Modern climate change and contemporary environmental issues
In light of the current discussion regarding the Anthropocene, this paper explores this new geological epoch from an archaeological – and specifically a field-archaeological – point of view. The Anthropocene has been proposed as an epoch in which humans have become the dominating force shaping global geological and ecological dynamics. At present, a lively debate runs as to the very validity and the time of onset of this ‘Age of Humans’. One of the most convincing starting points is the ‘Great Acceleration’ of the gargantuan capitalism-driven rise in fossil fuel extraction and chemical signature of human activity that began around 1950. This paper presents results of archaeological fieldwork at the former brown coal mining site of Søby in central Denmark. This field campaign was specifically designed to capture the coupled geological, ecological and cultural entanglements of the Anthropocene. Our approach combines contemporary archaeology, environmental archaeology and heritage studies resulting in a framing of Søby, its history and environs as ‘environmental dark heritage’. Furthermore, this archaeological fieldwork fed into a subsequent exhibition in the newly-opened Moesgård Museum. This exhibition challenged people to interact with the ‘mild apocalypse’ in their Anthropocene backyard. The Søby locale, we argue, presents a local microcosm of a potential global future of unintended environmental and social consequences, economic overexploitation and humanly induced catastrophe.