Category Archives: Civilization

Climate change threatens not only our future but also our past

Melissa Gronlund writes: At Bagerhat in southern Bangladesh, a city of 360 mosques from the 15th century, salt water from the encroaching Indian Ocean is damaging the foundations. In Yemen, torrential rains are decimating the improbable mud-brick high-rises of Shibam’s 16th-century architecture, newly exposed owing to strikes from the conflict there. In Iraq, the country’s… Read More »

Understanding planetary intelligence

Adam Frank, Sara Walker, and David Grinspoon write: Almost a century ago, the revolutionary idea of the biosphere gained a foothold in science. Defined as the collective activity of all life on Earth—the tapestry of actions of every microbe, plant, and animal—the biosphere had profound implications for our understanding of planetary evolution. The concept posits… Read More »

How science is uncovering the secrets of Stonehenge

Tim Adams writes: Among the many treasures in the British Museum’s forthcoming Stonehenge exhibition is a collection of carved and polished spherical stones, each about the size of a cricket ball. The stones are 5,000 years old and have mostly been found singly in Scotland. The most famous of the 400 or so discoveries is… Read More »

Wade Davis on the unraveling of America

  Wade Davis writes: Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the… Read More »

How the extinction of ice age mammals may have forced us to invent civilisation

Wikimedia Commons/Cloudordinary, CC BY-SA By Nick Longrich, University of Bath Why did we take so long to invent civilisation? Modern Homo sapiens first evolved roughly 250,000 to 350,000 years ago. But initial steps towards civilisation – harvesting, then domestication of crop plants – began only around 10,000 years ago, with the first civilisations appearing 6,400… Read More »

Surveying archaeologists across the globe reveals deeper and more widespread roots of the human age, the Anthropocene

People have been modifying Earth – as in these rice terraces near Pokhara, Nepal – for millennia. Erle C. Ellis, CC BY-ND By Ben Marwick, University of Washington; Erle C. Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Lucas Stephens, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Nicole Boivin, Max Planck Institute for the… Read More »