Ice and corals: 12 candidate sites as symbols of the Anthropocene


From Antarctic ice to coral reefs, from cities to lakes, there are 12 sites on the planet that are candidates to become the symbol of the new era characterized by human presence, i.e. the Anthropocene . One of these sites is located in Italy, but does not meet the required requirements.


The Italian site is located in Trentino Alto-Adige: it is Ernesto’s Cave , named after the boy who, after its discovery, first slipped inside it. This site was included in the list thanks to the presence of a stalagmite that had formed in recent decades, even if, however, it does not meet the stringent requirements and cannot aspire to the title.

According to an article published in Science, the winner will be revealed by the end of the year, a choice that will be made by the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). However, the process will require several votes before being able to give the Anthropocene a starting date and a precise definition. The epoch in which we live is that of the Holocene which covers the last 12,000 years, starting from the last Ice Age .

The events of the last few decades linked to human activities would justify the recognition of a new era distinct from the Holocene. Thus, 12 sites scattered throughout the globe were identified, among which one will represent the reference point of the new era , allowing us to establish a starting date for the Anthropocene and the specific characteristics that mark the entry into this new era. These include the presence of ashes deriving from the combustion of carbon and fuels , the presence of isotopes (atoms that differ only in the number of neutrons) of plutonium, due to nuclear tests, but also that of microplastics and heavy metals.


Two of these sites are located on the seabed : one in the middle of the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and the Baltics, and one in Japan’s Beppu Bay. Two other zones have been identified in the coral reefs of West Flower Garden Bank, in the Gulf of Mexico, and Flinders Reef, in Australia. Three other sites are located within lakes : Lake Crawford in Canada, Sihailongwan in China and Searsville in the United States, created thanks to a dam.


But the reference point for the Anthropocene could also be found in a swamp in Poland, or in Antarctica in an ice core extracted from the Palmer Archipelago, in which the layer corresponding to the human era is the longest ever (about 32 meters). Finally, among the proposals advanced but with little possibility, we find the estuary of the San Francisco Bay and the layers below the city of Vienna .

  • From corals to ice, 12 candidate sites as symbols of the Anthropocene (


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