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What Kind of Fossils Will We Humans Leave Behind?

We are all going to die, and that is for sure. But who will remember us, and how? We are not talking about our children and grandchildren, but something more long-term. What fossils will we leave on Earth as a trace of our passage? Paleontologists Karen Koy, from Missouri State University, and Roy Plotnick, from the University of Chicago, asked themselves this question. As a result, the two published a study in the journal Anthropocene imagining what the fossils of our civilization will look like, and how they will be interpreted by future humans (or an alien race visiting our planet).

fossils

We are all going to die, and that is for sure. In fact it is our destiny, and we cannot escape it. But who will remember us, and how? We are not talking about our children and grandchildren, but something more long-term. What fossils will we leave on Earth as a trace of our passage?

Paleontologists Karen Koy, from Missouri State University, and Roy Plotnick, from the University of Chicago, asked themselves this question. As a result, the two published a study in the journal Anthropocene. Here they tried to imagine what the fossils of our civilization will look like, and how they will be interpreted by future humans (or an alien race visiting our planet).

The Fossils Will All Be Underground

The study stems from a consideration inspired, according to the authors, by reading “a lot of post-apocalyptic science fiction”. Scientists have realized that most of the traces we are leaving on the planet are digital. This means that they are on media that in a few thousand or million years will be impossible to decipher. Just think about the fact that even today it’s already hard to run a program from twenty years ago on a modern computer.

So what will remain of our civilization? According to the authors, “what we put underground“. In other words, the traces of our activities, and especially ourselves. Or rather our bodies, neatly buried in cemeteries all over the world. Imagine an alien species arriving on Earth. They would discover that our world is covered everywhere with bone remains arranged in an order that is easy to interpret as such. According to the authors, our methods of burying and preserving the corpses will be the first detail that will catch the eye of the archaeologists of the future.

Lots of Love for Pets

By our side, then, these hypothetical scholars will find the remains of many animals. Dogs and cats, but also pigs, cows and chickens. In the study we read that it will not be difficult for researchers to distinguish between pets (with physical characteristics suitable for their task) and wild animals.

Moreover, they will also be able to guess their social role. If you think about it, in fact, the death of a pet is treated differently from that of a breeding animal. For this reason, according to Koy and Plotnick our successors might think that our species once attributed a religious role to dogs and cats. They may believe that we even worshipped them as gods!

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