Item Details

Hypanthropos: On Apprehending and Approaching That Which is in Excess of Monstrosity, with Special Consideration given to the Photography of Edward Burtynsky

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2019) Special Issue: Futurity, Time, and Archaeology

Journal: Journal of Contemporary Archaeology

Subject Areas: Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jca.33819


Offering a more precise epithet for that which has emerged under the provisional label of the “Anthropocene”, this article trains its lens on some of the more-than-monstrous things that have revealed themselves in our calamitous times. It raises questions about how archaeologists are to apprehend and approach objects that differ in scale, speed, makeup, and efficacy from anything our field has ever dealt with. But rather than honing its analytical edge exclusively with the latest science, it also ventures in another direction to explore some of the powers of art by considering the work of the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynksy. Finally, it makes a few closing remarks on the role of our profession in this new archaeological era.

Author: Christopher Witmore

View Original Web Page

References :

Browne, M. W. 1996. “Dams for Water Supply are Altering Earth’s Orbit, Expert Says.” New York Times, 3 March. Online:

Burtynsky, E. with J. Baichwal and N. De Pencier. 2018. Anthropocene. Göttingen: Steidl.

Burtynsky, E., M. Mitchell, W. E. Rees, P. Roth and M. Schubert. 2009. Burtynsky: Oil. Göttingen: Steidl.

Chakrabarty, D. 2009. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2): 197–222.

Chao, B. F. 2006. “Earth’s Oblateness and its Temporal Variations.” Comptes Rendus Geoscience, 338 (14): 1123–1129.

Chen, H., Y. Wu, X. Yuan, Y. Gao, N. Wu and D. Zhu, 2009. “Methane Emissions from Newly Created Marshes in the Drawdown Area of Three Gorges Reservoir.” Journal of Geophyscical Research: Atmospheres 114 (D18).

Clarke, B. 2014. “‘The Anthropocene,’ or, Gaia Shrugs.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. 1 (1): 101–104.

Crossland, Z. 2014. “Anthropocene: Locating Agency, Imagining the Future.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. 1 (1): 123–128.

Erlandson, J. M. and T. J. Braje. 2013. “Archaeology and the Anthropocene.” Anthropocene 4: 1–7.

Fisher, C. T., J. B. Hill and G. M. Feinman. 2009. The Archaeology of Environmental Change: Socio­natural Legacies of Degradation and Resilience. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

González-Ruibal, A. 2008. “Time to Destroy: An Archaeology of Supermodernity”. Current Anthropology 49 (2): 247–279.

Harman, G. 2016. “On Behalf of Form.” In Elements of Architecture: Assembling Archaeology, Atmosphere and the Performance of Building Space, edited by M. Bille and T. F. Sorensen, 30–46. London: Routledge.

Hartley, D. 2015. “Against the Anthropocene.” Salvage 1 (1). Online:

Hodder, I. 2014. “The Entanglements of Humans and Things: A Long-Term View.” New Literary History 45 (1): 19–36.

Hvistendahl, M. 2008. “China’s Three Gorges Dam: An Environmental Catastrophe?” Scientific American, 25 March. Online:

JPL. 2005. “NASA Details Earthquake Effects on the Earth.” NASA website, 10 January. Online:

Kirch, P. V. 2005. “Archaeology and Global Change: The Holocene Record.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30 (1): 409–440.

Kunzig, R. 2009. “Scraping Bottom.” National Geographic 215 (3): 34–59.

Latour, B. 2015. Face à Gaïa: huit conférences sur le nouveau régime climatique. Paris: La Découverte.

Latour, B. 2017. “Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene: A Personal View of What is to be Studied.” In The Anthropology of Sustainability: Beyond Development and Progress, edited by M. Brightman and J. Lewis, 35–49. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Macfarlane, R. 2016. “Generation Anthropocene: How Humans have Altered the Planet Forever.” The Guardian, 1 April. Online:

Miéville, C. 2015. “The Limits of Utopia.” Salvage 1 (1). Online:

Moore, J. W., ed. 2016. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

Morgenstern, N. 2001. “Geotechnics and Mine Waste Management – Update”. In Seminar on Safe Tailings Dam Constructions, Gällivare, September 20-21, 2001: Technical Papers, 54–67. No location: Swedish Mining Association, Naturvårdsverket [Swedish Environmental Protection Agency] and the European Commission. Online:

Morton, T. 2013. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Nietzsche, F. 1997. Untimely Meditations. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Olsen, B., M. Shanks, T. Webmoor and C. Witmore 2012. Archaeology the Discipline of Things. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pétursdóttir, Þ. and B. Olsen. 2014. “Imaging Modern Decay: The Aesthetics of Ruin Photography.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1 (1): 7–56.

Redman, C. L. 1999. Human Impact on Ancient Environments. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Serres, M. 2014. Times of Crisis: What the Financial Crisis Revealed and How to Reinvent our Lives and Future. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Sloterdijk, P. 2013. In the World Interior of Capital. Towards a Philosophical Theory of Globalization. Cambridge: Polity.

____. 2014. “The Anthropocene: A Process-State on the Edge of Geohistory?” In Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain| Vapor| Ray, Volume 3, edited by K. Klingan, A. Sepahvand, C. Rosol and B. M. Scherer, 257–271. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

____. 2016. Spheres, Volume 3: Foams, Plural Spherology. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e).

Smith, B. D. and M. A. Zeder 2013. “The Onset of the Anthropocene.” Anthropocene 4: 8–13.

Steffen, W., W. Broadgate, L. Deutsch, O. Gaffney and C. Ludwig. 2015. “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration.” The Anthropocene Review 2 (1): 81–98.

Stengers, I. 2015. In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism. Translated by A. Goffey. Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press. Online:

Torosian, M. and E. Burtynsky. 2005. “The Essential Element: An Interview with Edward Burtynsky.” In Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, edited by L. Pauli, 46–55. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press.

van der Leeuw, S. E. 1998. The Archaeomedes Project: Understanding the Natural and Anthropogenic Causes of Land Degradation and Desertification in the Mediterranean Basin. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

____. and C. L. Redman. 2002. “Placing Archaeology at the Center of Socio-Natural Studies.” American Antiquity 67 (4): 597–605.

Waters, C. N., J. Zalasiewicz, C. Summerhayes, A. D. Barnosky, C. Poirier, A. Gałuszka, A. Cearreta, M. Edgeworth, E. C. Ellis, M. Ellis and C. Jeandel. 2016. “The Anthropocene is Functionally and Stratigraphically Distinct from the Holocene.” Science 351 (6269): 2622.

Witmore, C. 2014. “Archaeology, the Anthropocene, and the Hypanthropocene.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1 (1): 128–132.

____. 2018. “The End of the ‘Neolithic’? At the Emergence of the Anthropocene.” In Multispecies Archaeology, edited by S. Pilaar Birch, 26–46. London: Routledge.

Xinhua. 2010. “Water Level at Three Gorges Project Raised to Full Capacity.” Xinhua website, 26 October. Online:

Žižek, S. 2015. “Ecology against Mother Nature: Slavoj Žižek on Molecular Red.” Verso Books Blog, 26 May. Online: