For years, the term “Anthropocene” has been used to informally describe the human era on Earth. But new evidence suggests there’s nothing informal about it. We’re a true force of nature — and there’s good reason to believe we’ve sparked a new and unprecedented geological epoch.
In 1815 William Smith drew a map of the United Kingdom which transformed the scientific landscape: It laid the foundations for modern geology, and identified natural resources which would beget the Industrial Revolution. But up until last year, this first-edition copy was considered to be lost forever.
Archaeologists have identified a remarkable piece of Neanderthal jewelry comprised of eight white-tailed eagle talons. Worn 130,000 years ago, the discovery shows that Neanderthals were capable of making sophisticated ornaments long before modern humans appeared on the scene.
Humans have had such a dramatic impact on the planet that we've changed geological history. Future scientists will be able to find humanity's distinctive chemical signature written into the rocky record of Earth's crust. That signature marks the beginning of the Anthropocene, or the new human age.