The Palaeoanthropocene - The beginnings of anthropogenic environmental change

Stephen F. Foley*, Detlef Gronenborn, Meinrat O. Andreae, Joachim W. Kadereit, Jan Esper, Denis Scholz, Ulrich Pöschl, Dorrit E. Jacob, Bernd R. Schöne, Rainer Schreg, Andreas Vött, David Jordan, Jos Lelieveld, Christine G. Weller, Kurt W. Alt, Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Kai Christian Bruhn, Holger Tost, Frank Sirocko, Paul J. Crutzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


As efforts to recognize the Anthropocene as a new epoch of geological time are mounting, the controversial debate about the time of its beginning continues. Here, we suggest the term Palaeoanthropocene for the period between the first, barely recognizable, anthropogenic environmental changes and the industrial revolution when anthropogenically induced changes of climate, land use and biodiversity began to increase very rapidly. The concept of the Palaeoanthropocene recognizes that humans are an integral part of the Earth system rather than merely an external forcing factor. The delineation of the beginning of the Palaeoanthropocene will require an increase in the understanding and precision of palaeoclimate indicators, the recognition of archaeological sites as environmental archives, and inter-linking palaeoclimate, palaeoenvironmental changes and human development with changes in the distribution of Quaternary plant and animal species and socio-economic models of population subsistence and demise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-88
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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