Hermann Löns’ “Quintär” – an early approach to the geological stratigraphy of the Age of Humans and its significance in geosciences

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Jahn Jochen Hornung 


In 1908, Hermann Löns outlined the concept of a Quintär” (“Quintary period”) to describe geological and biological manifestations of the Age of Humans. His definition of the “Quintary” consisted of two
components: a lithostratigraphic (“Quintary deposits” or “Quintary stratum”), and a faunistic (“Quintary fauna”) one. With a view on the stratigraphic component, Löns already anticipated the approach of the 21st Century to establish a geological definition for the Age of Humans based on physical manifestations and geological evidence, that is nowadays reflected in the attempts to define the anthropocene. Transposed into modern terminology, the “Quintary stratum” is defined as a lithostratigraphic unit (Quintary Lithosome), that contains all deposits in which non-anthropogenic sedimentary processes have been replaced or modified by anthropogenic or technogenic activity. The Quintary Lithosome has a diachronous base and intercalates in its lower part vertically and laterally with non-anthropogenic deposits of the Holocene Series. The upper part, that correlates with the anthropocene series, has a global distribution. The Quintary Lithosome is exclusively defined for geological stratigraphies on Earth. It widely – though not totally – overlaps with the archaeosphere as a partial equivalent in archaeological stratigraphy. Previous suggestions to redefine the most recent period of Earth history by adopting a biostratigraphic scheme based on hominids and their cultural manifestations, are rejected herein for the realm of geological stratigraphy. However, for the context of archaeological stratigraphy, it is suggested to define the phase of cultural manifestations of hominins and their corresponding deposits as the Anthropian age and deposits, respectively.




Earth Sciences, Geology, Other Earth Sciences, Stratigraphy


Quintär, Quintary, Quaternary, Lithostratigraphy, Anthropocene, Age of Humans, Archaeosphere, History of science


Published: 2021-12-16 16:15

Last Updated: 2021-12-21 04:11

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