Holocene calendar

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The Holocene calendar, also known as the Holocene Era or Human Era (HE), is a year numbering system that adds exactly 10,000 years to the currently dominant (AD/BC or CE/BCE) numbering scheme, placing its first year near the beginning of the Holocene geological epoch and the Neolithic Revolution, when humans shifted from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture and fixed settlements. The current year by the Gregorian calendar, AD 2023, is 12023 HE in the Holocene calendar. The HE scheme was first proposed by Cesare Emiliani in 1993 (11993 HE),[1] though similar proposals to start a new calendar at the same date had been put forward decades earlier.[2][3]


Cesare Emiliani's proposal for a calendar reform sought to solve a number of alleged problems with the current Anno Domini era, also called the Common Era, which number the years of the commonly accepted world calendar. These issues include:

  • The Anno Domini era is based on the erroneous or contentious estimates of the birth year of Jesus of Nazareth. The era places Jesus's birth year in AD 1, but modern scholars have determined that it is more likely that he was born in or before 4 BC.[4] Emiliani argued that replacing the contested date with the approximate beginning of the Holocene makes more sense.
  • The birth date of Jesus is a less universally relevant epoch event than the approximate beginning of the Holocene.
  • The years BC/BCE are counted down when moving from past to future, making calculation of time spans difficult.
  • The Anno Domini era has no year "zero", with 1 BC followed immediately by AD 1, complicating the calculation of timespans further.

Instead, HE uses the "beginning of human era" as its epoch, arbitrarily defined as 10,000 BC and denoted year 1 HE, so that AD 1 matches 10,001 HE.[1] This is a rough approximation of the start of the current geologic epoch, the Holocene (the name means entirely recent). The motivation for this is that human civilization (e.g. the first settlements, agriculture, etc.) is believed to have arisen within this time. Emiliani later proposed that the start of the Holocene should be fixed at the same date as the beginning of his proposed era.[5]


Human Era proponents claim that it makes for easier geological, archaeological, dendrochronological, anthropological and historical dating, as well as that it bases its epoch on an event more universally relevant than the birth of Jesus. All key dates in human history can then be listed using a simple increasing date scale with smaller dates always occurring before larger dates. Another gain is that the Holocene Era starts before the other calendar eras, so it could be useful for the comparison and conversion of dates from different calendars.


When Emiliani discussed the calendar in a follow-up article in 1994, he mentioned that there was no agreement on the date of the start of the Holocene epoch, with estimates at the time ranging between 12,700 and 10,970 years BP.[5] Since then, scientists have improved their understanding of the Holocene on the evidence of ice cores and can now more accurately date its beginning. A consensus view was formally adopted by the IUGS in 2013, placing its start at 11,700 years before 2000 (9701 BC), about 300 years more recent than the epoch of the Holocene calendar.[6]

Equivalent proposals[edit]

In 1924 Gabriel Deville proposed the use of Calendrier nouveau de chronologie ancienne (CNCA), which would start 10,000 years before AD 1, which is identical to Emiliani's much later proposal.[2]

Since 1929, Dievturi, adherents of Latvian religion Dievturība, use Latviskā ēra (Latvian Era) which begins at the same point; this coincides with the first inhabitants’ influx to the territory of present Latvia (10500–10047 BCE). According to Latvian Era, ¹2023 is written for 2023 CE. Detailed explanation of Latvian Era by Ernests Brastiņš was first published in 1934.[7]

In 1963 E.R. Hope proposed the use of Anterior Epoch (AE), which also begins at the same point.[3]


Conversion from Julian or Gregorian calendar years to the Human Era can be achieved by adding 10,000 to the AD/CE year. The present year, 2023, can be transformed into a Holocene year by adding the digit "1" before it, making it 12,023 HE. Years BC/BCE are converted by subtracting the BC/BCE year number from 10,001.

