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      Archaeology, climate, and global change in the Age of Humans

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      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          We live in an age characterized by increasing environmental, social, economic, and political uncertainty. Human societies face significant challenges, ranging from climate change to food security, biodiversity declines and extinction, and political instability. In response, scientists, policy makers, and the general public are seeking new interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approaches to evaluate and identify meaningful solutions to these global challenges. Underrecognized among these challenges is the disappearing record of past environmental change, which can be key to surviving the future. Historical sciences such as archaeology access the past to provide long-term perspectives on past human ecodynamics: the interaction between human social and cultural systems and climate and environment. Such studies shed light on how we arrived at the present day and help us search for sustainable trajectories toward the future. Here, we highlight contributions by archaeology—the study of the human past—to interdisciplinary research programs designed to evaluate current social and environmental challenges and contribute to solutions for the future. The past is a multimillennial experiment in human ecodynamics, and, together with our transdisciplinary colleagues, archaeology is well positioned to uncover the lessons of that experiment.

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          Most cited references29

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          The domestication of Amazonia before European conquest.

          During the twentieth century, Amazonia was widely regarded as relatively pristine nature, little impacted by human history. This view remains popular despite mounting evidence of substantial human influence over millennial scales across the region. Here, we review the evidence of an anthropogenic Amazonia in response to claims of sparse populations across broad portions of the region. Amazonia was a major centre of crop domestication, with at least 83 native species containing populations domesticated to some degree. Plant domestication occurs in domesticated landscapes, including highly modified Amazonian dark earths (ADEs) associated with large settled populations and that may cover greater than 0.1% of the region. Populations and food production expanded rapidly within land management systems in the mid-Holocene, and complex societies expanded in resource-rich areas creating domesticated landscapes with profound impacts on local and regional ecology. ADE food production projections support estimates of at least eight million people in 1492. By this time, highly diverse regional systems had developed across Amazonia where subsistence resources were created with plant and landscape domestication, including earthworks. This review argues that the Amazonian anthrome was no less socio-culturally diverse or populous than other tropical forested areas of the world prior to European conquest.
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            The onset of the Anthropocene

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              Land transformation by humans: A review

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                April 14 2020
                April 14 2020
                April 14 2020
                April 13 2020
                : 117
                : 15
                : 8250-8253
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.2003612117
                7165415
                32284423
                178060e3-ad42-49c7-ac9c-f50f3a030956
                © 2020

                Free to read

                https://www.pnas.org/site/aboutpnas/licenses.xhtml


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