Institute of Archaeology

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Archaeological approaches to the "Used Planet"

4 February 2014

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Dorian Fuller has been invited to give the inaugural seminar in the 2014 Geodynamics Series at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution this week.

Dorian's seminar in the series 'Anthropocene: from Land to the Ocean' is entitled Archaeological approaches to the "Used Planet": the global expansion of agriculture and its methanogenic agriculture component  and will make a case for the centrality of archaeology to research on dating and defining the “anthropocene” the era of significant human transformation of ecosystems and earth processes.

Dorian will critique the recent proposal (Smith and Zeder 2013) that the focus should be on causes linked to human niche construction and the origins of agriculture, which essentially redefined the Holocene as the Anthropocene. Instead niche construction extends significantly into the Pleistocene with anatomically modern humans, and the era with greatest expansion of agriculture in terms of land areas, biome zones and numbers of domestications is the middle Holocene, increasing from 8000 to 4000 years ago. 

Then he aims to explore the particular hypothesis that early ice agriculture modified global atmospheric methane concentrations from 5000 years through a geospatial model based on archaeological evidence for wet, methanogenic rice (as opposed to dry rice) and also consider the potential role of the expansion of Old World pastoralism into sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia from ca. 5000 years ago.

Dorian is currently leading NERC-funded research on the evolution of rice systems from China to Southeast Asia and the impact of past agricultural activities on global climate. Read more»