Holocene calendar

For non-Christians like me it is daft to count the years from the birth of Christ, who (if he ever lived at all) was not born in year 1 CE after all, but some 7 years earlier, according to most historians. It is very awkward to use BCE dates for important historical events that happened ‘Before the Current Era’. You have to count backward to the BCE/CE boundary and then forward again. It seems very strange to me.

In the late 80s I got the idea to put a 1 before the year number, all of a sudden you would then have lots of ‘normal’ years to assign to historical events ‘Before the Current Era’. The year 1989 becomes 11989, the year 44 BCE, when Julius Ceasar was assasinated would become 9957 (10001 – 44), 752 BCE, the year that Rome was founded, would become 9248, etc. It is like using degrees Kelvin instead of degrees Celcius: all years with historical events would have a positive number.

Is there anything significant that happened in year 1 of this new calendar? Roundabout that time the last ice age was ending, agriculture was invented in the Middle East, people reached the southern tip of South America, meaning that all continents (apart from Antartica) had by then been colonized. It is not really that important, certainly no god was born exactly in that year!

I posted the idea in 1988 or 1989 in talk.origins and several other Usenet newsgroups. The idea was received favourably, except by a christian fundamentalist who reacted furiously.

I sort of forgot about it until I read a book about calendars in 2002, that made a reference to the Holocene calendar (I forgot the title of that book). This calendar does exactly what I proposed back then. It was apparently conceived by the late Cesare Emiliani, a brilliant geologist in the early 90s. I searched the web and I found a web page made by Michael Fuehrer where he describes the idea and gives a timeline based on what he calls the Holocene calendar. Unfortunately that web page no longer exists.

The problem with calling it the Holocene calendar is that the holocene started in fact some 1500 years later, based on radiocarbon dating. I would therefore rather call it the Human Era calendar, not sure who called it that first. I like it as it covers the period when humans started to reach their full potential, for good and for worse, unfortunately.

Below you see a timeline, based on Michael Fuehrer’s timeline.


HE Millennium HE Date Gregorian Date
Thirteenth 12012 2012 CE Barack Obama is re-elected as president of the United States of America.
12008 2008 CE Barack Obama is elected as the first African-American president of the United States of America.
12004 2004 CE Tsunami in South-East Asia kills 230,000 people in 11 countries.
12003 2003 CE Start of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq
12001 2001 CE First year of the 13th millennium
Terrorist attack on the Twin Towers: 3000 people killed
War in Afghanistan
Twelfth 12000 2000 CE Final year of the 12th millennium
11953 1953 CE Watson & Crick announce DNA structure
11945 1945 CE End of Second World War
11939 1939 CE Begin of Second World War
11918 1918 CE End of First World War
11914 1914 CE Begin of First World War
11859 1859 CE Darwin publishes Origin of Species
11649 1649 CE England’s Charles I beheaded
11582 1582 CE Gregory XIII proclaims current calendar
11492 1492 CE Taino indians discover Columbus standing on their beach
11456 1456 CE Gutenberg press heralds birth of advertising
11453 1453 CE Fall of Constantinople: end of Eastern Roman Empire
11215 1215 CE John I of England signs Magna Carta
11066 1066 CE William I at Hastings establishes Norman rule in England
Eleventh 11000 1000 CE Norse explorers reach North America
10622 622 CE Mohammed journeys to Medina — Islamic year 1
10476 476 CE “Fall” of the Western Roman Empire
10455 455 CE Vandals sack Rome
10410 410 CE Visigoths sack Rome
10380 380 CE Theodosius demands adherence to Nicene Creed
10330 330 CE Formal split of East and West Roman Empire
10250 250 CE Rise of Mayan civilization (ultimately peaks about 10900 HE)
10079 79 CE Eruption of Vesuvius destroys Pompeii, Herculeneum
10070 70 CE Roman destruction of Jerusalem
10001 1 CE Synchronization with Gregorian date
Tenth 9993 8 BCE Probable birth of Jesus of Nazareth
9956 44 BCE Julius Caesar assassinated
9955 45 BCE Sosigenes establishes Julian calendar
9669 331 BCE Alexander the Great conquers Palestine
9645 355 BCE Birth of Alexander of Macedonia
9614 386 BCE Founding of Plato’s academy
9600 400 BCE Approximate lifetime of Guatama Buddha
9450 550 BCE Birth of Confucius
9248 752 BCE Founding of Rome
Ninth 8850 1150 BCE Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica
8450 1550 BCE Height of Minoan civilization
8400 1600 BCE China — Shang Dynasty
8350 1650 BCE Aegean — Thera (Santorini) volcanic eruption (source of the Atlantis myth?)
8251 1749 BCE Hammurabi establishes Babylonian Empire
Eight 8000 2000 BCE Greece — Minoan palatial culture
China — Xia, first state
Southeast Asia — metal working
Pecos River — rock art
7650 2350 BCE Sumer conquered by Sargon I
7500 2500 BCE Mesopotamia — Akkadian Empire, nation state
Seventh 7000 3000 BCE Sumer — established civilization
Mediterranean — small established towns
6900 3100 BCE Egypt — unification & First Dynasty under Menes
Egyptian colony in southern Israel
6700 3300 BCE Austrian Alps — death and mummification of Oetzi the “iceman”
6600 3400 BCE Mesopotamia — proto-writing
Egypt — cultural development
6500 3500 BCE Mesopotamia — Uruk and Jemdet Nasr
6400 3600 BCE Americas — definite cultivation of maize
Sixth 6000 4000 BCE Seas rise to present-day levels, North Sea now completely filled up
Extinction of Pigmy Mammoths
India — agriculture
Americas — millet
Europe — copper, farming
5997 4004 BCE Usher’s estimate for the date god created the universe
5500 4500 BCE Zimbabwe — Nachikufan industry
5400 4600 BCE North America — Mazama eruption
5288 4712 BCE Beginning of Scalinger’s Julian Period, the 7,980-year cycle by which astronomers reckon dates
Fifth 5000 5000 BCE Sumer — Ubiad I culture
China — Laquer ware, rice
4600 5600 BCE Sudden flooding of the Black Sea basin, maybe causing the diaspora of the proto- Indo-Europeans, eventually to Europe, Minor Asia, Iran and India
Fourth 4000 6000 BCE Land bridge between Britain and Holland breached, forming the North Sea
North America — Bitterroot culture in Idaho
Europe — Maglemose cultures (mesolithic)
Korea — Chulmun hunter-gatherers
3400 7600 BCE Mureybet, Syria — domesticated einkorn
Third 3000 7000 BCE Indus Valley — First Mehrgarh Period, includes wheat, barley, sheep & goats, along with hunted gazelle
Second 2000 8000 BCE North America — Folsom points
South America — domestication of squash
First 1000 9000 BCE North America — clovis points
Abu Hureyra — established farming
800 9200 BCE Brazil — Amazon cave containing human artifacts
500 9500 BCE Japan — earliest Jomon pottery
1 10000 BCE Current interglacial begins (well, maybe 1200 years later, actually!)
Natufian proto-agricultural groups probably in existence by this date
Afghanistan–Hindu Kush, possible domestication of sheep and goats