The Technofossil: A Memento Mori
Journal: Journal of Contemporary Archaeology
Subject Areas: Archaeology
In the process of formally identifying a geological interval, it is crucial for stratigraphersto find the point at which strata reveal a significant, dramatic shift in the types of fossilsand other geological markers being found. In the nomenclature of the discipline thispoint constitutes a "golden spike". For the geologists advancing the proposition that theAnthropocene might be formalized as the Earth's latest interval on the geologic time scale,this spike will be registered by the sudden appearance of a new sedimentary layer - onedecisively marked by the presence of "technofossils". From the proliferation of deepperforations of the strata by mining to the wide distribution of rare elements (aluminum,titanium, uranium) and novel compounds (plastics), for the geologists advocating thenotion of the Anthropocene, the deposits of human technology buried in the Earth's crustwill not only be that species' geological legacy, but the mineral markers of its emergenceas a major geo-force. No doubt the logos of the technofossil is important for geologistsmaking the case for the Anthropocene's formalization as a geological interval; its pathos,however, is of equal import in building a public for it. In the hands of the Anthropocene'sstratigraphers the prospective mineralization of human activity is also the species' anticipatedmemorialization: literally written in stone, the strata of the Anthropocene will bea memorial to human existence - to the era of its doing and undoing. In this, then, thetechnofossil is as much a memento mori as it is a heuristic for imagining a world after thehuman - a "world without us". It is this conjuncture that this paper explores.
Author: Ben Dibley
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