Taming the Landscape


Taming the Landscape


The Early Anthropocene


When did people begin to take control of the global environment? Humans have shaped their local environments for hundreds of thousands of years. As populations increased, their impacts expanded. Two changes greatly accelerated human influence on a global scale: the movement of hunting societies and the development of agriculture.

By the end of the last ice age, humans had migrated across much of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Whenever humans appeared, a wave of extinctions followed. In the Americas, large animals such as the Mastodon and Giant Beaver went extinct shortly after the arrival of people. Although scientists debate the origin of these mass extinctions (changing climate likely played a role), hunting was a significant factor.

The development of agriculture played an even more important role in global environmental change. People began domesticating plants and animals around the world roughly 12,000 years ago. The stone (“lithic”) tools in our exhibit speak to this dramatic change. Agriculture often required clearing forested lands, irrigating, or fertilizing landscapes to make them suitable for crops. These changes were the foundation for settlement and later the rise of complex civilizations all over the world.

Agriculture and hunting continue to reshape environments on a global scale today. The bison in this exhibit represents the consequences of modern overhunting and the single-wheel hoe represents our continued reliance on agriculture. These objects remind us that “taming the landscape” revolutionized societies, but they also produced global environmental consequences. They connect us to a deep past and symbolize a transformation that continues to shape the modern world.

Items in the Taming the Landscape Collection

Scout the Bison

Chelsey Dizon
Kevin Vincent

Abigail Klick
Michaela Peck
Figure 1: Lithic Tools

Adam Luton
Will Norskov

Jen Luttrell
Abbey Rieber
Nicole Shintani
Samantha Arrowheads

Ali Cunningham
Kimberly Jurado
man at his shed with farmland in the background

Megan Gainer
Abaigh Plummer
Man walking in field next to a crop irrigation pivot

Brandon Reding
Ethan Sperfslage
Branding Iron

Bridget Courtney
Elise Gooding-Lord
Figure 1.

Colton Miller
Hannah Juday