How the future species of Earth may view fossils left behind after mankinds extinction

Giant hyper-evolved rats 100 million years from now, carefully and logically analysing petrified remains from the long-vanished human civilization – and getting the interpretation completely wrong! 

That is the theme of a collaboration between the artist Anne-Sophie Milon and palaeontologist Professor Jan Zalasiewicz from the Department of Geology, which forms part of a major new exhibition in Germany.

The collaborative work featured in the exhibition, Reset Modernity!, at the ZKM arts and media centre in Karlsruhe, asks what the office of a palaeontologist would look like a 100 million years from now, trying to understand a specific fossil, given the name Brunaspis enigmatica, and the strange and short geological time of our own present, the Anthropocene - speculated to be called in the future the ‘Great Crisis Stratum’.

Professor Zalasiewicz explained: “The rocks and fossils we are now making will be extraordinarily puzzling when looked at by civilizations of the far future and it is by artists and scientists working together that we can try to gain such a perspective – in effect trying to get into the mind of alien scientists as they might try to understand us, from what we leave behind.”

  • A paper from the far future, ‘'Brunaspis enigmatica': Reinterpretation of a presumed artefaction from The Great Crisis Stratum as a Predator-Modified Organic Petrifaction’, which has emerged from the exhibition, is available
  • Geological Society of London blog feature on Brunaspis