Mineral dust interacts with radiation and impacts both the regional and global climate. The relative contribution of natural and anthropogenic dust sources, however, remains largely uncertain. Although human activities disturb soils and therefore enhance wind erosion, their contribution to global dust emission has never been directly evaluated because of a lack of data. The retrieval of aerosol properties over land, including deserts, using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Deep Blue algorithm makes the first direct characterization of the origin of individual sources possible. In order to separate freshly emitted dust from other aerosol types and aged dust particles, the spectral dependence of the single scattering albedo and the Angstrom wavelength exponent are used. Four years of data from the eastern part of West Africa, which includes one of the most active natural dust sources and the highest population density on the continent, are processed. Sources are identified on the basis of the persistence of significant aerosol optical depth from freshly emitted dust, and the origin is characterized as natural or anthropogenic on the basis of a land use data set. Our results indicate that although anthropogenic dust is observed less frequently and with lower optical depth than dust from natural sources in this particular region, it occupies a large area covering most of northern Nigeria and southern Chad, around Lake Chad. In addition, smaller anthropogenic sources are found as far south as 5° of latitude north, well outside the domain of most dust source inventories.