The new geological time period that marks the ”Age of Man”, called the Anthropocene, began in 1610, according to a new study.
Scientists came to the conclusion that the biggest impact man had on the planet was the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. which marked the dawn of this new epoch.Their research was published in the journal Nature.
The start of the Anthropocene is disputed however, other scientists believing that the industrial revolution or even the first nuclear tests are more relevant beginnings to the ”Age of Man”. Some think that the exact date of the new epoch can’t be determined just yet, and that a conclusion could be drawn after thousand or even millions of years.
An international Anthropocene Working Group is working on determining a start date, which it will announce next year.
Geologists carve up Earth’s history into large periods of time, that coincide with significant change on the planet, marked by continental shifts or a major change in climate and even a big asteroid strike. We live in the Holocene Epoch, which started as the last Ice Age came to an end, more than 11,500 years ago. Many scientists say that humanity has drastically changed the Earth again and that a new epoch is needed.
Geologists are looking in rocks, ice or sediments for a signal, called the “golden spike”, that will show the changes Earth has suffered when the “Age of Man” began. The study suggests that they have found golden spikes which suggest that the start of the Anthropocene was in 1610.
The scientists explained that the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas a century earlier was the beginning of a major global transformation.
Co-author Dr.Simon Lewis, from University College London, believes that global trade started to move species around the planet with much more ease after that point,
“Maize from Central America was grown in southern Europe and Africa and China. Potatoes from South America were grown in the UK, and all the way through Europe to China. Species went the other way: wheat came to North America and sugar came to South America. We saw these species jump continents, which is a geologically unprecedented impact, setting Earth off on a new evolutionary trajectory”, he said.
This change is proven by ancient pollen found in sediments. Another big impact of the time, a golden spike, is the deadly diseases that made their way into the Americas from Europe. Scientists estimate that more than 50 million people were killed in epidemics after the conquest.
Image Source: The Guardian