Sediments at the bottom of Crawford Lake in the Canadian province of Ontario contain key signs that the world has entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene. This was stated by the working group of the International Commission on stratigraphy, writes Axios.

Researchers say that humans, not natural phenomena such as an asteroid impact, pushed the planet into this phase in which the Earth is rapidly transforming.

“We are living in a new geological period, one in which the scale and power of human activities match or even exceed the scale and power of natural processes,” Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science, says.

When defining a new era, researchers first focus on finding geological records of changes that occurred on a global scale. Since the 1950s, sedimentary rocks have contained artificial radionuclides from nuclear weapons tests that spread radioactive elements across the planet.

Markers of industrialization and globalization—nitrogen and mercury released from burning fossil fuels, microplastic pollution, nitrogen from fertilizers, and other changes — also increased dramatically in various places around the world in the middle of the last century.

The new epoch will be a new reference point for how scientists understand the history and trajectory of the Earth’s development – especially the impact of anthropogenic climate change.

All the while, there is an active debate about whether human-induced change can be considered a new era, and if so, when it began and how it should be defined. Some anthropologists point to the time hundreds of thousands of years ago, when people first mastered fire, or to the “dawn” of agriculture. Others argue that, geologically speaking, humans have lived on Earth for so little time that we don’t deserve an era of our own.

As you know, the Holocene is the current epoch that began about 11,700 years ago and covers the post-glacial period. The Cretaceous period, when the dinosaurs ruled, ended 66 million years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth, an event recorded on a rock in Tunisia.