Ancient human civilisations were already ‘messing up’ Earth 10,000 years ago, scientists reveal


We’ve been wrecking the planet for a very long time indeed (Picture: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

There is little doubt that humanity is having a dreadful effect on the other lifeforms that dwell on Planet Earth.

Unfortunately, this process looks to have been going on for a very long time indeed.

A new study published in the respected journal Nature has found that ‘early humans across the entire globe were changing and impacting their environments as far back as 10,000 years ago’.

This means that ancient civilisations were already ‘messing up the planet’ long before we developed modern industries and start burning fossil fuels.

A team of researchers found that the human societies of old did not have a ‘leave-no-trace’ effect on the environment.

Although the effects can be traced back to 10,000 years ago, we really got started on ruining Earth roughly 3,000 years in the past.

Our impact on the environment has become ever more intense as technology developed over the millennia (Picture: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

‘About 12,000 years ago, humans were mainly foraging, meaning they didn’t interact with their environments as intensively as farmers generally do,’ said Gary Feinman, MacArthur Curator of Anthropology at the Field Museum and one of the study’s 250 authors.

‘And now we see that 3,000 years ago, we have people doing really invasive farming in many parts of the globe.

‘We can see that there was global environmental impact by land use at least 3,000 years ago.

‘And that means that the idea of seeing human impact on the environment as a newer phenomenon is too focused on the recent past.’

Mankind’s pillage of the planet began when our ancestors began clearing out forests to plant food and domesticating plants and animals, making them dependent on human interaction.

Early livestock herders also changed the environment through land clearance and selective breeding.

The researchers hope their findings will illustrate the depth of the challenge our species has in mitigating the grim environmental toll of civilisation.

Feinman added: ‘There’s such a focus on how the present is different from the past in contemporary science. I think this study provides a check, a counter-weight to that, by showing that yes, there have been more accelerated changes in land use recently, but humans have been doing this for a long time.

‘It shows that the problems we face today are very deep-rooted, and they are going to take more than simple solutions to solve. They cannot be ignored.’

MORE: Was this the moment when human society became totally unfair? How the roots of inequality can be traced back to the dawn of farming





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