Calendar epochs and milestones in the Holocene calendar
Gregorian year ISO 8601 Holocene year Event
10000 BC −9999[a] 1 HE Beginning of the Holocene Era
9701 BC −9700 300 HE End of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene epoch[6]
4714 BC −4713 5287 HE Epoch of the Julian day system: Julian day 0 starts at Greenwich noon on January 1, 4713 BC of the proleptic Julian calendar, which is November 24, 4714 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar[8]: 10 
3761 BC −3760 6240 HE Beginning of the Anno Mundi calendar era in the Hebrew calendar[8]: 11 
3102 BC −3101 6899 HE Beginning of the Kali Yuga in Hindu cosmology[9]
2250 BC −2249 7751 HE Beginning of the Meghalayan age, the current and latest of the three stages in the Holocene era.[10][11]
45 BC −0044 9956 HE Introduction of the Julian calendar
1 BC +0000 10000 HE Year zero at ISO 8601
AD 1 +0001 10001 HE Beginning of the Common Era and Anno Domini, from the estimate by Dionysius of the Incarnation of Jesus
622, 1 AH +0622 10622 HE Migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina (Hijrah), starting the Islamic calendar[12][13]
1582 +1582 11582 HE Introduction of the Gregorian calendar[8]: 47 
1912 +1912 11912 HE Epoch of the Juche[14] and Minguo calendars[15]
1950 +1950 11950 HE Epoch of the Before Present dating scheme[16]: 190 
1960 +1960 11960 HE UTC Epoch
1970 +1970 11970 HE Unix Epoch[17]
1993 +1993 11993 HE Publication of the Holocene calendar
2023 +2023 12023 HE Current year
10000 +10000 20000 HE
  1. ^ Emiliani[1] states his proposal would set "the beginning of the human era at 10,000 BC" but does not mention the Julian or Gregorian calendar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Emiliani, Cesare (1993). "Correspondence – calendar reform". Nature. 366 (6457): 716. Bibcode:1993Natur.366..716E. doi:10.1038/366716b0. Setting the beginning of the human era at 10,000 BC would date [...] the birth of Christ at [25 December] 10,000.
  2. ^ a b Naudin, Claude (2001). De temps en temps: Histoires de calendrier [From time to time: Calendar stories]. Le Grand Livre du Mois. ISBN 2-7028-4735-8.
  3. ^ a b Hope, E.R. (1963). "The arithmetical reform of the calendar, Part I". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 57 (1): 14–23. Bibcode:1963JRASC..57...14H.
  4. ^ Rahner, Karl (2004). Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi. Continuum. p. 732. ISBN 978-0-86012-006-3. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Emiliani, Cesare (1994). "Calendar reform for the year 2000". Eos. 75 (19): 218. Bibcode:1994EOSTr..75..218E. doi:10.1029/94EO00895.
  6. ^ a b Walker, Mike; Jonsen, Sigfus; Rasmussen, Sune Olander; Popp, Trevor; Steffensen, Jørgen-Peder; Gibbard, Phil; Hoek, Wim; Lowe, John; Andrews, John; Björck, Svante; Cwynar, Les C.; Hughen, Konrad; Kershaw, Peter; Kromer, Bernd; Litt, Thomas; Lowe, David J.; Nakagawa, Takeshi; Newnham, Rewi; Schwander, Jacob (2009). "Formal definition and dating of the GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point) for the base of the Holocene using the Greenland NGRIP ice core, and selected auxiliary records" (PDF). Journal of Quaternary Science. 24 (1): 3–17. Bibcode:2009JQS....24....3W. doi:10.1002/jqs.1227. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-11-04.
  7. ^ Nastevičs, Uģis (2022). "Latvian Dievturība: A Study of Rituals, Their Sacred Space and Texts". Dievturu Vēstnesis. 43 (3): 2467–2481. ISSN 2661-5088.
  8. ^ a b c Dershowitz, Nachum; Reingold, Edward M. (2008). Calendrical Calculations (3rd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-70238-6.
  9. ^ See: Matchett, Freda, "The Puranas", p 139 and Yano, Michio, "Calendar, astrology and astronomy" in Flood, Gavin, ed. (2003). Blackwell companion to Hinduism. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-21535-6.
  10. ^ "ICS chart containing the Quaternary and Cambrian GSSPs and new stages (v 2018/07) is now released!". Archived from the original on February 19, 2020. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  11. ^ Conners, Deanna (September 18, 2018). "Welcome to the Meghalayan age". Archived from the original on February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Aisha El-Awady (2002-06-11). "Ramadan and the Lunar Calendar". Islamonline.net. Archived from the original on 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2006-12-16.
  13. ^ Hakim Muhammad Said (1981). "The History of the Islamic Calendar in the Light of the Hijra". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2006-12-16.
  14. ^ Hy-Sang Lee (2001). North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-275-96917-2.
  15. ^ Endymion Wilkinson (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard Univ Asia Center. pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4.
  16. ^ Currie Lloyd A (2004). "The Remarkable Metrological History of Radiocarbon Dating [II]" (PDF). Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 109 (2): 185–217. doi:10.6028/jres.109.013. PMC 4853109. PMID 27366605. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  17. ^ "The Open Group Base Specifications Issue 7, Rationale, section 4.16 Seconds Since the Epoch". The OpenGroup. 2018. Archived from the original on 2017-11-15. Retrieved 2018-06-24.

Further reading[edit]