Unlike a handful of other sites dedicated to Holocene Calendar this one is NOT about the calendar reform proposal. This site is about how you can use Holocene Calendar right now.
What I’m going to tell you is very easy to misunderstand. So read carefully. We’ll talk about a problem and a solution to that problem. You may think the problem is not so big, so we don’t even need to look for any solution. Also, you may think that the solution I’m proposing is too costly. If you come to such conclusions, just know that you misunderstand the problem (most likely because you don’t really know ancient history), and also the solution (because you didn’t read carefully and think that I’m proposing something crazy, like a calendar reform).
We have a real problem with the Christian year numbering system. Forget about the fact that the origin of this system was calculated mistakenly, or the fact that the event from which we count years (birth of Jesus Christ) may not have significance for non-Christians. The main issue with the dating system that we use today is that for the largest part of written human history we count years backwards.
Now, immediately you may think that this is not a problem. We all understand negative numbers, right? Why not just use them as we always have?
The problem is not that it is too difficult to use this backwards system. The problem is that such system is simply stupid. A countdown may be useful when you deal with a highly anticipated event in the near future, like a rocket launch, for instance. But it is not good for presenting history. By the way, by history I understand only written history, or history of civilizations. Here we are not concerned with anything prehistoric like dinosaurs. The history we are concerned with started about 3200 BC. And from 3200 BC to 1 BC we have this weird countdown to Jesus that forces us to think about events of ancient history in terms of how long before Jesus they happened.
I understand that it may not be immediately obvious for some people, what exactly is wrong with counting years backwards, so I’m going to write another article in which I’ll explain why the countdown is the worst thing we could have possibly done to our history.
Guess what. There is a better way of looking at ancient history. You just put the starting point before history begins. Once again, I have to be clear, I’m not talking about a calendar reform. I’m talking about you personally using another system. Imagine that a year numbering system is like a tool that you have in your toolkit. Most people have only one tool: the Christian year numbering system. And you can have two tools: one with a countdown to Jesus, and another one without such countdown.
But you have to know ancient history. Or at least you have to have an intention of learning it. Otherwise what I’m talking about here won’t be of any use to you.
I’ll talk about how you can use the new system specifically a bit later. For now let’s talk about Holocene Calendar as it was originally proposed. We will base out solution on that calendar. But we won’t need a calendar reform.
What is Holocene Calendar?
Holocene Calendar was proposed in 1993 by Cesare Emiliani, Italian-American geologist. The idea was to add exactly 10 000 years to the Common Era. So, for example, year 2020 CE would become year 12020 HE (Holocene Era, or Human Era as it’s sometimes called).
The beginning of Holocene Calendar almost coincides with the beginning of Holocene geological epoch. That was the time when people started to develop agriculture. Before Holocene people were pretty much hunter-gatherers. So you can say that about 10 000 BC people started to become civilised. Because of that the era used by Holocene Calendar is also called Human Era.
What is Holocene Calendar 2.0
It’s pretty much the same calendar, but with one important modification.
In it you count years separately within each decamillennium. Instead of saying that we live in year 12020 HE we say that we live in year 2020 of the 2nd decamillennium. Is this system weird? Not really. Think of other units of time that are cyclical. For example, we have the same months in each year, the same dates in each month. We have the same 24 hours in each day and so on. So, if you think about it, there is nothing particularly weird in starting new era every 10000 years.
By the way, whether or not people of future actually restart year count after year 10000, is not important. What we are concerned with here is fixing the period between 3200 BC and 1 BC. This fix will work no matter what people do or not do in the future.
Let’s see what written history looks like in this modified system:
It should be noted that what you call those two decamillenia of history is up to you. You may call them previous decamillennium and current decamillennium. You may call them 1st decamillennium of history and 2nd decamillennium of history. You may call them 1st and 2nd decamillennia of Human Era. Or you may call them 1st decamillennium BC and 1st decamillenium AD if you want.
What you call those decamillennia is not important because most of the time you won’t have to call them anything. The year numbers on the left side are so big (recorded history starts around year 6800) that you can’t possibly confuse them with anything on the right side. So when using this system you would just use year numbers alone most of the time.
You can say, for instance, that Julius Caesar was murdered in the year 9957 and there is no need to add “of the previous decamillennium”.
How to use Holocene Calendar?
