Accepted paper:

Tiny catastrophes|mild apocalypse. An environmental archaeological investigation of the shallow Anthropocene


Felix Riede (Aarhus University)
Christina Vestergaard-Sørensen (Aarhus Universitet)
Nathalia Brichet (University of Aarhus)

Paper short abstract:

Debates about the validity and onset of the Anthropocene are as much political as they are scientific and this paper situates archaeology – through fieldwork in a peculiar former mining landscape in Denmark – in this discourse.

Paper long abstract:

The Anthropocene has been proposed as a new geological epoch, in which humans have become the dominating force shaping global geological and ecological dynamics. At present, a lively debate runs as to the very validity and onset of the proposed Age of Humans. One of the most persuasive starting point proposals is the 'Great Acceleration' of the gargantuan capitalism-driven rise in fossil fuel extraction and chemical signature of human activity that began around 1950. Curiously, from an archaeological dating perspective, 1950 marks the year 0, the present; what follows after the future. Against a backdrop of recent fieldwork in a former lignite mine, this paper situates archaeology in the Anthropocene debate and discourse, both as a scientific discipline and an ethical and political engagement. We propose a kind of Contemporary Environmental Archaeology that focuses on human agency - tiny catastrophes - that in sum amount to the kind of mild apocalypse that typifies at least the peculiar Danish version of the Anthropocene.

panel P46
Past weather, past climate - archaeology as Environmental Humanity