Archeologists from the Goethe University of Frankfurt an the Main have found evidence that even in the Bronze age, over 3 millenia ago, mankind's unsustainable activities were devastating the environment -- often at their own expense.
The archeologists found entire settlements buried under the debris of alpine landslides. The leader of the excavations, Rüdiger Krause, claims:
We can prove without a doubt that such catastrophes occurred as a result of human activity. Even the people of the Bronze and Iron ages have intervened in their natural surroundings, and severely exploited it with the limited technological capabilities of their time.The archeologists found evidence that grazing areas created by slash and burn clearing of native alpine vegetation led to landslides as water undermined the earth that was no longer stabilized by plant growth. The landslides destroyed the grazing areas, forcing farmers to seek new grazing land higher up the slopes. The team of archeologists also found evidence of areas that were used for mining, demonstrating that people practiced differentiated land use around their settlements.
Noting that the environmental destruction wreaked millenia ago also took millenia to heal, the archeologists plead for careful policies regarding modern land use in the sensitive alpine landscape.