at the CSIC, “that the human being began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems earlier than was previously proposed. The data reveal a planet intensely transformed by hunter-gatherers, farmers and shepherds already 3,000 years ago, much earlier than what is proposed by the traditionally posited paradigm that global environmental changes of anthropic origin are essentially a recent phenomenon ”.
Borrell also indicates that “the results of this massive collaborative project open the doors to a better understanding of the transformation of the Earth by human societies, this being an essential aspect to interpret the Anthropocene origin”.
Finally he clarifies that “although divergences have been observed between the results of ArchaeoGLOBE and others obtained in other models of reconstruction of the planet's climate and vegetation, it does not invalidate them, it complements them. They are models generated from different disciplines and data, which should allow us to understand the relationship between the evolution of land use in the last 10,000 and past global changes of the Earth system, which is key to improving projections of the climate and environment. environment in the future ”.
255 archaeologists have participated in ArchaeoGLOBE's work from around the world providing data. Of these, 120 are authors of the article. For the realization of the map, the planet has been divided into 146 regions.
Scientists have provided data from the regions they are experts in, based on archaeological evidence such as pollen and charcoal remains, bones and other excavation findings.
"Despite the great effort made to collect existing information from around the planet," says Borrell, "there are still areas of which we have little archaeological knowledge, either due to lack of research in that region or because not even with this work format so open and inclusive it has been possible to reach the entire scientific community. Let's not forget that this is a project devised and led by universities in the United States and the United Kingdom and therefore closely linked to the English-speaking scientific community ”.
Lucas Stephens et al. Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use. Science. DOI: 10.1126 / science.aax119z.