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 (or CE) numbering scheme, placing its first year near the beginning of the Holocene geological epoch and the Neolithic Revolution, when humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture and fixed settlements. The current year in the Holocene calendar is 12,017 HE. The HE scheme was first proposed by scientist Cesare Emiliani in 1993.
Cesare Emiliani's proposal for a calendar reform sought to solve a number of alleged problems with the current Anno Domini era, which number the years of the commonly accepted world calendar. These issues include:
- The Anno Domini era is based on an erroneous estimation of the birth year of Jesus. The era places Jesus's birth year in AD 1, but modern scholars have determined that he was likely born in or before 4 BC. Emiliani argues that replacing it with the approximate beginning of the Holocene makes sense.
- The reported birth of Jesus is a less universally relevant epoch event than the approximate beginning of the Holocene.
- The years BC 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 denoted year 1 HE, so that AD 1 matches 10,001 HE. 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.
Shifts in estimation of onset
Scientists have improved their understanding of and can now more accurately date the beginning of the Holocene. A consensus viewpoint has solidified and was formally adopted by the IUGS in 2013. Current estimates place its start at 11.7 thousand years before AD 2000.
This conflicts with the dating proposed for HE and means that it is not clear how it would be altered from the 1993 proposal in Nature. In the twenty-odd years after 1993 it has mostly been a curiosity and has not gained widespread use even within the geological, palaeontological or archaeological scientific communities.
Human Era proponents claim that it makes for easier geological, archaeological, dendrochronological 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.
Conversion from Julian or Gregorian AD years to the Human Era can be achieved by adding 10,000 to the AD year. The current year of AD 2017 can be transformed into a Holocene year by adding the digit "1" before it, making it 12,017 HE. BC years are converted by subtracting the BC year from 10,001. A useful validity check is that the last single digits of BC and HE equivalent pairs must add up to 1 or 11.
|Gregorian year||ISO 8601||Holocene year||Event|
|10001 BC||−10000||0 HE||Beginning of the Holocene Era|
|10000 BC||−9999||1 HE|
|9700 BC||−9699||301 HE||End of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene epoch|
|4714 BC||−4713||5287 HE||Epoch of the proleptic Julian calendar: 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|
|3761 BC||−3760||6240 HE||Beginning of the Anno Mundi era in the Hebrew calendar|
|2698 BC||−2697||7303 HE||Reign of the mythical Yellow Emperor, epoch of the traditional Chinese calendar|
|1000 BC||−0999||9001 HE|
|753 BC||−0752||9248 HE||Legendary Founding of Rome, starting the ab urbe condita era|
|544 BC||−0543||9457 HE||Legendary death of Siddhartha Gautama, epoch of the Buddhist calendar|
|45 BC||−0044||9956 HE||Introduction of the Julian calendar|
|1 BC||+0000||10000 HE||Year zero at ISO 8601|
|1 AD||+0001||10001 HE||Beginning of the Common Era (Anno Domini), from an incorrect estimate of the birth of Jesus|
|622 AD||+0622||10622 HE||Migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina (Hegira), starting the Islamic calendar|
|1582 AD||+1582||11582 HE||Introduction of the Gregorian calendar|
|1912 AD||+1912||11912 HE||Xinhai Revolution in China, starting the Minguo calendar.|
|1950 AD||+1950||11950 HE||Epoch of the Before Present dating scheme|
|1993 AD||+1993||11993 HE||Publication of the Holocene calendar|
|2017 AD||+2017||12017 HE||Current year|
|10000 AD||+10000||20000 HE|
- Anno Lucis – Calendar system that adds 4000 years to the Common Era.
- Emiliani, Cesare (1993). "Correspondence – Calendar Reform". Nature. 366: 716. 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
- 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". Journal of Quaternary Science. 24 (1): 3–17. doi:10.1002/jqs.1227.
- Walker, M.; Johnsen, S.; Rasmussen, S. O.; Popp, T.; Steffensen, J.-P.; Gibbard, P.; Hoek, W.; Lowe, J.; Andrews, J.; Bjo; Cwynar, L. C.; Hughen, K.; Kershaw, P.; Kromer, B.; Litt, T.; Lowe, D. J.; Nakagawa, T.; Newnham, R.; Schwander, J. (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). J. Quaternary Sci. 24: 3–17. doi:10.1002/jqs.1227.
- David Ewing Duncan (1999). The Calendar. pp. 331–332. ISBN 1-85702-979-8.
- Duncan Steel (2000). Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 149–151. ISBN 978-0-471-29827-4.
- Günther A. Wagner (1998). Age Determination of Young Rocks and Artifacts: Physical and Chemical Clocks in Quaternary Geology and Archeology. Springer. p. 48. ISBN 978-3-540-63436-2.
- "A New History for Humanity – The Human Era" - Youtube video explaining the Holocene Calendar by Kurzgesagt
- "News and comment", Geology Today, 20/3 (2004) 89–96.
- Timeline of World History
- Geologic TimeScale Foundation: GSSP Table, engineering.purdue.edu
- Comparison of some historic dates in the gregorian and the Holocene calendar