Historical exposomics: a manifesto

The exposome complements information captured in the genome by covering all external influences and internal (biological) responses of a human being from conception onwards. Such a paradigm goes beyond a single scientific discipline and instead requires a truly interdisciplinary approach. The concept of “historical exposomics” could help bridge the gap between “nature” and “nurture” using both natural and social archives to capture the influence of humans on earth (the Anthropocene) in an interdisciplinary manner. The LuxTIME project served as a test bed for an interdisciplinary exploration of the historical exposome, focusing on the Belval area located in the Minett region in southern Luxembourg. This area evolved from a source of mineral water to steel production through to the current campus for research and development. This article explores the various possibilities of natural and social archives that were considered in creating the historical exposome of Belval and reflects upon possibilities and limitations of the current approaches in assessing the exposome using purely a natural science approach. Issues surrounding significance, visualization, and availability of material suitable to form natural archives are discussed in a critical manner. The “Minett Stories” are presented as a way of creating new historical narratives to support exposome research. New research perspectives on the history of the Anthropocene were opened by investigating the causal relationships between factual evidence and narrative evidence stemming from historical sources. The concept of historical exposome presented here may thus offer a useful conceptual framework for studying the Anthropocene in a truly interdisciplinary fashion.

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