Ancient civilizations also harmed nature

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — A study by scientists from the universities of Pennsylvania, Maryland and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Human History of the Society examines how the vital activities of ancient cultures influenced the environment.

The fact that humanity is threatening the life of the planet by aggressively changing the environment for its own needs has been discussed relatively recently, so it may seem as if it is exclusively a problem of our time. A work published in Science shows that this trouble has been several thousand years old.

The study is part of the ArchaeoGLOBUS project, which collects information on how land use changes over time from experts from 146 regions around the world. The data cover a time span of about 10 thousand years, from hunters and gatherers to the industrial revolution, right up to 1850. According to scientists, the management of an ancient person was not so “invisible” to the environment and idyllic as we imagined.

Twelve thousand years ago, man still mined food by hunting and gathering, affecting the environment in approximately the same ways as most other species. “And three thousand years ago, we already see people engaged in truly aggressive agriculture in many parts of the world,” says study author Gary Feynman of the Field Museum of Natural History.

In fact, between these two points in time there is a change in the interaction of man and nature. People find themselves on the path that today led us to all existing environmental problems caused by our activities.

Even then, people cut down forests for plowing fields, domesticate animals and massively destroy predators, and pastoralists change the environment for grazing. The pace of change in different parts of the Earth was uneven, but research shows that they occurred throughout the planet. In addition, despite the relatively small number of people, agricultural methods were often extensive, which led to large losses of habitat.

As a result, after some time, civilizations were faced with deforestation, lack of water and adverse living conditions. Maps compiled by scientists show that traces of ancient changes in the natural landscape are still visible – thousands of years later.


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