▪ Abstract 

Although human-induced changes to the global environment and natural biotic resources, collectively labeled “global change” and the “biodiversity crisis,” have accelerated with industrialization over the past 300 years, such changes have a much longer history. Particularly since the rise of agriculturally based societies and associated population expansion during the early Holocene, humans have had cumulative and often irreversible impacts on natural landscapes and biotic resources worldwide. Archaeologists, often working closely with natural scientists in interdisciplinary projects, have accumulated a large body of empirical evidence documenting such changes as deforestation, spread of savannahs, increased rates of erosion, permanent rearrangements of landscapes for agriculture, resource depression and depletion (and in many cases, extinction) in prehistory. In some areas and time periods, environmental change led to long-term negative consequences for regional human populations, whereas in other cases, changes favored intensification of production and increased population sizes. Drawing upon case studies from North America, Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean, Near East, India, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, the diversity of types of prehistoric human-induced environmental change is assessed, along with the kinds of empirical evidence that support these interpretations. These findings have important implications both for the understanding of long-term human socioeconomic and political changes and for ecologists who need to assess current environmental dynamics in the context of longer-term environmental history.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error