To use Holocene Calendar you need some texts on history that have HE dates in them instead of Christian dates. We don’t have a lot of such texts now, but luckily it is easy to replace BC dates with HE dates in any text. Because Holocene Calendar uses the same millennia as the Christian Calendar, you can pretty much rename each century and each millennium. For example, you can say that 4th century BC is actually 97th century HE. Or 2nd millennium BC is 9th millennium HE, and so on.
I wrote a more detailed article on how to translate BC dates into HE dates.
You see, the problem with Holocene Calendar is that although it solves the problem of the countdown it isn’t used by people and there is no literature that uses that system. Holocene Calendar exists in the realm of ideas. It’s just a proposal. It has a Wikipedia article dedicated to it but not much else.
A few years ago I had an idea that it was absolutely possible to create a ton of literature about history that uses HE dates. All you need to do is to translate dates in existing Wikipedia articles and books. By the way, that’s what I do. And I use my programming skills to accelerate this process of translation. Not only that, I want to turn my project into a collective effort. So, right now I’m mainly focused on creating an infrastructure that will help anyone interested in history to take part in this initiative.
My main project is translating Wikipedia. I have a special site where I store Wikipedia articles with translated dates. The full list of articles can be found here.
Recently I started translating books. Soon, the first translated books will be published on this site.
Another project I recently started is the Timeline of History. I hope it will help draw people’s attention to my project. And it is a useful educational tool in and of itself. You should check it out.
Why Holocene calendar?
You may be thinking, what’s so special about this calendar? Aren’t there many other calendars that can be used instead of it? What specific event happened in year 10000 BC? To address these questions I wrote a separate article. In it I explain why, if we want to have entire history of civilisation written in positive year numbers, we really don’t have much choice but to use Holocene Calendar.
How you can start using Holocene Calendar
It’s very easy. You just need to familiarise yourself with this system. There are 3 levels of familiarisation.
The first one is the level of millennia. It takes a couple of minutes to achieve this level.
Basically you need to look at this picture and just memorise a few facts about the last few millennia of the previous decamillennium.
1) Written history started around year 6800 with the first written historical event which was the unification of Upper and Lower Egypts. Just memorise this year, don’t try to translate it back to a BC date.
2) In the 8th millennium (or in the 7000s) all the pyramids of Egypt were built during the Old Kingdom. Also in the same millennium we have Early Dynastic period followed by Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.
3) In the 9th millennium (or in the 8000s) there was Middle Kingdom and later New Kingdom in Egypt. In Mesopotamia we have Old Babylonian Empire, Old and later Middle Assyrian Empire.
4) In the 10th millennium we have Neo-Babylonian Empire, Persian Empire, Classical Greece, Ancient Rome, Alexander the Great.
Basically try to memorise where everything is in terms of millennia. And don’t use BC dates. Just memorise millennia as they go.
To achieve this level you need to memorise a few dates, so that you are comfortable with centuries. Let me give you an example. Let’s look at Ancient Rome.
Just memorise these three dates:
9248 – Rome was founded (start of the Roman Kingdom)
9492 – Last king was expelled and Roman Republic began (easy to remember this date, because it was exactly 2000 years before America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492).
9974 – End of Roman Republic and beginning of Roman Empire.
Again, don’t try to translate those dates into BC dates. Just memorise them. Now, if I throw some random year numbers at you you’ll be able to categorise them. For example, if I say “9502” you can say “that’s early Republic”. If I say “9480”, you can say “that’s late Kingdom”. And so on. You see how the dates that you know become reference points for other dates.
That’s how year-numbering system becomes meaningful. It derives its meaning from the dates that you know, not from the event at its start.
Another example is periodisation of Ancient Egypt:
Again, try to memorise the dates or at least centuries. Don’t convert them into BC dates.
Later I’ll add more examples with images for different civilisations. For now, you just need to find out and memorise a few dates. I can recommend memorising these facts:
Julius Ceasar (9901-9957) lived in the 100th century
Alexander the Great (9645-9678) lived in 97th century
1000 years before Alexander Tutanchamun (8667 – 8676) reigned in Egypt
The greatest pharaoh of New Kingdom Ramesses II reigned in 8722–8788
Hammurabi reigned in 8209-8251
Now you can read historical literature with dates translated into Holocene Calendar. Here are a few suggestions:
You decide how proficient you want to be with the system. You may learn just a few dates, or you may go all in and learn everything you can, and never use BC dates for ancient history ever again.
Also, don’t forget to play around with Timeline of History, a tool that visualises history.
Leave your comment
Once you become somewhat familiar with Holocene year-numbering system you can share your experience here.